A Reader Writes…
I discovered my husband had had 2 inappropriate relationships – the first before we married, and the 2nd last year. Neither involved sex, lying or risk taking – and he insists to this day he was not in love with either of them – he never wanted/considered getting out of our marriage. I knew nothing of the first one, until I discovered the 2nd one. We entered Marriage Guidance Counselling – and both found it to be a huge help – but it ended after 6 sessions with the counsellor saying we had resolved everything we brought to him.
We have both realised now that the 1st affair happened out of revenge at how I was treating him at the time , forcing him to have a separate work/home life, and the 2nd one was a cry for help for me to notice exactly just how unhappy he was.
He acknowledges now that he has quite bad depression, which he thinks was triggered 4 years ago with regret over a change of career, then he saw his long commute on the train to work every day for 3 years as his “punishment” for being unfaithful to me – and he says the guilt just ate away at him over the years – then when he had the 2nd relationship this made him doubt his love for me – which i understand.
He said he put it to the back of his mind when he got a job closer to home – and this should have been a wonderful time for us – but 2 days after the great news about the new job, I was told I was being made redundant, and my gran was diagnosed with terminal cancer. ( she was like a mum to me) – I realise now at this time I reclused, stopped seeing friends and really just stopped being the woman he loved.
Over the next 18 months he lost both his grandparents, and we had severe financial problems.
He says he just felt completely hopeless, hurt angry and disappointed at this time and nothing he did would be enough for me – and this is when the 2nd relationship began.
So – we have solved why the relationships happened, but he went to stay with his parents whilst we were in counselling – things were going really well between us until the first week after counselling ended – then he crumbled /panicked and said it might be best if we had a trial separation.
He still says he loves me, but doesn’t know if he can be “in love” with me again -recover those “feelings “and also can he trust himself to be faithful to me in another 5 years because he cheated twice already …..he thinks he now has a “pattern” – I asked him many times between November and March to just end our marriage and put me out of my misery – but he says that isn’t what he wants and I am now beginning to believe him at last …. I really don’t believe he would be putting us both through this if he just wanted out
So at last I’m beginning to believe him = and have not mentioned it since then, and vowed to myself not to in the future – because the I finally realise that the more I push – he withdraws.
He still has your book ILYBINILWY – which i think he has read….
He feels this separation is the only thing left to do as he needs a “dose of reality” He feels he cannot get this living at his parents in the box room having everything done for him – and I resisted this hugely at first – but now recognise this possibly is the best solution for both of us although it will mean financial hardship for all of us meantime.
We talked it through for about a week and eventually agreed a 6 month controlled separation and have taken a few weeks to set up a contract with very tight rules for this – eg how often we phone/email, how we will deal with trust issues, how we will date each other ,family time etc.
We both agree that the goal of this is for me to deal with my insecurities (which i have been doing for 6 weeks now ) _ I read your book ” learn to love yourself enough” – which was a great help. And I am continuing to accept the responsibilities I had in what happened to us , and finally realise why I am so insecure .
This is also to be used as a time for him to seek whatever help he thinks will be suitable for his depression – he is adamant he does not want to take any kind pills for this, and wants to explore other possibilities- I have told him I respect this – he is an educated man and I trust the choice he will make.
Our ultimate goal in doing this though is to find the love trust and respect we used to share .
We have not ruled out attending more couple counselling in the future.
We have also agreed to only discuss feelings/future etc at a set time for an hour – not during family time or dates – and so far have managed to do this.
We discussed how intimate we will be – and both agreed we should just take things very slowly.
I am for the first time ever being able to share my deepest fears and thoughts with him – and he is beginning to talk to me about feelings and what he “got ” out of the 2 other relationships he had – the needs that perhaps weren’t being met…..
He is looking for a 6 month lease on a furnished flat at the moment, with the hope of moving at the end of June.
I am now at least in a very calm place , and concentrating on giving him the time and space he feels he needs, whilst continuing to read reputable self help books just for myself – I am seeing friends, attending an exercise class twice a week socialising again, and working on all of my self-critical thoughts, my low self esteem – and how to combat these.
My question is this though Andrew _ do separations like this EVER help couples to reconcile? Or is there not just a greater risk that we will just drift further apart.
Because whilst most days I am positive – I still have many moments where I really doubt I am doing the right thing…even though I KNOW I made the choice to do this -when I could have walked away…..
