A family should be supportive and loving. Right? Well, that's not always the case, sometimes something terrible happens or someone just has a change of heart. Regardless of reasons, these people determined that they could no longer stay with their family. These people share the stories of why they decided to abandon their family and what happened to them. All stories have been edited for clarity.
I Don’t Know Why I Left
“I’m not really sure why I left like that, but I know I left because I was afraid I was going to fail as a father. My plan was to file for a divorce and only partially see my kids. I guess I was scared of that too, and I had ‘gone out for a pack of smokes,’ only I didn’t do that. I just told my kids I was going grocery shopping. I just lived on the streets and worked my job until finally I had enough money to by an apartment, food, etc.
Over the years though, I kept on thinking about my kids, and if they were living to be the children I wanted to be. I went to our old house to see if they were there, but they had moved out. I checked on social media. I started with Facebook because it’s always easiest to find the person you’re looking for. I checked my whole family. My former wife, my son, and my daughter.
I only managed to find my daughter and I friend requested her. She asked me who I was and I told her my whole story. My daughter told my wife about the message I sent, and she also made a Facebook account. I never even had a chance to strike up a conversation or ask about how my kids were doing. All she said was that she was going to take full custody of the kids. She did that, and until this day, all I can do is video-chat with my daughter and son. I found out that my former wife got re-married and had two more kids.
I am still very sad about this and I know I can only blame myself. I don’t know what got through my head. I don’t even think I could marry another woman again.”
Serial Family Abandonment
“My real dad ghosted like four families. His first family, he had a son. He was in that family for 13 years, then his son had a motorcycle wreck and ended up in intensive care. A year later, he ghosted that family and moved to a new state. Just up and left, didn’t take anything but his clothes and his car.
His second family, he had a daughter. He left almost immediately.
Then he moved to another state, married another woman, and had two more kids whom I’ve never met or spoken to. I don’t even know their names, to be honest. Jake? John? Jordan? Josh? Something with a J. He went out for a pack of smokes and never went back (his own words).
Then he met my mom, and had my sister first. He ghosted my mom about 3 years later, then showed up for some quick whoopie, and I happened. He ghosted her, but didn’t leave the state. She called the cops and my first memory is of the cops bringing my dad to the house in cuffs and letting him go, only for him to attack my mom while she was holding me and she dropped me. Then the cops arrested him. He wanted out, he got out.
He had two more marriages, but no kids. It’s his MO to shack up with well off women and mooch until they either kick him out or he gets bored. It’s really painful to see, because I want to be a Helicopter Dad who’s there for his kids every second of their lives. I want to be the exact opposite of him.”
I Didn’t Even Realize My Life Wasn’t Normal
“Growing up, my mother was pretty abusive (mostly emotional) to me and my little sister, this included basically fabricating a false reality (that my dad had divorced my mother and left her penniless then left the state) as well as isolating us from other family members on the basis that they were bad people
Probably the worst thing she did which I still deal with today was turning me and my little sister against each other in these messed up scenarios. Basically her substance induced rage of the day would always fall on one of us. Whoever ‘told’ on the other sibling that they did something to anger my mother would face her wrath and the other sibling would have a brief respite. It was a game of who could tell on the other first.
This went on since I was 8, so I grew up hating my sister.
After I got older, I found my best friend in high school and he helped me understand just how messed up my situation was, given that I assumed that’s how family life was since we were so isolated (no TV or internet). Additionally, my mother was a teacher at both my elementary and middle school, so she had control over everything I knew. I couldn’t take it anymore.
At 18, I left my house and moved in with my friend. However, it wasn’t forever as he was joining the army at the end of school and I had to think of someone to stay with.
After searching, I found my dad who was states away. I took a long shot and asked him if I could stay with him. He accepted.
I got everything I owned in the world (which fit in a truck bed) and left. While most kids were going off to college, I was going to start over in a completely different place with a father I didn’t know.
It turned out my dad was a decent guy. He wasn’t a saint by any means but league’s better than my mother. He helped me get a drivers license and eventually helped me join the military, where I have just finished my first year in.
I haven’t seen my little sister in 2 years though but she still hates me. Even though she’s 18, she hasn’t left mother and since I left, she’s become ‘closer’ with her. I regret not trying harder to be there for her every day.
But as for my life now, I have 3 years left in the Military then I hope to go to college and become a pilot. None of which I EVER thought of when I was living under my mother’s roof.”
I Don’t Even Remember What They Look Like Anymore
“I haven’t seen my son since his second birthday.
