Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

We were talking in the Runaway Husbands online divorce recovery group tonight about how mystifying it was when our husbands changed from being the loving man we knew for so long into a critical angry stranger. We were saying that we could all remember those turning point moments that occurred right after we learned that our husband was leaving when we were hit with the bizarre terms of our new reality – when he said things and behaved in ways that, in his former incarnation, he would never have done. His eyes looked at us coldly and he had clearly changed.

For example, my own husband was always very loving, and I was 100% secure that he was protective and wanted the best for me. The night he left, he had told me about his long affair. I referred to his girlfriend in some negative way and he said, “Don’t talk about her like that!” That shocked me. He was protecting her (this stranger) instead of me. It demonstrated that his allegiance had shifted and he was now relating to her like he had related to me for twenty-one years – like a caring, protective husband. That was one of the early moments that indicated to me how radically he’d changed.

In our group tonight, we spent a long time discussing how that happens – how did the old husband (a known quantity) suddenly shape shift into this alien. As we were talking, I had an epiphany that I wanted to share. It focuses on the turning point moment, the rupture, during which he changed. Up until that moment, he was keeping his options open by acting like he had always done. He had not declared that the marriage was over and the potential to remain was still possible.

He had to have had some ambivalence about walking away from his life as he knew it and because runaway husbands by definition are conflict avoiders, he may still have not gotten the courage to take the leap. But once his intention to leave is out in the open, he no longer has to keep up a façade. He has nothing to lose and he is now free to make visible what he had been keeping secret for so long – his rejection of the marriage and the transfer of his loyalty to the other woman, if one is in the picture.

After he has blurted out his intention, he no longer has to keep his options open – that door has closed behind him. It must be a huge relief for him to be able to give up the fiction that he is devoted to you alone. His resentment of the stress that he felt to keep you in the dark erupts (irrationally) in anger towards you. He had all this pressure inside which is now released along with the need to keep acting like he’s someone he’s not.

He resents you for putting him in the position of having to hide and lead a double life (okay – I said it’s not rational!) and that resentment can finally find expression. The guy who loved and protected you is free to morph into an angry stranger when it’s no longer in his interest to keep connected to you just in case he chickens out and doesn’t leave.

He has crossed the bridge from his old life to his new one at that moment of rupture and the landscape is completely different from his point of view. He’s no longer bound by the expectations of his life that existed a few moments earlier.

I hope this helps you understand a little bit more how your husband changed so radically out-of-the-blue. Please add to the conversation by posting your comment below.

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