Whether it seems entirely out of the blue or you’ve been sensing it for a long time, it can be scary to hear when your wife tells you she wants to separate. Even if your relationship has been lacking for years, you thought that she would never want to leave you.
For some couples, a trial separation makes sense because they could use the time to really evaluate the relationship, work on themselves and the relationship. This is especially true if one or both of you have experienced trauma or substance abuse issues.
Sometimes, you can use this as an opportunity to reconnect securely and attractively. Many times this prevents separation, but when it doesn’t, it sets the stage for reconciling even after separation.
A few possibilities to consider
Research shows that 30% of couples seeking marriage counseling or divorce have one spouse that’s all-in and wants to do everything they can to restore the relationship, while the other is profoundly fighting whether they want the relationship to continue.
So, this may be a good time to do some self-reflection. Think about how your relationship has been lately.
- Are there any times where you remember your wife trying to get you to interact with her differently?
- Was there a concern brought up multiple times but to no avail?
- Was marriage counseling being discussed?
It may be a case where your wife is asking to separate as an intervention. Without making any assumptions, she may still want to work on your relationship but may have recognized the need for serious action. If that’s the case, take her seriously. An intervention such as counseling may be the last-ditch effort in saving your marriage.
At the same time, there are certain actions you’ll want to avoid. Yes, if you’ve just discovered that your wife wants to separate, you’re likely wanting to do something—anything—to save your relationship. But you’ll want to exercise retraint here and avoid pushing her even further away.
What not to do when your wife wants to separate
If you want to save your marriage, stay away from the following actions:
Acting out: Don’t go wild, and try to stay away from drugs, alcohol, the bar scene, and flirting with other women. If you want to get your spouse back, these behaviors won’t help you get there.
Begging: Don’t investigate, pursue, or put unnecessary pressure on your spouse.
Buying: Don’t buy gifts, flowers, or cards to make up or apologize for what you may have done that prompted your wife’s decision to separate.
Nagging: Don’t make excessive phone calls and send many texts to your spouse, especially if this has not been your pattern before the recent rupture.
Reminiscing: Don’t try to get your wife to look at old wedding pictures, chat about your early dating days, etc.
Can you change her mind?
As you’re well aware, your partner’s actions are beyond your control. So let’s focus on the one thing you can control: yourself.
Take a look at how you’ve been behaving in your marriage. Clarify your standards for a good and satisfying marriage and start living up to them, even if your spouse isn’t doing the same.
If they refuse to go to therapy, go on your own. See if you can find a therapist who will support you in looking at what’s gone on in your marriage without trying to convince you to accept your separation as inevitable.
But remember, it’s not enough to show up. Take what you learn in counseling and put those lessons and strategies to good use. When your wife sees a commitment and effort put into counseling and a willingness to change, they may be willing to try again too.
And on top of that, to take the things they learn in counseling and put them to work to change themselves. When most wives see a commitment to counseling and a willingness to change, they’re willing to try again too.
Allow your wife to come to you with questions or concerns. Sincerely let them know that you want to save the marriage, and then practice being patient about any discussions about it. When the time comes, remember to practice active and engaged listening.
Work on yourself. It’s easier to focus on our partner’s flaws than ours, but one of the most effective approaches you can take is to do a bit of self-reflection and think about what could use some work. When couples want to separate, they almost always have some idea of what and why something needs to change. You may not know precisely how, but you probably know a good place to start.
Keep busy. Go about your day-to-day activities, like going out with friends, seeing your family, or spending time with your kids. Continue living, despite what ends up happening with your marriage.
Keep up with your appearance. You may feel very sad or bad about yourself, but neglecting basic hygiene will only intensify these feelings and make matters worse.
When you learn how to take a step back, you’ll make it easier for yourself and your wife to reenter the relationship with a renewed focus and commitment.
Have recent developments in your marriage left you feeling confused about your relationship or worried about where things are headed? Our Charlotte counselors are here to help. Call or email us today to get the support you deserve.