Wives should always prepare for worst


April 04, 1993|By Niki Scott

After 27 years, she's alone -- her marriage is over. The structure that defined her, kept her safe, and sustained her in so many different ways is gone.

"I still can't believe it," she said. "Never in my worst nightmares did I think I'd ever be anyone but Jim's wife. Now I'm an ex-wife and there's a 26-year-old out there who's taken my place," she said, after hearing me speak in Nashville, Tenn.

"My children's father is gone; the man who used to be my partner and lover and friend is gone; the person I trusted most in the world is gone. All my plans and assumptions about my future are gone, and worst of all, my belief in myself is gone," she said, through her tears and her fear.

"I don't know what I'm going to do. When he left, Jim said that now that the kids are grown we don't need each other any more. I couldn't believe what I was hearing; I thought the time had finally come when we'd have time for each other!

"The worst part is: I still don't know what I did wrong. I've been a good wife. I've been a good mother. How could he just announce that he was leaving -- just like that? And how could he marry a 26-year-old whom he's known less than six months?

"I didn't stay at home all those years because I was too lazy to work, or too insecure to find a job," she added, "but because I truly believed that it was the right thing to do, that working at home for my husband and children was more important than any money I could earn.

"Now I have to find a 'real' job in this economy, with a liberal arts degree and two years of experience that's 30 years old. So far as employers are concerned, I've got no experience, no track record and no skills.

"I never asked myself what would happen if I was divorced. Our marriage wasn't perfect -- whose is? But we always managed to get along, and I thought we always would.

"I'd read stuff about displaced homemakers, but it never occurred to me that I'd be one. That happened to other women.

"It never occurred to me that I was working a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job from which my husband could fire me with no severance pay, no recommendations, no credentials of any kind.

"Now I know that this can happen to anyone, and I want the women who read your column to understand that it can happen to them, too.

"I could have been more prepared. I could have gone back to school and learned about computers, or worked part-time. By now I'd have had something to put on a application.

"I could at least have gotten a credit rating in my own name and learned how to handle family finances -- things I was happy to turn over to my husband. But I never thought of divorce at all because it terrified me.

"But I'll tell you what's more terrifying: finding yourself alone, over 50, knowing you'll have to support yourself the rest of your life without any idea of how to go about it.

"That's real terror; I never knew the definition of the word until now," she said.

"I'll make it -- I'm a tough old bird. But I want you to tell your women readers to prepare now for the worst. Learn about family finances, go to school, keep your skills up. Work a job, even a part-time one. Be prepared to be on your own one day; you may well be. And don't think that being prepared means you lack faith in your marriage. It just means that you're smart and realistic."

) Universal Press Syndicate

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