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Woman's Ex-Husband Asks To Move Back In During A Crisis — His Parents Say She 'Owes' Him But She Wants Boundaries

Photo: Jose Gulias, Marjan Apostolovic / Shutterstock
agonized woman and man

A serious illness can wreak havoc on a marriage, and the statistics on divorces sparked by a serious or terminal medical condition are grim—especially if it's a woman who's gotten sick.

But relationships can be extremely complicated, even if the formal union between you and your former partner has been dissolved—especially if you had kids together. And as a divorced woman recently revealed in a Reddit post, things get even more complicated still when your former partner and the father of your children becomes sick once again.

The divorcée detailed her dilemma in a post to the "r/AmITheA--hole," a Reddit forum where people can gain input into whether they were or are in the wrong in a dispute, and why it's left her feeling deeply conflicted. 

RELATED: 'I'm Jealous That My Sister's Husband Didn't Leave Her When She Got Sick Like Mine Did'

A divorced woman's ex-husband asked to move in with her while he receives treatment after his cancer returned.

The woman writes that their marriage had been happy for years until his first bout with a rare form of cancer threw everything into upheaval.

The couple bought a house near his cancer treatment facility, which the woman kept and still lives in after their divorce.

Her husband was being treated at a research facility far away from their home, so they decided to move with their two young children to a nearby neighborhood, buying a home with the help of her husband's parents, who paid half of the down payment. 

In their divorce, they agreed that she would keep the house and that she would be free of all of his medical debt. Now, a year later, his cancer has come back, and he needs to return to the research hospital for treatments. 

"He wants to stay in what is now my house while undergoing treatment," she writes, "and his parents expect me to house him and look after him because he was generous in letting me have the house without taking his rightful share from the equity."

That would be a tall order for most divorced partners, but this couple's history is even more complicated.

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The woman's husband cheated on her while she was caring for him during his first bout of cancer, and then got engaged.

The woman vividly described the emotional toll that his cancer battle took on her ex-husband. Aside from the stresses of a deadly illness, they also had major financial upheavals because of his treatment and had to drastically downgrade the lifestyle they provided for their kids. But perhaps most impactful were the "physical changes in his body" due to his cancer treatments, which she writes made her ex-husband "very depressed."

When he felt well enough, he would "go stay in his hometown...where most of his family and a lot of his childhood friends live." You can probably guess where this is going—"while he was staying there he had reconnected with his high school girlfriend," she writes, and "he admitted to me that he was sleeping with her and I filed for divorce."

The infidelity stung particularly hard because in addition to caring for her ex-husband round-the-clock while also raising their children, she went without sex herself for years because of his illness. Loss of libido, she writes, was an expected side-effect of his cancer treatments.

She was so careful not to embarrass him over his sexual dysfunction that she "would masturbate in hiding...because I didn't want him feel bad"—only to find out he cheated on her.

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She wants to do what's right for her kids' father, but she's not sure she can bear to be around her ex-husband again.

She writes that she's very understanding of what happened. "When I look at it as an outside observer," she writes, "I can understand what he was going through in falling in love with someone else."

She goes on to say that he found the debilitating effects of his cancer and the intensive care she had to provide "emasculating," and so she "can see how he'd find it appealing that someone still saw him as the old him when he was healthy and strong."

As the video below reveals, upheavals to a marriage like these are incredibly common when illness is involved.

RELATED: 'I'm Jealous That My Sister's Husband Didn't Leave Her When She Got Sick Like Mine Did'

But that of course doesn't make them hurt any less. "I don't hate him," the woman goes on to say, "a part of me still loves him as an old friend." And the last thing she wants is for her kids to lose their father. But his "disloyalty still makes me cry," she writes, and I "can't deal with having him around me, especially not if I end up being his nurse and caretaker again."

Many people in her life are telling her she needs to help him for the sake of their kids, and she is at a loss as to what to do.

Marriages ending in divorce because of serious illness are sadly incredibly common.

Depending on your sensibilities, it can be difficult to suss out what the "right" thing to do is in this scenario. Most commenters on Reddit seemed to be in agreement that while her empathy was admirable, her health—mental and emotional—was equally important as her ex-husband's, including for their children.

Others urged her not to feel responsible for her ex's well-being. As one commenter put it, "There is a strong societal tendency...to view suffering and illness as morally redemptive when it's often just the luck of the draw and impacts good, bad, and mediocre people in equal measure."

And many felt she owed neither her ex-husband nor her in-laws a thing. "They...betrayed you. You owe none of them anything. Time for his parents & his high school honey to step up. They can carry the burden this time," one commenter pointedly wrote

Whatever the case, situations like her are exceptionally common—some 75% of marriages end when a serious or chronic illness enters the picture. 

This risk is even higher for women who get sick—men are six times more likely to leave their partner if she gets sick. It's so common that, as revealed in the TikTok below, nurses often warn wives about it when they are diagnosed with cancer.



Here's hoping that in this case, these former partners can find a way through this next chapter that is as beneficial as possible—to both of them.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.