I cover this subject quite a bit in my book, but don’t believe I’ve blogged about it. It’s important, and I hope some of my readers have NOT experienced the horror of thrown away wives in their lives, or been one. If they haven’t, they likely will, either directly or tangentially. So if you know someone who has a loved one going through this, please tell them about this site. Otherwise this will be another relationship fatality, based solely on one man’s inability to commit, or to control his animal urges. And yeah, women do this to men as well, only not as much…yet. The truths here apply to both genders, so no worries.
First it is supremely important to know that this is NOT like any other divorce a person may have experienced: It is DIFFERENT late in life. Folks it really does NOT take a genius to understand this. Peoples’ values CHANGE by the decade, roughly, and later in life, it is family and home which become “sacred”. When a spouse is discarded, their very VALUE SYSTEM is dismantled. That alone is traumatic in a way you can’t know unless you have experienced it. So if you become a support person, get that in your head, on your radar, and know that the person to whom you offer help is CHANGED, and broken in a way you can’t comprehend. So forget about preaching or trying to FIX that person. They are unfixable in the beginning. No, you are not qualified to fix anybody, least of all a throw away. The best thing to do, then, is just be quietly available and let the person know that they are safe and that they CAN rebuild that value system, because the number one thought among us is that we are RUINED forever. Yes, time is short, but in our minds, we are as good as dead and we are terrified beyond words.
I remember how I felt when people talked about what happened to me, and preached their fixes to me. First of all they were not QUALIFIED to analyze my situation, and second of all, their preaching voices merely blended out of sync with the primal scream constantly in the back of my mind. I wasn’t READY to be preached at and I wasn’t ABLE to be fixed. I went from a whole, life long work of art to micro dust. Reassembly takes a long time and what results looks NOTHING like what existed before, except on the outside. Some of us are fighters; it’s in our genetic makeup and we eventually stand up and move, dragging parts behind us usually, but we move. Others just need more help…and more compassion.
Remember we are past career ladder climbing as a CENTRAL value; we are past child rearing and daycare stories as a CENTRAL value system. It’s about home and family. And by family I mean that we HAD become a support location, an oracle if you will, a place for gatherings and extra strength and wisdom for our children and grandchildren. Imaging being EJECTED from that position to poverty and nothingness in the blink of an eye ONLY because we got older. And I mean really imagine it. Give it some thought. And know that we are now thrown back twenty or thirty years, in terms of values, back to making career central in a time when nobody wants to hire us because of our age. Are you getting this? It’s a monumental problem for the ones thrown away.
Supporting a throw away, either emotionally of financially, is hard. Because this grown person who appears to be okay is really a vibrating mass of trauma, stress and fear. We LOOK okay, but WE ARE BROKEN. So please lower your expectations and be KIND. All throw aways need in the beginning is to feel safe again, to feel like we belong SOMEWHERE, and to feel like one living human being cares. We need to know it’s okay if we need to get up during the night to make decaf coffee, because we can’t SLEEP while you DO. We need to know it’s okay if we don’t laugh at jokes or participate in book club, because we don’t FEEL like it. And for God’s sake don’t try to take us to a party. What makes YOU feel good WILL NOT WORK for this person. Understand that. Baby steps, folks. Baby steps. This is post trauma stress.
Don’t step into the aid arena if you can’t hack it. And you will set your ‘LOVED ONE’ back to ground zero if you get frustrated and eject them from your life. You will do irreparable harm to your relationship, probably permanently. If you do that you demonstrate your inability to practice empathy, and you demonstrate your ignorance of the influence of age cohort (decade) in life. You didn’t pay attention in psychology class in college in other words.
Compassion is the key. And compassion is more rare than anyone realizes. You can’t KNOW that unless your survival depends on compassion and you realize there is none, even from your “loved ones”. So I appeal to you from the bottom of my scarred heart: Practice true compassion. Nothing is more precious to a throw away than safety, and you can offer that. Now I’m not saying you adopt this person forever, but picking up the pieces with them, one by one and making an attempt to HELP them reassemble, is the kindest thing you will ever do. It’s harder than watching a loved one die; that’s easy compared to this. Don’t start the process if you can’t hang in there because it takes a long time.