Her husband was supposed to be looking for a job. He’d promised her over and over: “I’ll work on my résumé, I’ll set up the informational interviews, I’ll reach out to my contacts.” Instead, he sat on her couch and watched made-for-TV Christmas movies.
Michelle* had met John when they were young. They’d reconnected years later—after she and her first husband, with whom she’d had a child, split. Not long after the romance began, John quit his job and moved into her apartment, saying he wanted to help out with childcare. Michelle, an executive, was a little nervous about his being unemployed. Plus, she shared custody with her ex, so she didn’t actually need that kind of help. But she rolled with it, believing that the whole situation was temporary.
She knows how it sounds now. At the time, though, she really had faith in him. They’d been smitten with each other, and John had indeed bonded with her kid. But after they got married, he never found work. He told her he wanted to change professions. “I was like, God, please just get a job,” she says. “Like, anything. Starbucks barista! Work at Harris Teeter!” Instead, he went back to school—out of town. “It was a huge financial burden,” Michelle says, adding that she was paying for her apartment and his place at school. Still, she was cautiously optimistic that he was “working towards something.”
Over winter break, he came back to Washington, ostensibly for some informational interviews. Then Michelle determined that he was actually just binge-watching the Hallmark Channel. “I just felt like the biggest fool,” Michelle says.
“I realized nothing had changed and he was going to be my dependent for the rest of my life and that all of the talk was going to amount to nothing. And it was horrific.”
She told him she wanted a divorce. During the separation, she says, she paid for everything: legal fees, mediation, therapy. She was advised to protect her retirement plan, so she bought John out of the condo they owned. She also did something she’d never expected to do. She agreed to pay him alimony: $1,000 a month for more than a year.
“All I could think to myself was: I divorced my first husband, had his child, and had less than $300 a month in child support from him,” she says. “And I was going to be paying nearly four times as much in alimony to someone with whom I had not had a child and had supported this whole time while I begged him to get a job! I couldn’t believe it.”
The typical …….