I can’t divorce my husband who ran away 20 years ago

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a housewife in my late 60s. I’d like to confer with you about my husband, who left me about 20 years ago.

I constantly fought with him over his loose spending habits when we lived together. Still, even after he ran off he would sometimes return and help me with living costs, so I began to think we would eventually get back together.

However, I found out that he was actually being supported by a woman working in a bar. My daughter discovered this after some investigating. A friend tried to cheer me up with the advice, “Why don’t you just think of him as an ATM?” However, it bothers me when I see couples my age getting along well with each other. All of the women around me seem happy.

I met with a lawyer and learned that I could collect a portion of my husband’s pension if we divorce. However, the house is under both of our names. If we wind up selling it in a divorce, I’ll be left without a place to live. It would be tough to find a place to rent at my age, and on top of that I can’t work because my back pain makes it impossible for me to do physical labor.

Another friend told me, “It’s a shame this is happening to you because you’re essentially a bright and cheerful person.” Please help me find the proper mind-set to face my predicament.

D, Kyoto Prefecture

Dear Ms. D:

You’ve been dealing with heartache for a long time now. With that in mind, I’d like to offer you some advice on three points.

First, you have a daughter who is on your side and friends to whom you can reveal your true feelings. These are invaluable assets in life. To start, I recommend that you take a moment to recognize these treasures of yours.

Second, though there are certainly couples that have great compatibility and get along really well, many more are not so lucky. I often come across groups of el-derly or middle-aged women having animated discussions about all the things that are wrong with their husbands, but I think most couples make things work by more or less putting up with each other. Isn’t it only your imagination that everyone around you seems happy?

Third, you’ve already consulted with an expert and learned things like how the pension will be divided and what will happen to your house if you get a divorce. You might face some financial hardships if you split from your husband, but these days there are many rental apartments that cater to elderly tenants, so I don’t think you need to worry about not having a place to live. Also, though your back pain keeps you from doing physical work, perhaps a job like helping a dual-income couple with the cooking would be alright? You’re still in your late 60s, so I think it’s possible for you to take on work little by little.

Above all else, it’s crucial that you find a way to get back to your bright and cheerful self. To do that, stay focused on the path ahead.

Yoko Sanuki, lawyer

(from July 7, 2019, issue)Speech

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