WTF Wednesday: How can I afford to leave my horrible, rotten marriage?

single mom advice


Dear Emma, WTF?! 

I can’t tell you how relieved I was to find your site. I am not single [yet] but I am in the early stages of the process. I’m in an unhealthy marriage and recently discovered that my husband is cheating and likely addicted to drugs. Whatever the case, he’s making money on the side and not contributing to the household. I have to fight with him just to pay the bills. 

I feel I have no choice but to make my exit and earlier this year I was about to start the separation process — I called a lawyer and and started looking for a new home.

Then I was laid off from my job as an HR administrator.  For the past two years while working in corporate, I launched a part-time coaching business. So far I’ve only had one paid client.  Ironically

I worked in corporate HR for 10 years and discovered coaching 2 years ago and fell in love. Ironically, the overwhelm, pain and stress I am experiencing now is exactly what I help my coaching clients conquer. This challenge only makes me a better coach. 
While I work to build this startup career that I love, I’ve been applying for jobs with through LinkedIn, Monster, Flexjobs — you name it, but with no luck. As time wears on, my savings dwindles, I resent my husband more each day and yet I feel more stuck than ever. 

My parents are both deceased and I don’t live near any of siblings (even if I did none of them are in a position to help me). Even if I do secure employment, I’m worried that I won’t have the flexibility for my children. I feel stuck. Working for myself will allow me flexibility to my two daughters (16 and 10). Working for someone else means a commute, less time with them and the guilt that my business failed. 

So, here’s my question: how in the world did you pull this off? I’ve never lived off of self-employment income. It is really realistic to get out of this God-forsaken marriage and support my children with a business that’s still in start up mode? I understand that your reply is does not guarantee a solution for me. However, I have to be honest, I’m desperate. Any advice, expertise, and referrals will be appreciated.  

— Beat down in Bethesda

Dear Beat,

Man does your story break my heart. You are stuck. You feel like you have no options and no options means no control. No control means fear — even panic. Here you did everything I advise women to do — build a lucrative career, develop a side gig, having a savings account and a vocation you are passionate about. And still the rug was pulled out from under you and your are stuck in a miserable situation. The universe is messed up.

The first thing I offer you is hope. It is impossible that you will stay in this situation forever. That just will not happen. You are too smart, driven and decent. Life just doesn’t work like that. So let’s start there: It will get better. Trust me on that.

So how will that happen. First of, making a living and building your own business are not mutually exclusive. You absolutely can have both the life and career you love. Here is what I want you to do.

1. Stop looking for jobs online. No one gets work that way. Instead, get out of the house. You told me privately that you live in a major metropolitan area. There are jobs there. There are also networking events, conferences, professional organizations and any number of other places people in your industry find work. Go to them.

2. Seek professional advice – if you’re not landing a job, there is a reason. Maybe your resume needs a revamp or your skillset could stand updating. If you’re working with a recruiter (which you should be) ask them to give you a professional makeover. Seek out a mentor through your networking and professional organizations. The bottom line: Humble yourself and ask for help.

3. Humble yourself. Call all your contacts – no matter how old. As for referrals. Tell them that you are laid off and need a job. This happens — you are not the only one in the universe of employment!

4. Keep building your coaching business. Partner with people who have successful coaching businesses. Ask them for help. If you feel comfortable, share your personal story. Be authentic and you will connect with people — people who will help you, and you in turn will help when you are in that position. Surround yourself with greatness.

5. Call a lawyer. Your ex is very unstable. Aside from the dire state of your marriage, he is a financial liability to your family. What if he gets into an accident while high and is sued? Racks up credit card bills or buys an Escalade? If you stay married to him you are liable for his debts. Do not put yourself or your kids at that risk. GET OUT.

6. While at the lawyer’s: Ask what money you are entitled to. There is no guarantee that you will get that money, but it may be available in at least the short-term. Do you have any assets? Equity in your home that could be liquidated if you sell? Consider doing tapping into those funds — maybe not the first advice financial professionals suggest, but if that is your only option, take it. You can always make more money later (don’t tell any financial experts I said that).

7. Don’t be that mom. I get that you want to spend lots of time with your kids. I also get that you are an awesome mom and are thinking of them first in this crisis. You worry how they will fare when you leave — or worse, if you stay. But they are now a teen and tween. They don’t need you there after school each and every day.

8. Go live an awesome life. Once you take one step in this process, the second will be easier. The universe will swell up around you and conspire for your success. You will find help from people you never knew. And then you will go on and be amazing. You will look back at this time and wonder what took you so long, why you spent so much energy on fear and paralysis. And you will be grateful for the challenge that propelled you to greatness.

Emma Johnson is a veteran money writer, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, REAL SIMPLE, Parenting, USA Today and others.

The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children (Penguin, 2017), was a #1 bestseller and was featured in hundreds of media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, and the New York Post, which named it to its ‘Must Read” list.

Her popular blog, and podcast Like a Mother, explore issues facing professional single moms: business and career, money, sex, relationships and parenting. Emma regularly comments on these topics for outlets such as CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, The Doctors, and many more. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” one of “20 Personal Finance Influencers to Follow on Twitter” by AOL DailyFinance, “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and “Most Eligible New Yorkers” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker on gender equality, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality.

Emma grew up in Sycamore, Ill., and lives in New York City with her children.

15 thoughts on “WTF Wednesday: How can I afford to leave my horrible, rotten marriage?

