Dear Dr. Romance:

Recently I have been trying to cope with the most traumatic experience of my entire life.  I am a grandmother and homemaker who has been deserted by my spouse and left both homeless and penniless.  (I am staying at the home of a friend now.)  After weeks of endless thinking and rethinking, hashing and rehashing, nighttime episodes of imagined revenge, obsessing constantly over all the 'wrongs' done to me, I woke up this morning angry with myself.  I thought, "What is wrong with me that I give so little thought to myself and spend so much time thinking about 'him'.  It is obvious that he cares nothing for me and is probably not thinking about me in any way. Yet I am preoccupied with obsessive thoughts regarding him in some way."

  With that in mind, I used my search engine and located your website.  Thank you for posting "Learning Forgiveness" for it helped me see some aspects of this that I hadn't recognized.  My life was spun out of control by the actions of another person.  My self-esteem was damaged as his actions also incorporated adultery with a family member.  After 15 years of marriage to a man that had problems but was always a very nice person, I have been stunned by his anger, the ugliness of his behavior, his callousness, his deceitfulness (always had this problem) and his apparent blindness to many things that he was cognizant of prior to this event. 

You helped me see that it is the nastiness in his own mind that is the problem, not me. What bothers me most is that I just can't seem to pick myself up and shake this whole thing off.  I know that I am in severe depression but I also believe in self-talk and personal motivation.  I should try to get a job but I am frozen.  I should try to go forward in my thinking but I keep going backwards.  I rehash everything about our marriage looking for clues to uncover his mask as if that knowledge will somehow change things for me today.  I have terrible images of revenge and am constantly shocked by the intensity of my mental creations.  Though I know I would never act upon such things, I also am overpowered by the apparent pleasure these images give me.  A friend suggested playing Christian music when I start to do this and, yes, this does help.  It's kind of hard to think about revenge upon someone when there's somebody in the background singing about love and salvation.

I am going to print your article out and keep it handy for awhile. There is so much helpful information in this writing.  Again, I'm so glad I found it...and thank you. 

Dear Reader:

Thanks for writing.  I'm so glad my article helped you.  And, I can see why you're devastated.  My guess is, your former spouse is narcissistic.  His whole world revolves around himself, and there's no room to care about you or anyone else.  Your friend's suggestion is a good one, and also try the "How To Write A Love Letter" article on my site, It will help you deal with your (understandable) anger, resentment and hurt.

One thing that might help you is to allow yourself a certain time each day to be angry, revengeful, miserable, etc. and then stop for the day -- get on with being busy, like finding a job.  You can also try going to an Al-Anon group.  Even if your husband wasn't an alcoholic, most active alcoholics cat like narcissists, so you'll find familiar stories in the group, and good information about how to get your life moving again.  You don't say if you ever had a job, and if you haven't, part of the paralysis may lie in not knowing what kind of work you want to do.  If this is the case, take a look at what you're good at, such as homemaking skills, child care, cooking, gardening, or even work you've done with community groups. List the skills you have, and when you see them on paper, appropriate job ideas will suggest themselves.

There's no way you should be homeless OR penniless.  I hope you have a lawyer -- don't try to be nice about this, get someone tough to fight for you.  You'll also find my book The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty very helpful as you rebuild a better life from the ashes of this one.

After Forty

For low-cost counseling, email me at




Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.