A Reader Writes…
My husband and I have agreed a six month trial separation, starting two weeks ago. He is the leaver and has moved out but we have both been unhappy with our relationship for the last 5 months or so. He was unsure what he wanted to do (divorce, run away) but welcomed my suggestion of a separation to give us time and space.
We do not have any classic big problems (financial worries, alcoholism etc) but moved overseas two years ago and became increasingly reliant on each other to the point of claustrophia for us both. Bottom line is we got stuck in a rut, didn’t argue enough and are now paying the price of love on mute.
I want to fix our marriage and am using this time apart to take an objective, painful view on myself and my role in our relationship. I have learnt a lot even in this short time, value the separation for giving me this opportunity and am genuinely looking forward to using the rest of the separation period to learn more about myself, my husband and how we function as a couple.
We are meeting for the first time in two weeks and spending the morning together (his suggestion, I will plan the next meeting two weeks later). I am doing well to keep a lid on my fears in front of him but am really concerned that I do not know what I am going to do and say when we meet.
How should I handle this meeting? If there were three words to describe my approach, what would they be? What should and should I not talk about? How do I begin and end the meeting? I feel like I am going to a parole meeting (more a reflection on my anxiety than my husband).
We have been together 6 years, married only one year, do not have children. There was a lot of love between us in the past and I believe our relationship can be revived and rejuvenated. A sort of rising from the ashes of sorts. My husband seems less optimistic but he is also hurt and fearful.
I’m wondering if I should see him at all. He has said there’s no point in trying to fix our relationship, his feelings aren’t going to change. Although, he’s agreed to us meeting every two weeks, he can’t guarantee that will happen because it will depend how our meetings go. I can’t do the role of smiling best friend pending approval. Am I okay to say to him that I am going to leave him be and to contact me, if he wants to talk about a future together?
Congratulations for using the separation in a positive way, I’m sure it will help you come out of this horrible situation a stronger and happier person – whatever happens.
So how should you approach this meeting? OK my watch words would be CALM, OPEN and LISTENING. What should you talk about? I think it would be helpful to report how you’ve been doing…. start with the good stuff but you can tell him what’s been tough (but not ‘act it out’ with angry silences or tears).
In general, my advice would be NOT to talk about US or what went wrong – as this will end in recriminations or go round the well worn circle. His choice of location (removed from letter) suggests he wants a fun rather than heavy date.
How should you start and finish the date, it depends a lot on how you’re feeling but a smile would be nice! Maybe a kiss if that feels right but please don’t try and seduce him (or show him what he’s been missing). Just try to be relaxed and yourself.
However, these ‘dates’ are your husbands idea and the closer to the first date, the more you’re feeling like a cloud is hanging over you. That’s why I’d like you to have an open mind. In many ways, his approach is sensible…. if this works, let’s do it again and if it doesn’t let’s stop. I know it feels like you’re on trial – so it’s not surprising that you’re toying with the idea of not seeing him at all!
So although my general advice is not to talk about US on these dates, I feel that you do need to review the experience at the end – together. On one hand, you can’t do best friend if your heart is breaking in two… but if you give him such a blunt message as ‘I’m leaving contact me if you change your mind’, he will feel as rejected as you are right now.
So let’s take a step back. Both of you are hurt and fearful. Everything even slightly critical or rejecting is heard as MEGA-CRITICAL and TOTALLY REJECTING. However, what shines through your letter is that he doesn’t want to end this relationship and that he’s desperately trying to find a way forward. Sometimes he does need to express his negative as well as his positive feelings but I hope you can use these dates to improve your listening skills, hear him out, and explore them further.
If he’s given enough time, he will begin to talk himself out of them (if you’re not trying to resolve his issues for him or getting upset which will make him withdraw). These meet ups could also be a chance to try and find a better interaction where you resolve little niggles rather than cover them. So please read Resolve Your Differences and Help Your Partner Say Yes for advice on this.
Ultimately, take this one step at a time and one date at a time. Good luck.