I recently heard from a wife who was extremely anxious. Her husband had just sat her down and told her that he wanted to separate. The wife knew that things had been rocky for some time, but she thought that she had more time to make things work before he would suggest one of them moving out. As it stood now, the husband was volunteering to be the one to leave. But, he wouldn’t give her any information about how long he intended to stay away or if he was eventually going to file for divorce. He basically just keep repeating that he needed some time away to think and felt strongly that he wanted a break from the marriage.
The wife was more than devastated. She was so dreading the moment that he walked out of the door because she feared that this might mean that her marriage was over. And, she just could not stand that thought of that. She told me that this would be her worst fear come true. She said, in part: “I desperately want to save my marriage, but he doesn’t agree. He feels that the best course of action is a separation. I’m scared that once he leaves, he’ll never come back to me. But, I haven’t any success with changing his mind. In fact, every time I bring it up, he becomes angry and just withdraws completely. What can I do? No matter which tactic I take, I feel like I’m going to lose him and I don’t know how in the world I would handle that.”
I understand the fear that the wife is feeling. I have felt it myself. However, it’s so very important not to allow this fear to trick you into acting a way that is only going to make this situation worse and more hard to overcome. I believe (from my own experience and from those who share their stories with me) that there is most definitely a right way and a wrong way to handle a husband’s request for a separation. I will discuss this more in the following article.
If It’s Possible, Suggest A Separation Where It’s You (And Not Him) Who Leaves The Home: First of all, I felt like the wife was not going to have a lot of long term success with trying to make the husband change his mind about the separation. She had been down this road many times before and this was only making the husband want to pursue this even more. Continuing down this path was only going to make her work that much harder to gain the necessary ground.
And frankly, the husband was no longer listening to her anyway. So, in order to get him to listen, she was going to need to start changing up her message. So, I felt that she was going to have more success if she said something like: “you know, I can tell that this is very important to you and it’s obvious that this separation is something that you feel that you need to explore. I just want for us to be able to restore some happiness and peace between us so if this is what you think that it takes to make this happen, then I will support you. But, it would be easier for me to just go stay with friends than for you to have to leave your home. Let’s talk about how long you think that you need and what is going to happen once the separation starts.”
Of course, this idea didn’t sound like the perfect solution to the wife. She didn’t want any type of separation. I had to stress that this was likely going to happen anyway. And, if she forced the issue, her husband was only going to resent her. So, her best bet was to set it up in a way that she had the most control over it. By being the one to leave, she was able to control that her husband was still in their home and, when the time was right, she only needed to return. And, she had now set it up so that her husband saw her as someone who wanted to help the situation rather than hurt it. She showed him that she had his best interest at heart and wanted to work with him rather than against him. This was going to ensure that she had more access to him in the future. So rather than avoiding her, he might actually be working with her.
Defining What Is Going To Happen During The Separation: (And Setting It Up To Ensure That You’re Perceived Positively: It’s very important to try to set some parameters of what life is going to be like during the separation. How often are you going to touch base with each other? What does each of you want to accomplish? What boundaries will be in place? Now, sometimes, the husband will be resistant to all of these questions. If this is the case, it will usually do more harm than good to push. But, there’s nothing to stop you from just mentioning how you are going to be handling things.
And, it’s so important that you handle things in a very deliberate way. You want for him to miss you and to long for you during this separation. So don’t present yourself as someone who is mopey and sitting at home lamenting how things are going. Go out with the friends with whom you are staying. Put a smile on your face. You don’t need to overdo it. But, you want for your husband to see and remember that vibrant, enthusiastic woman that he fell in love with. And, you want for him to want to come to her.