The divorce was not about me

When Judy talked about coming home to an empty house after twenty-eight years of marriage, she said she knew all along it wasn’t about her. She always felt that her husband’s decision to leave was related to his mental illness, issues that he needed to work on but chose not to. Here’s Judy:

[contemplate1] My husband had gone through many stressful job situations, was diagnosed with lymphoma and found an old girlfriend at the high school reunion. Over the couple of years this was all happening, he became more and more bitter to living in the area where we were, to our activities and to me.

We did actually start going to a marriage enrichment club, which was offered by the state of Oklahoma. By that time the communication between us had just completely broken down.  He went the first time but after that he had no interest. He had made up his mind that this marriage was not where he wanted to be. He wasn’t willing to work on it, he wasn’t willing to fight for it, he just wanted out.

So then we started to going to a counselor. We went to her a couple of times and she started to see that the thought process was not there. He would make these wild statements that didn’t make sense. I said,

“I’d like to at least work to be friends.”

He said, “I don’t have time to be friends. I’ve got too many things to do.”

The more I talked to the counselor and another counselor, the more we realized that those are symptoms of bipolar, there was more than him just wanting to get out.

I kept hoping that he would come out of it. As I talked to people, they would tell me that their dad went through male menopause and it lasted seven years or their husband went through it and it lasted three or four years. In my heart, I kept saying,

“I don’t like this but he’ll come out of it.”

I do believe there is such a thing as male menopause. He was on chemotherapy pills which I’ve learned kills testosterone. I’ve also learned that vasectomies will kill testosterone over time. So between all of these and his depression, I think he was just hormonally out of balance.

He did some very bizarre things. My ex was an engineering technician and that summer he was working on a lawn mower with a friend and that friend told me that my ex’s mind was so off that he could not even think out the simple steps to take things apart.

One day our financial adviser called me to tell me my ex had called asking for my social security number. The adviser knew we were estranged then and wouldn’t give it to him. I thought how strange that he couldn’t find my social security number other than by calling someone. It’s on all of our tax returns, he knew where our tax returns were.

His depression was related to his job losses mainly. He would go on anti-depressants for a while until life settled down and then would stop taking them. I don’t think he ever realized what medicine can do. He was very much in denial. I would argue,

“The reason you feel good and normal is because you’re on medicine.”

His was,

“I’m fine now, I don’t need it anymore.”

A lot of this was just plain denial, it wasn’t his personality, it wasn’t the same person.


The decision to end a marriage is often not mutual and frequently one partner is willing to continue working on the partnership when the other is ready to call it quits. I think it becomes especially challenging when there’s mental illness involved and your partner no longer seems like the person you married.

This segment of Judy’s story underscores that marital issues can’t be worked on in isolation of mental health problems. If your spouse is the one who’s sick and won’t accept it or accept treatment, then working on your marriage is going to be a huge challenge. Bipolar can break a marriage apart when untreated. It must be especially frustrating with something like male menopause where the medical community is divided on whether it really exists let alone how to treat it.

Judy is a strong person – her husband didn’t “come out of” and they did end up divorced. However, Judy looks back on the seven years since her divorce and says now that she thinks she should write and thank her ex – she wouldn’t have done half the adventures she has if she’d stayed married. Judy will be sharing those adventures in the next few posts.

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    Divorce can be messy and complex, especially when there are issues of custody and ownership involved. While it might seem impossible at times, staying friends during and after a divorce can help make your transition smoother and your life happier even post-divorce.

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  • arnold ziffel

    It is very rare when the divorce isn’t about both partners. Although it does happen on occasion, both partners almost always contribute to a divorce,even when one partner is mentally ill (and it appears that my wife – who is divorcing me – is in a major depression to the point where she has abandoned her surviving children). I certainly played a part in our upcoming divorce, too.