His mom (my ex) left me for a younger guy that she met at work. That’s pretty common I guess, but in the process she tried to destroy my reputation by telling anyone who would listen that I was abusive. I guess she realized that cheating makes you the ‘bad guy’ but a battered wife who cheats is fine. Everyone bought it, including my own family. The only person who remained on my side was my mother-in-law, who had lived with us for several years at that point (and was still living with us at the time) and knew firsthand that it was nonsense.
I had a lot of time to reflect on our situation, and I decided it would be best to ‘go out for smokes’ because:
-She used to bring our son when she went to fool around with this guy, so he was already a father figure of sorts
-I had no doubt she would tell the same ‘abuse’ story to our son when he grew old enough to ask
-He was too young to remember me
-Everyone believed me to be some kind of abusive monster anyway
And so once the divorce was finalized, I left. I moved thousands of miles away, cut all contact with all of our mutual friends and both families, changed my contact info, and tried to start over.
As far as what happened with my son and the rest of my family: I don’t know. Everyone probably still thinks I’m a monster and I guess that’s fine. I guess I am a monster after abandoning him like I did. I can only hope that my ex-mother-in-law doesn’t rock the boat and try to defend me in front of him, because more than anything I want him to have a normal, loving, wholesome relationship with his mother and step-dad.
As far as what happened to me: I’m successful in my professional life but a mess personally. I haven’t dated because I am scared of losing everything like that again, and I haven’t made any new friends because I fear they’ll drift away when they discover my past. Most nights I still have dreams about my ex-wife and son, but their faces are smudged because I don’t remember what they looked like (and I got rid of the photos long ago). I don’t really eat out, or travel, or have any ambitions anymore. I guess the most succinct way to put it is that I’ve become a hermit that is just waiting to die.”
“She Turned Out To Be A Nightmare”
“Five years ago, I moved in with my then girlfriend. It was my first time living with someone I dated and first relationship in a very long time. She turned out to be a nightmare. She had two boys, 4 and 5, and their father died of an overdose on their couch less than a year prior (I did not know this moving in…) and the boys found him. She was also crazy and was a pretty bad pill head, plus she’d smoked crack up until a few months before I met her (I moved in with her way too soon because I didn’t feel like paying rent for my apartment when I was never there… Big mistake). I bought a truck from her parents and was making payments on it and we put it in both of our names so I could go on her insurance. I used to leave for work at 4 am and sometimes wouldn’t be home until 9-10pm (hour plus drive) and by the time I’d get home she’d usually be plastered, like a bottle deep, and would just berate me the second I got home. If I said anything wrong to her she would flip out and threaten to take my name off my truck title (that she hid from me) and report it stolen and stuff like that.
One day I had enough. I called my boss and told him I needed to get out of there and needed the day off. I waited until she left for work and moved all my stuff out to a friends house in an RV he had on his property, went to the DMV and filed for a lost title and got a new one just in my name, got new insurance, changed my phone number, and rented a hotel room for two weeks far away from her but much closer to my job.
I had a few thousand saved up and used almost all of it to get away from her. She never saw it coming. Always told me I was too much of a wimp to actually do anything about how she treated me. Oh, and I never paid for the truck… Kind of a rude move to do to her parents but at the time I needed to put as much space between her and I as possible.
Oh yeah, and she told me she talked to her ‘psychic’ (one of those fake phone psychics) and they told her to tell me to spend as much time with my mother as possible because I didn’t have much time with her left…. My mom had just found out she had terminal cancer and only about a year left to live if she was lucky… If I hadn’t completely cut this psycho witch out of my life, I was going to do something very stupid and likely spend a long time in prison.
Only thing I feel bad about is ghosting on her two boys. They looked up to me as a father figure and adored me especially because their mom was horribly abusive to them. She would cuss at them like they were adults and would constantly brag about how her sister worked for child protective services so she knew how to abuse them without breaking the law. Things like using distilled vinegar to wash their mouths out instead of soap because it wasn’t child abuse because its technically a food product or other crazy stuff.
That’s a year of my life I regret but it made me a lot more cautious about relationships. I am now engaged to the love of my life and have gotten sober and my personal and family life is doing nothing but getting better everyday.”
Mom Tried To Leave Twice
“My mom, just all of a sudden, wasn’t there anymore.
She and my dad were miserable but my dad wouldn’t agree to divorce. He was a minister at a big church and didn’t believe divorce was right and so instead he tried to stay married to my mom, all while avoiding her and all the unhappiness at home.
