I sometimes hear from wives who have husbands seeking a “temporary” separation. Often, these husbands are very careful to paint a picture of what might only be a slight pause in the marriage. The husband indicates that he would like to leave or to move out only temporarily in order to “sort himself out” or “to have some space” so that he can hopefully return to the family in a better place. The idea is that this process will drastically improve the marriage and only cause a temporary disruption to family life. Of course, worried wives will often not buy this little spiel. After all, once a husband leaves your home and moves out, how can there be any guarantee that he is going to come back, especially since you can’t predict what might happen during the separation.
A wife might say, “for the past two months, my husband has told me that he’s going to seek a temporary separation. When I ask him to define this, all he’ll say is that he doesn’t want a divorce and that he’s not going to file any legal papers. He just feels that our marriage needs a pause, as we’re totally fighting all of the time. He feels that if we both take a timeout, we can come back stronger and our marriage will improve. This all sounds great, right? But I’m just not buying it. His only plan seems to be for us to live apart. He’s not mentioned counseling or working on our issues. I’m too scared to ask him if he intends to date other people, but I am very concerned about this possibility. I also have some concern that he’s just telling me that this will be temporary in order to get me to agree. At the same time, I’m not sure that my disagreeing with him will make any difference. He has the ability to walk out the door whether I agree to it or not. At this point, I’d settle for some reassurance that I only have to worry about this temporarily.”
I completely understand your concern as I was sure that my separation would eventually turn into a divorce. It didn’t. However, there were times when things looked very bleak. The risk lies in the fact that there are two people involved. We might want to reconcile, but without our husband’s cooperation, it is not likely to happen successfully. From my own experience, research, and observations, I do believe that there are some things that you can do in order to increase the odds that the separation is only temporary. I will list those things below.
Offer Compromises Before He Moves Out: I want to make one thing clear right away. Even when a husband moves out, plenty of separated couples are able to reconcile. This does not have to be the end of the world. But statistically speaking, the longer you live apart, the less chance you have of reconciling. So, it is to your benefit to make the living apart aspect of this as short as possible. If you haven’t already, I would suggest offering for you to sleep in the spare bedroom or you staying with family or friends. This gives him his space, but no one is moving out. This arrangement where you do the moving gives you much more flexibility and control. There is much less risk with this plan. The downside is that not all husbands will go for it, but if you tell him that you will truly back away and give him space, sometimes you can get him to try it on a trial basis. This is better than him moving out, in my opinion.
Controlling The Important Variables When He Does Move Out: Sometimes, no matter how much you try to convince him to try alternative arrangements, it becomes clear that he’s not going to be happy until he actually moves out. If you have to go this route (like I did,) then it’s best to hammer out as many agreements as you can beforehand. The reason for this is that once he moves out, sometimes you lose liberal access to him as he is seeking his space. So, it’s important that you talk and define as much as you can before he leaves. Try very hard to get him to agree to counseling. If you have to meet him regularly for these appointments, that is access. Negotiate when you will meet and talk. Try to make it as regular as possible. You don’t want to leave this up to chance. Ideally, you want to meet (or talk) as many times as is possible so that you don’t drift apart from each other and know what is going on in one another’s lives. It’s easy to lose intimacy when there is not enough contact. Many husbands will try to leave things up in the air, but try very hard to get him to agree to as much as you can.