Spousal Abandonment Syndrome: What It Is — And 6 Signs It's Happening To You

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sad girl

Most of us out there have had breakups that blindside us in the early moments of courtship. We thought the date went well, but the guy didn’t seem to think so.

During the earlier parts of dating, it’s kind of assumed that we might not fully know what the other person is thinking. After all, it’s just casual dating, right?

Well, fast forward a couple of years. He popped the question. You’re happily married. Every day, he comes home, gives you a kiss, and eats dinner with you. You have kids. He’s still romantic with you and rubs your feet at night. You regularly have sex.

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This sounds perfectly secure, right? Well, yes, most of us would assume so.

But imagine if, one day, your husband didn’t show up. You get worried because it’s not like him to just not come home. He rubbed your feet last night, you cooked for him, and the two of you were discussing a Disney trip for the kids.

There’s no reason to think that he’d just bail. After a lot of concerned calls to the police and family members, you find out the truth: he’s divorcing you and shacking up with someone else.

What is Spousal Abandonment Syndrome?

Spousal Abandonment Syndrome happens when one spouse leaves his or her seemingly happy marriage without any prior warning or indication that anything was wrong. More often than not, the guy who abandons his wife and kids has been with them for a long time and also has been having an affair with another woman

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Vicki Stark, who coined the term, also pointed out other common factors that are associated with this “sudden collapse” of a marriage:

1. There’s no reason to believe that the sudden collapse would happen

He was good to his wife, and they had no visible issues in the marriage. Wives who have this happen are often fully blindsided and don’t believe their partner will actually leave.

2. The news is usually broken in the middle of a random, normal conversation

“How do you like dinner?”

“I want a divorce.”

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3. When asked about why he’s leaving, most men won’t actually give a very logical or coherent explanation

They usually won’t say it’s another woman. They will usually come up with an excuse involving logistics with work, or something similarly frivolous.

4. The spouse that bails usually turns incredibly cold and vindictive towards the victim

Basically, people who have Spousal Abandonment Syndrome happen to them will often see their loving, doting spouse suddenly turn into a vicious, cruel monster. In many cases, the abandoner will not help the former spouse with money, emotional support, or even child support. They show no remorse and will typically treat the person they abandon like a total stranger.

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5. When they reveal that they’re leaving, it’s often a “fait accompli”

In other words, no amount of begging or pleading will convince them to stay, and in many cases, the abandoner will actually systematically devalue everything that he had with their wife.

6. Lastly, the abandoner shows zero remorse

Basically, there’s no sign of guilt, remorse, or even shame in most cases. In some rarer cases, he may actually start a smear campaign against his wife.

Basically, when you have Spousal Abandonment Syndrome, you go from being happily married to totally abandoned.

You won’t even recognize the guy who you used to be with, and he’ll act like a cruel stranger to you. It’s jarring. It’s scary, and yes, it does happen. What’s scarier still is that there’s often no way to prevent it short of discovering his affair before he leaves you for it. And that’s not always easy to do or even possible in some cases. 

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Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, New Theory Magazine, and others.