I hope that the saying if they love you – let them go and they will come back is true – but at the moment I have so many doubts – so just wanted your professional opinion.
It sounds like you have been through a terrible time, but the most important thing – and what gives me hope from the future – you have been able to keep talking AND you’ve both learnt from the experience.
The next thing that is encouraging is that you’ve talked through your trial separation and decided how it will work, what the rules are, plus have a specific goal in place. Lots of couples just walk away and get angry because what they assumed would be the rules were not the same as their partners. Well done for thinking this through.
So, to answer your question, can a trial separation work: YES. I have worked with several couples who have used time apart to look deeper at themselves and the relationship. However, it is important to just enjoy each other’s company too and not to fall into the trap of thinking if you don’t speak about US – that time together is somehow wasted. Instead think of it as an opportunity to try out news ways of being, for example – mentioning small hurts which you would previously have swept under the carpet (for fear of rocking the boat) and in this way start to build a better way of communicating (rather than endlessly discussing the SITUATION).
I’m glad you’ve found ‘Learn to love yourself enough’ helpful, but I would also read ‘Resolve your Differences’ as it will help you with day to day issues and ‘Help your partner say yes’. Together they will help you build a new way of being that will begin to heal the pain from the past. So be brave, keep learning and start growing together.
Currently reading your ebook ILYB.
I am also facing a trial separation that my wife has asked for. It was a big shock to hear that she wasn’t in love anymore even though I knew the relationship had problems – my anxiety issues, her depression, codependent behaviours and reduced intimacy. I did all the wrong things at first like begging but she said there is no other way. I am devastated but I am trying not to pressure her, and she has said it is not just the relationship – there are other factors such as potential loss of a parent involved, and perhaps a mid life crisis and she needs space. I initiated counselling which has sparked off some discussion outside of that with just the two of us about what’s been going wrong. There’s been pain but also a lot more honesty and open communication. Basically she feels a lot of guilt about not being good enough, as a daughter and a wife. She wants to try living on her own without responsibilities.
After some of the discussions last week she admitted to being “confused” about whether or not to leave and from the start she said it might be the biggest mistake she has ever made.
But the next day she said she definitely wanted the separation and has a place to rent. Terms of the trial separation are being worked out in counselling and it looks like the compromise will be something like 1 counselling session per month and 1 personal catch up per month, no phone calls but email/text ok. The length of the trial is still to be discussed.
I am finding it very difficult to cope with the thought of loss and my anxieties. I am seeking help for myself and have told her that I am going to focus on me and give her space. I have said that I want to see the separation as an opportunity to try and reconnect but without pressuring. Trouble is backing off enough is so difficult – I want to hear that there is hope, but I know from reading here and elsewhere I have probably not been helping myself by expecting that. Should I try and redress this by saying I don’t expect to be offered hope?
The weird thing about all this is the limbo state we are in right now.
She does not move out for about 10 days and so we are still living together and sharing a bed. There was some touching and hugging and crying with all the conversations last week (although these were more me telling her things and her responding) but I have tried not to be clingy. Very difficult as I have realised I have abandonment/separation issues with the anxiety! (currently seeking my own help for this)
In fact apart from her being surprised by how much of a shock this has been to me – she said she knew it would hit me but didn’t realise it would be so hard – she has also said she has been surprised by my reaction more recently – that I have been doing soul searching and trying to work out my role in this, when she expected anger and to be kicked out.
My questions: how best to deal with the limbo state over the next few days? We are carrying on domestic life as normal superficially, but the touching has pretty much stopped and I am reluctant to initiate too much of that lest it come across clingy. It is so so so hard though. I don’t know how much more I should keep talking about what went wrong and how much to just try and enjoy each others company (oddly we are doing that and we are even laughing sometimes). Or would it be even better to be out of the house? Early on she asked for space but now she is not asking for it and seems relaxed if I am.
Part of me thinks I have to make this short time together best so she remembers it more in a positive light… but I also know I am over analysing everything as I always do!
Andrew G. Marshall says
As I was reading your comment, I thought ‘he’s over-analysing’ so I was really pleased when you came to that conclusion. Remind yourself of this during your limbo phase. When you find yourself clinging, read my book or something else that will help you focus on learning about yourself (rather than begging your wife to save you). It sounds like you’re doing the right things: couple counselling, individual help. So I would say there’s hope. Hope that you’ll both learn and have a better relationship or you’ll grow to understand yourself better and forge a better relationship with yourself.