He left, with no warning, after 18 years

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Dear Meredith,

I fell in love with my husband more than 20 years ago. At the time, he was unhappily married, and instead of going through counseling, he just decided it was a starter marriage and left her after being married for nine years. We met through work and were best friends, talking every day, doing stuff socially. After they divorced, we got engaged and married the next year. We didn't really have ups and downs – mostly our finances were challenging because we did rack up credit card debt ($17k). We recently used part of his 401(k) to pay it off..

Not sure what happened, but one day I came home and he said we needed to talk. He said he had "lost himself, he didn't know who he was anymore." He did have to work from home for over a year due to COVID, but that never seemed to bother him. He said he had enough and he needed space. He left in May – just shy of our 18-year anniversary. Then he served me with divorce papers. It left me reeling because I never truly and seriously saw this coming. I thought we could work things out with marriage counseling. He wasn't interested at all.

We were only to communicate via email and text messages to "keep things civil and amicable” (his words). So, here here we are, six months later, and our divorce is almost finalized. There will be no closure, even though I have asked for it multiple times. He already has a new girlfriend (yes, I read some of his social media). I have a strong support group. I live with very good friends, and as soon as a new job comes through (very soon), I'm moving to my own apartment. I'll get half of the house sale plus a monthly stipend from him. I have a really great best friend, a tax accountant, a vocational coach, a therapist, I do daily meditation, I go to the gym. I've also connected with people in person and online. On paper, it looks like I'm doing everything right. But I'm not.

I try, Meredith, I do. I try to get over what he did. Leaving me out of the blue, no explanation, new girlfriend, etc. But I feel like crying every day and I do. I feel broken, like I'll never put the pieces back together. Everyone says it takes time, but I don't know, Meredith. What do you think? I'm not the first woman to get divorced, to be left with no notice. To have questions that will go unanswered. How do I move forward?

– Lost

I believe in the power of time. You can't rush the healing, no matter how good you are at setting up a new life.

I'm so glad you have a support system – really, it sounds wonderful – but there is no way a best friend, an accountant, or a gym membership can make you feel whole just a few months after this kind of loss.

You're putting yourself on the right track by making new plans and memories, because even though 17-plus years is a long time, there's so much more to look forward to. You do not need tidy closure to have meaningful new experiences. You have to be able to move ahead without receiving that big explanation you desire.

That's the other thing – this ending is new for both of you. Maybe he could offer some closure right now (he could say he met someone else, fell in love, the end, etc.), but our perspective on past relationships changes so much over time. In six months, you might feel very differently about how the relationship worked and what might have been wrong. In a year, he might be able to meet for a coffee and tell you what he'd kept inside. Maybe by then you won't even want to hear it.

I'm not promising he'll show up with answers, by the way, but if he told you everything on his mind right now, I'm not sure it would help. These feelings can be difficult to name, even if you've thought about leaving for a while.

Stop using the word "never” – as in, "I’ll never know why," or "I’ll never put the pieces back together." There are no nevers here. This is a fluid process, and you have no idea how it will change. Also, some crying is good – and healthy! – but one day you might wake up, go to your new job, see a friend, and forget that weeping was on the agenda.

The healing can sneak up on you too.

Let's check back in in a few months. Let's see what time can bring.

– Meredith

Readers? Thoughts on closure in this case?