  1. Thanks for reaching out, Emma. From my own experience, the path to independent contractor/self-employment was a years-long process. What I did, once I realized that’s what I wanted for my life, was to get a “money” job for 30 hours a week. I walked out of that office at 2:30 every day and then coached clients and worked on writing projects. Once I landed a solid column-writing gig that combined the writing and coaching, I was able to leave the money job (in my case this took about two years).

    The key for me was merging my two passions. I had been a journalist for over 20 years and was newer to coaching. I don’t have children, so frankly it was easier for me to take risks.

    Also, as someone who always had the conventional job w/ benefits before, I found it absolutely liberating to get my own health insurance and no longer be tied to any job I didn’t want just to hold on to those. Again, keep in mind I didn’t have kids to consider.

    I’d be happy to talk to Beat Down in Bethesda if I could be of further assistance on the phone.

    All best,

    1. Once again I am blown away not only by the sound advise given but by the compassion shown and the support that is given. Thank you.

      1. That is a wonderful offer I have passed along to the reader, thank you Nancy!

        I love your story about securing the column to launch your new business. That first regular gig can be instrumental not only for the regular income, but also confidence that you are competent and on the path to success.

  2. I absolutely love your advice. I would like to add with the recent publicity surrounding domestic violence while her situation sounds bad, I wonder if there is an element of domestic violence there. Many domestic abuse survivors say they stayed due to financial reasons which just requires that women leave sooner rather than later. I also really like Nancy’s advice. In my expertise as an affiliate marketer, the key to getting your writing recognized or your name out there is your network of people. You’ll be surprised what your network will do for you or offer up for you. Go to conferences you wouldn’t normally go to that may seem like a related topic to yours. If you are a writer, write about your experiences and share them with others. When others share, that builds YOU – you are a brand so keep that brand safe. I wish her all the best.

  3. I would also add:

    Humble yourself enough to investigate what other kinds of support and help are available to you. I applied for, qualified for and accepted financial help from my state for a short period after my divorce. Fun? No, but helpful. It helped me get through the post-divorce gap while I ramped up my business.

  4. GREAT advice, Emma. I went through almost exactly the same thing in 2001. It’s still going on 13 years later. My daughter was two…now she’s 15. My ex husband who is a carbon copy of this lady’s husband did us the favor of moving to Italy when my daughter was five, but he’s constantly interfering with my parenting of her any way he can while not paying me a dime of child support. Gift that keeps on giving. Here is my advice and I hope you will take it: Start keeping a diary of your husband’s shenanigans. Start right now. Like yesterday. This will hold up in court and will help you to get full custody of your children. He is unfit, but you’ll have to prove it big time. Judges to NOT side with the mother automatically anymore…she all want to do the cookie-cutter 50/50 with every single case, no matter what’s going on. Get affidavits from your neighbors, friends, whoever, about his happenings. Those will also hold up in family court. And it takes it from “he says/she says” to truth vs. bullshit. Strap yourself in babe…I am not going to lie…it is un fun. But Emma is so right. GET OUT. Best of luck with your business and I will be praying for you, my sister. xxL

  5. Overall, great advice. Getting competent legal advice, however, is the #1 priority. I shutter to think of the shenanigans of which he is obviously capable.

    Don’t underestimate the power of online connection. LinkedIn is growing exponentially for a reason. I also suggest that if she is going to cold call a bunch of “old contacts” she should rehearse her pitch and get honest feedback from people she can trust. If you sound desperate, you’re done.

    Fingers crossed.

  6. I just found this site and hope it still exists this is December 2016. Am in a worse state I moves to join my hubby in a different country just after marriage in 2015. But its all messed up he doesn’t care if or what plans and opportunities are there about me getting a job, he doesn’t financially sustain the house adequately, he wont even let me access our new born ‘s benefit and isn’t buying her clothings I am.. Feeding is awry here and the verbal and emotional abuses take tge lead as he blames me at every twist and turns in tge house.
    Am truly fed up and starting to loathe him…I don’t want to carry on all the negative energy that is going on here plus tge frustration of not securing anything relates to my field plus all it will cost to register my licence with the professional body here, my savings are twinkling and am weary physically as he doesn’t even assist with house chores plus as nursing a new born
    …I need to get out like ASAP…help!!!

  7. Emma you have some very good advice. However I have worked in collections for thirty years and a person is NOT responsible for the spouse debts unless they signed on the debt themselves. This obligation changed years ago. Nor are grown children responsible for a patents debts.

  8. You should try femalehackerz1 AT gmail , she helped me when I was suspicious of my husband’s activities. She’s good and very understanding

  9. My relationship was in a mess a few weeks back, I kept on complaining and was steady worried if my husband was cheating on me. till my sister referred me to this hacker femalehackerz1 AT gmail who had helped a friend of hers spy on her cheating fiancées phone of every information available including deleted ones and also photos. I contacted him and he was very helpful and quick to deliver. although I finally found out he wasn’t cheating lol..but it was worth it. contact her if you also need help;

  10. You’re so right Laura I actually contacted femalehackerz1 ,she’s really good and pretty much reliable. I followed the referral above and she came through for me

  11. My relationship was in a mess a few months back, I kept on complaining and was panicking to know if my husband was cheating. Until my friend who is a cybersecurity expert at work referred me to this hacker cheatershacker1 AT gmail who is a friend of a friend. I got all the information i needed, I got totally access to his phones, seeing his calls, messages, emails among other things he does with his phone. I am so glad i got a genuine hacker after months of endless search. you can contact her if you need help.

What do you think? Please comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *