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Is There Such a Thing as a 'Retirement Divorce'?

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband wants a divorce after 25 years of marriage, and this has really rocked my world. We have been married since we were 22 years old. I am numb and in shock because I can't believe this is happening. He actually walked out of our home last weekend and said that he wants to be by himself because I'm smothering him.

I want answers -- is that so bad? My husband and our three children are my life. I've sacrificed everything to support his military career and watch him achieve higher ranks for 23 years.

I've never had a career and I never finished college because I was trying to do right by supporting him and raising our children. Now that our children are adults and it's been almost a year since my husband retired, he wants a divorce. I can't accept this.

He actually told me that it's time for me to get a job now, but what can a 47-year-old woman do? All of my doors of opportunity closed a long time ago.

My husband is saying it's time for him to live his life and follow his dreams. I thought all this time that the military was his dream! I am willing to do anything to save our marriage, but he doesn't want counseling. Our children and my in-laws have tried to talk sense to him. Even our pastor and other friends have tried to talk to him, but he just won't listen. He keeps saying he's divorcing me.

I want to know, what can I do? Is this the retirement divorce that so many of our military friends have experienced?

Sincerely,
25 Years and It's Over

Dear 25 Years,

I'm very sad to report that this surely is the retirement divorce that I hear about every day. Nothing I say can make you feel better or make this right for you.

I believe that you are in shock and numb. You can't believe that your husband just walked out the door after you have given him so much. Please allow me to give you an additional gut check: He is gone and I'm pretty certain he won't be coming back.

The military helps to move a marriage along through the years because the service member has long work hours, trainings, schools, deployments, etc. to hide the problems in the marriage. Then retirement happens for the service member, and for him or her it's like a breath of fresh air. It's a new beginning and a time to release everything they believe has been holding them back.

Now, I am in no way saying that you are a bad person, a bad mother or a bad wife. I believe you did sacrifice everything for your marriage and your children. But there were undoubtedly problems along the way that didn't get addressed, and now your husband doesn't want to solve them with you.

First, you need a lot of support because of the toll this is taking on you emotionally. It's not fair for you to bear this alone. You should connect with a therapist who can give you support and insight. Reach out to your family and friends for support too. You truly need to be around people who love you.

Second, you should get some legal advice because if your husband is saying he is divorcing you, then he will. You can't show up in a divorce proceeding without representation.

Finally, women are doing great things at any age -- 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. It is time for you to look deep within and find strength, a dream, and a vision to help you move forward.

Please keep in touch with me and let me know how you are doing. I will be thinking about you.

-- Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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