It’s not unusual to be separated and to have your spouse act in very conflicting and confusing ways. One day they can be very loving or receptive toward you and the next day they might be downright distant and cold. This can be very discouraging, especially if you never wanted the separation in the first place. And it can leave you unsure as to how to act around him, since you are never really sure which version of him you are going to get.
I might hear from a wife who says: “my husband was determined to separate from me even though I did everything in my power to convince him otherwise. I really didn’t have any choice in agreeing to separate. He was going to leave either way. So, I have tried to make the best of it while trying to stay as close to him as I can. I call him every day. I know that this probably isn’t the best idea so I try to keep our conversations short. Some days, he is sweet to me. A couple of days ago, he just showed up out of the blue and said that he wanted to see me. Of course, I got my hopes up that this was good sign, but then the next day when I called him, he was very cold and abrupt and he got off the phone very quickly. Then about three days later, he was somewhat sweet again. I can never figure out why he acts one way one day and then in the completely opposite day the next. There doesn’t seem to be anything that has happened to make things change between us. Another thing he will do is that he will change the way that he talks about our future from one day to the next. For example, recently, he actually discussed one day vacationing to Europe with me. So I took this to mean that we might one day reconcile. But then a few days later when I mentioned retirement, he told me that neither of us knew if we would even be together at our retirement. I understand that we are separated and nothing is guaranteed. But things would be much easier for me if he wasn’t always changing his attitude toward me. It’s hard to prepare myself for what might happen when it always changes. Why would my husband be acting this way? And how should I handle it?”
I know that this is very frustrating and it might make you feel as if you are living in a world where you can’t count on anything. But this is a very common situation during a separation. I will discuss some reasons why you might be seeing this behavior. And I’ll offer suggestions on how you might handle it.
Your Husband May Be Struggling As Much As You Are: People often assume that the spouse who wants the separation is extremely sure about this and firm in his decision. The assumption is often that he is going to enjoy his freedom and feel a huge sense of relief once the separation actually starts. And, he may assume this also. But, this isn’t always the reality. He find himself struggling emotionally. He may suffer from extreme loneliness, doubt, and uncertainty as to whether or not he has done the right thing.
And, when he sees or talks to you, this may intensify his struggles. Sometimes, this frustrates him. And because he feels vulnerable and is feeling negative emotions, then he may distance himself from you soon after these feelings surface because he doesn’t enjoy feeling this way and he is hoping that the distance is going to bring him some relief.
So What Can You Do About This?: I know that this is frustrating. But look at it this way. His uncertainty can actually be a good sign. At least he’s not one hundred percent certain that he wants a divorce (because I hear from a lot of folks who are dealing with this reality.) It is my experience that the worst thing that you can do in this situation is to point out where his behavior is unfair or selfish. It may well be both of these things, but I believe that you will often get more better results if you approach him with the knowledge that he is someone who is confused or who is struggling rather than someone who is being manipulative or cruel. Try to understand that he is not intentionally trying to confuse you. He is just reacting to his own confusion, which is likely just as frustrating to him as it is to you.
So how do you help him to overcome his confusion? You can be receptive when the situation calls for it and then try not to take things too personally if he is abruptly cold or distant. Many wives are tempted to “call him on his behavior.” In other words, when he is distant, the wife will sometimes demand to know why or she will tell him that he’s being a jerk since he is hurting her so badly. While this understandable, all that this strategy usually does is to make him stay away even more since in his own mind, he just doesn’t need the hassle.
Instead, you want to try to be patient and understanding. If he is particularly distant one day, just busy yourself with other things and wait until he is receptive again. If he’s nice and loving one day, then be very pleasant and make sure that the encounter is something that he wants to repeat. The idea is that as you are patient, playful, and kind, he will eventually want to be receptive more of the time. As this happens, you should gradually see him distancing himself far less often until things are back on track between you. It’s a simple strategy of trying to set up so that you have far more good days than bad days until eventually you don’t have any more bad days at all until a reconciliation happens.