Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, I'm a writer here at BuzzFeed, and sometimes I like to give people advice.
So I've invited readers like you to message me on Instagram and Twitter (@StephenLC in both places) with your biggest problems — and I'm solving 'em right here on BuzzFeed, one DM at a time. Let's get right to it.
Today, we've got this woman, who recently caught her husband using her photos to catfish another woman. Here's what she wrote to me:
What your husband has done is a serious violation on so many levels — he's violating your marriage by engaging in this emotional affair, violating your consent by using your pictures to do it, and violating this other woman's trust by catfishing her. And then there's the fact that he's trying to turn all of this around and blame it on you. That is, needless to say, complete and utter bullshit. None of this is your fault.
For the record, I hope that this other woman has figured out the truth about your husband, and is no longer being tricked by him. She's a victim in all this, too. But, in any event, your first priority right now needs to be figuring out what the hell to do about your marriage — more specifically, how to get out of it.
Unfortunately, it's very common for people to find themselves stuck in bad relationships because of a difficult financial situation. And when a toxic partner knows that their S.O. can't leave, they're likely to wield that power against them and double down on their shitty behavior, knowing full well that they probably won't face consequences for it.
So my first question is whether you have anyone else in your life, be it a family member or a friend, who can provide a little support right now — whether it's helping out with childcare, giving you a small loan, or offering a safe place for you and your son to stay while you get on your feet. I don't know whether you've told any loved ones about what's going on in your marriage, but I think you should, because they might be able to give you a vital safety net right now. Please don't feel like you have to navigate this by yourself.
Now, whatever funds you can save up, you should spend on a lawyer. A lawyer can help you figure out if your husband would owe child support for your son, and how much those payments would be. It's also quite possible that after 16 years of marriage, your husband might have some financial obligations to you, too (aka alimony). A good lawyer can help you make sure you're getting everything you're rightfully owed. And you just might find, when all is said and done, that the financial burden of leaving him isn't as large as you think.
But even if you are presented with some real financial challenges by leaving, I still think your ultimate goal should be to do it. That's certainly easier said than done, and you might not be able to pull the plug today or tomorrow. But in the grand scheme of things, you and your son will be better off if you're not locked into a marriage with this cheating, gaslighting, catfishing creep. So, with time, I hope that financial independence is something you can work toward.
One last piece of advice: Please don't forget to take care of yourself in all this. You have a lot on your plate right now: You're dealing with the emotional fallout from your husband's affair, preparing for a divorce, parenting your child, working full-time, and caring for your aunt — not to mention that all of this is happening in the middle of a global pandemic. This must be a really, really stressful time for you. But your health and happiness matter a whole lot, even now — actually, especially now — so please be sure to carve out a little space to practice self-care every day.
Do things that make you happy. Spend time with people you love. Eat delicious food. Go for some long walks. Binge Selling Sunset on Netflix. Take time to just breathe. Make yourself a priority, because you certainly deserve it.
And — at the risk of adding another bill to the pile here — I hope you can find a good therapist to help you navigate the difficult road ahead. You should know that there are ways to get therapy at minimal or no cost: Your health insurance may cover it, there are virtual therapy apps that provide less expensive options, and many therapists offer a sliding scale payment system to make their appointments more affordable. You might also consider joining a local support group for people going through divorces. Again, you should not have to go through any of this alone.
I'm so sorry that your husband has done something so profoundly hurtful and violative to you, but I can promise you this much: There are brighter days ahead. You deserve a whole lot better than this man, and I'm excited for you to get it — hopefully sooner rather than later. Good luck.
That's all the advice I'm giving today, folks, but if you've got any words of wisdom for our DMer, share them in the comments! I'll be reading...
Want more advice and updates on previous DMers? Follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@StephenLC in both places). And if you want to submit a question to be featured in the column, DM me — just be sure to read the rules below first.