She never really left her bedroom. She was miserable and she made everyone else miserable, too. She was horrible to me in those last few years. We had been really close before that.
She started moving stuff out of the house little by little when no one was home. Like, one day a bookshelf would be gone. And we’d all notice but just kind of go on with our lives.
And it bothers me very very much, but her moving out was so abrupt and so ambiguous, that I don’t remember specifics about it. Like I don’t know if it was during the school year or over summer – I don’t know where I was or what was different when I came home that day – but at some point, she didn’t live there anymore.
I was 14.
My dad told me that God told him she would never come back. I looked up to my dad a lot – he was kind-of on the same level as God in my mind – so I believed him. Soon after, he started dating another woman – secretly because the church didn’t know he was divorced yet. He intended to marry her as soon as possible.
I remember I had to pose for ‘family photos’ with this new woman and her 2 kids. They were printed up and put into a frame and hung over our fireplace.
Then one day, my mom came to the house. She told me she had made the biggest mistake of her life, that she loved me, and my brother and my dad, and she wanted to work everything out.
I guess God was wrong when he spoke to my dad.
Then she walked out of my room and saw the new family portrait over the fireplace. She left quickly.
A few days later, she called the house, my dad answered, and she told him to ‘tell the kids I said goodbye.’ Then she hung up. We started calling everyone we could think to call. We tried to call the phone operator, asking if they could trace the call, but this was 1995 so no caller ID or cell phone with a callback number.
A bit later that night, my new step-mom-to-be came over and pulled my dad aside. She saw a car at the end of our neighborhood that looked like my mom’s. My dad called 911. Everyone showed up. My mom had taken a BUCKET of pills. She was barely alive. They took her to the ER and pumped her stomach and intubated her. They told my dad to call my brother so he could come say his goodbyes, too.
I was let into the room for a while. I looked at the machines and they were plugged into the wall and I stared for a long time thinking I should unplug it because she really didn’t want to be revived and I couldn’t understand why we were doing all of this. But then a nurse came in and said I had to leave while they did stuff.
My mom survived. My dad married the other lady. I think this messed me up and I honestly can’t believe I’ve typed up this entire recollection. I don’t think about it very often and maybe that’s why I can’t remember the details of the day I realized she’d moved out.”
Got My Closure
“Got married right out of high school, everything was going well but we were young and both were our first partners. Came home early one day and walked in on my wife with another man. Standard insanity ensued, followed by her begging for forgiveness and we went to months of counseling. Everything seemed well and dandy, she seemed like a totally different woman and couldn’t live without me.
One day, I log into our desktop PC and her Facebook is loaded and there are multiple messages and I just had to look because it gave me a bad feeling. I found exactly what I knew I would find, messages of her talking with other men. It crushed me but I acted like nothing happened. That weekend I packed up my favorite clothes and belongings that meant a lot to me and snuck them to the car. Sunday evening, I said, ‘Hey I’m going to take the dogs to the dog park and hike for a few hours.’ When I left, I texted our neighbor to see if anyone showed up at the house. She replied pretty quickly that a male visitor was by very quickly, I told her goodbye. I drove off with the dogs. I had decent savings and thought, ‘To heck with it, I’m going to start off somewhere new,’ and that is what I did.
My ex wife didn’t even try and contact me until around lunch time the next day. When I didn’t respond, she blew me up with photos and videos of her with multiple men and about how bad of a lover I was. It messed me up but I just kept trucking. I ended up in a smaller town where I saw someone was hiring for my trade. Years later, I re-married to the best human ever.
I went home not long ago and my mom posted a picture of us at a gathering. My ex hit up my facebook and asked if we could meet for a cup of coffee she would like some closure (I obviously would like as well). I have to say, for all the resentment and hatred I had toward this woman, our conversation was pleasant and I felt better after we talked. She understood why I left, she apologized deeply, many times and didn’t try to blame me for anything.
After an hour and a little bit of tears (really awkward in public hahaha), she asked if it was okay to get a hug. We hugged and said our goodbyes. Once I got home, I told my wife about the visit and she got awkward for a few minutes. She left the room and I didn’t follow, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m sleeping on the couch tonight’. Five minutes later, she came back crying and just gave me the biggest hug ever, she told me she forgot what I went through and she was sorry and glad our life is good.
Closing, I left a terrible human for the best human ever.”
