It’s very common to be annoyed by your spouse’s behavior during a marital or trial separation. After all, you’re likely been watching his behaviors very closely and deeply analyzing them. And this is probably because you are looking for clues as to what your husband might do next or as to how he might be feeling. But this isn’t always an easy process, and this is especially true if you find your spouse’s behavior off-putting in some way. A common example is the wife who feels that her separated husband is acting in a very immature and juvenile way.
I might hear that same wife say: “I know that this is going to sound a little harsh, but my husband’s behavior during our separation is absolutely repulsive. He is acting like a teenager with acne. Sometimes, whenever I call him, I can hear silly movies or cartoons playing the background. The other day, I came over and he had a bunch of guys over and they were eating pizza, drinking beer, and playing video games. He now spends his Friday nights going out to sporting events and staying out until all hours of the night. It’s really annoying. I have been wanting my husband back during this entire separation. But lately, I am starting to have my doubts. To be quite honest, I want a grown man back, not a teenaged boy. Why is he acting this way? And will he ever stop?”
Believe it or not, this isn’t at all uncommon. I have a couple of theories as to why some men act this way. And I will share them now.
He’s Simply Blowing Off Steam: People act differently when they are under a high amount of stress or they are going through a life crisis. Women will often buckle down and become quite serious. Men can act in the opposite way. Why? Because this is a painful time for everyone and it is a time that is chock full of uncertainty. Because of this, it is likely that he is drawing on things that give him simple pleasures. And sometimes, simple pleasures for a man are things that we women can see as immature. He may not be completely proud of his behavior, but it may also be bringing him a bit of relief.
He May Be Testing Out His Freedom: Many men seek separations because they want more space or because they want to feel more like an individual and less like a couple, at least for a little while. And that is why it might be attractive to him to fully embrace this space. He may relish doing the things that you would normally tease him about or look down on. It is like being a teenager when your parents are out of town. You are going to test the boundaries simply because you can and because you are no longer under the watchful eye of someone else. Is this behavior to be proud of? No, it’s not. But it’s what happens sometimes. Luckily, if this is the reason your husband is acting this way, it usually doesn’t last for very long because the novelty eventually wears off.
His Behavior May Be An Extension Of His Mid Life Crisis: Some men want separations as they are beginning to feel like they are living their father’s life. They look at what they have accomplished and they are disappointed in some way or they wonder “is this all there is?” As a response to this, they will sometimes look to shed some of their responsibilities and to start living life placing a focus on what makes them happy. And that is why you see them focusing on everything but being a responsible adult. Again, I know that this is frustrating, but this kind of behavior can wane as soon as the thinking behind his mid like crisis wanes, which it usually eventually does.
So how do you handle this? I know that it is tempting to draw his attention to how stupid you think his behavior is, but I rarely see that strategy work out very well. I see people have more success with just ignoring the problem and waiting for it to pass. Frankly, sometimes he is acting in this way hoping to get a reaction out of you. If you don’t engage, then the whole reason for the behavior vanishes which means that he might stop.
It’s always been my thinking that dealing with your spouse during a separation can be hard enough without reacting to every little behavior that confuses you, hurts you, or angers you. Sometimes, you just need to pick your battles. And to me, this is not one of the battles. You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you are acting like your husband’s mother. And frankly, he could be doing a lot worse things than hanging out with his friends and playing games. At least you are communicating regularly, you know what he is doing, and you know who he is doing it with.