Amanda left a brief note on the kitchen table.

"I’m leaving," it said. "I’ll be back later for the rest of my things."

Darren found the note on a Friday evening when he got home from work. At first, he thought it might be a practical joke. Leaving? He knew Amanda had been moody and unhappy lately, but she’d been through times like that before.

Leaving? His brain couldn’t quite process it. What did it mean? Was she taking some time away? Was she going home to her mother for a while? How long would she be gone? When was she coming back?

He poured himself some cereal, ate, and tried not to think about it. He carefully reviewed his last conversation with Amanda, on the phone earlier that day. She had sounded fairly normal, he thought.

He called her cell phone, leaving his number as a page.

When Saturday and Sunday passed with no return phone call or any other form of contact, Darren began to realize something was changing. Amanda had stormed out of the house before, angrily going for a drive for a few hours, but she had never been gone overnight without telling him where she was going.

Monday morning arrived, and Darren went off to work as usual. He kept his thoughts to himself, not telling any of his friends or co-workers about his wife’s absence. He remembers thinking that sooner or later his wife would be coming back.

He was wrong.

On Thursday, when he arrived home from work, most of the furniture and other belongings in his house were missing. Amanda had apparently come home that day and carried away "her stuff"—which included basically every useful piece of furniture as well as the sound equipment and video gear.

Darren was angry—but also in shock. Why had she taken so many things that didn’t belong to her? Where was she taking them? Who had helped her empty out his house? She couldn’t have lifted the furniture by herself.

He had a lot of questions, but no answers. He called Amanda’s cell phone again, leaving his number when she didn’t pick up. He made his page an "urgent" message this time.

When she finally did call him back, it was nearly two weeks later. "I’m divorcing you, if you haven’t figured that out yet," she said sharply. "I just can’t take it anymore, and I’m tired of trying."

This was the first time the word divorce had ever occurred in a conversation between them. With his emotions a mix of extreme shock and significant anger, Darren struggled to control his attitudes and his words.

"Can we talk about this?" he remembers asking his wife.

"There’s nothing to talk about," was her retort.

That was her final answer.

Enduring Rejection and Loss

Thousands of times each week, the scene between Darren and Amanda is replayed, with slight variations, in houses and apartments across the country. More than 18,000 divorces take place in the U.S. every week of the year, most of them by common agreement after a period of discussion and negotiation.

Yet in many cases the divorce is set in motion by just one party, not both, and it begins with a process of departure and abandonment—someone leaves. Having promised to be together "forever" and stay "until death parts us," someone changes their mind. One day they are at home, and things seem mostly or entirely normal. The next day—they’re gone, and they’re not coming back.

Darren’s emotional stress quickly became physical stress. His health deteriorated daily as the drama of Amanda’s leaving began to play out. By the time the divorce papers arrived, he was in ill health. He had been abandoned by someone he loved.