I Wanted Absolutely Nothing To Do With It
“I was born and raised in Denmark and had a girlfriend there who was a great person but was also a terrible decision maker. Despite me using protection and her claiming she was taking birth control, she got pregnant when she was 17 and I was 19. We had talked before about what we should do just in case and we both had agreed that abortion would be the right option, but she changed her mind as soon as she found out she was pregnant. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with a kid and I gave her several chances to set up an adoption or get an abortion but she always refused.
I had been looking for schools at the time and I got a scholarship offer from an American University and I took it in secret from everyone except my immediate family. Told my girlfriend I was going on a short vacation with them and promptly blocked all contact with her. I haven’t left the United States since, and I am now a citizen and have no desire to ever return to Denmark.”
I Shouldn’t Have Married Her
“I got married very young to an older woman. I had grown up dirt poor and had few prospects in life and was working at a service job. The woman, about ten years older than me, met me at work, developed a crush, and I had no idea. She showed up often, sometimes with her children and husband. She was getting thinner and thinner, working out in the gym constantly in hopes I would notice her.
One day I did notice her and we started talking. She gave me a story about a failed marriage, her being miserable, yadda yadda yadda. Then she asked if I wanted to see a movie. I thought nothing of it, but she snuck a bottle of Ouzo into the theater and we got quietly inebriated and later went to my place. I’m not proud of that, but there you go.
Later, the relationship became more serious and when I found out that she moved out of her husband’s house and was living in her car, I asked her to move in. To be honest, though, I didn’t want to. I felt bad for her, but even worse for me because I was never attracted to her. However, I was a kid with zero self-esteem and thought, ‘This is the best I can do.’
Things continued and, when we got engaged, I thought, ‘This is the best I can do.’
Unsurprisingly, the marriage went poorly, she cheated on me repeatedly, and one day she told me that she didn’t have custody of her children because she was afraid I wouldn’t marry her if she had kids. That scared the heck out of me and strengthened my resolve to leave. And then she did something highly illegal (which I won’t repeat) and that was the last straw.
So I left her. She had to work a double shift and a friend came over and helped me pack. I left her everything except my clothes and books. Another friend had said I could take the spare bedroom and I slept on the floor, not even having a bed.
Meanwhile, my wife went crazy, attempted suicide, and wound up in a lock down ward for a while. Her family was pretty upset with me. Meanwhile, she kept trying to get back together with me and said she wouldn’t agree to a divorce. But she changed her mind after I told her that if she agreed to the divorce, I wouldn’t tell the police why I left her.
The icing on the cake? After I left her, I called her children (they had gotten to know me well) and told them, wanting them to hear it from me that I was leaving their mother. Her son simply asked, ‘What took you so long?’
Today, many years later, life is much better, and I’m happily married with children. I did, however, wait almost 20 years before I got married again.
Her? She got married again and it lasted about a week before he was found dead in a river. Allegedly he drowned. She is, I hear, on her fourth marriage. Her children are still sometimes in contact with me, but they want nothing to do with her.”
“You Don’t Have To Live Like This”
“My ex-husband was extremely physically and emotionally abusive, as well as an addict. He obsessively controlled the money and every second of my daily routine; an unplanned five-minute delay to get gas on the way home would result in a dressing down (if I was lucky, a beating if I wasn’t). We had three daughters and on the few occasions I threatened to leave, he’d tell me to go ahead and leave, but I couldn’t take our daughters with me.
At one of our couple-friends’ wedding reception, he got wasted, as per usual, and lost his mind over something insignificant. He dragged me around in the street by my hair, and pulled a Glock on me (in front of the wedding party). One of his friends – who was a real piece of garbage – took me aside while the groom’s mom was driving my ex home, and told me, ‘You don’t have to live like this.’ It was like a light went on in my mind – THIS GUY says I don’t have to live like this?!?
It took me a couple of weeks to put a plan in place, but one morning after my ex left for work, my dad helped me pack everything that would fit in a U-haul, and I left.
I’d like to say I never saw him again after that day, but I was pretty lucky he decided to leave me alone after an initial period of stalking and a bout in jail for violating an order of protection. Fast-forward 15 years: I finished undergrad, law school, and post-doc. I’m remarried with two more amazing kids, and life is pretty much goals.
I almost forgot to mention the kids! I did take them with me – that was why I left the way I did, since I knew he wouldn’t let me leave with them otherwise. Unfortunately, it’s not been all sunshine and rainbows since, although we had some pretty wonderful times over the years. My ex passed on to the girls a genetic predisposition to serious mental illness, and I lost one daughter to suicide when she was 14. We all were (and are) pretty traumatized, but we cope the best we can and try to appreciate all the other wonderful things life has brought us.”