A Reader Writes…
We have been married for 7 years. Our main complaints in our relationship are that my husband wants to spend more time with his friends (he is an extrovert) while I want more quality time with him (I am an introvert). I had compromised by agreeing to spend time with him and his group of friends, not realising that as the years passed, I became more and more resentful and yearn for even more time with my husband. I thought that my compromising would have made my husband happy but apparently not.
A few months ago, we started counselling. The main problem being he wanted to go out with his friends while I want to spend more time with him. We tried to resolve this by having date nights and me agreeing to him going to meet with his friends in return. He wanted to meet his friends weekly. I said weekly would be hard at this point in time but I will try. In the end, though I agreed to him going out weekly, it was with a lot of difficulty and there was always some complaints.
After 4 counselling sessions and just 2 weeks of trying the above, my husband revealed at our last joint counselling session that he wanted a trial separation. That was a real surprise to me as even though we have our issues in the marriage, I thought we were trying to work them out through counselling. And it is not like I didn’t try with the suggested arrangement. I tried hard and it was just not working as well as I would have liked for now. It therefore, came as a real shock to me and a real disappointment. I didn’t realise that he had been so unhappy all these years. I thought that he will voice out his unhappiness like I do, as after all, I thought we were best friends and soul mates. Even though I will voice out my unhappiness, my husband may not listen to me or do as I would have wished. So I thought that I would have already compromised and given in to what he wants but it seems now that that is not the case.
Even though he wanted a trial separation, we still live in the same household and he said that we can some times have meals together and he even asked me out on dates. In a way, I am glad this is the arrangement as it seems positive but at the same time, I am confused. I am trying to give him space but at the same time, I find it very hard to deal with this situation. There are good days and bad days. Days I feel strong and that I can give him the space but also days I feel depressed and angry that I have to support him and give in to his arrangement. I mean, what about me? As we are living in the same household, it is difficult to hide my daily mood swings from my husband. I think I should have the right for my mood swings but at the same time, I am worried that my reaction as such will not let my husband have the space he needs. I don’t know what to do.
We are not really communicating other than the day to day stuff. He said he still needs time to think. I don’t know how long this is going to take and how I am going to cope. I am trying hard not to let it affect my mood and my work but it is so hard. I have no energy and drive at work. I took a few days off work but ended up feeling more depressed and desperate. I also don’t know how I am going to forgive my husband for what he is putting me through. What am I going to do?
It sounds like both of you are exhausted, unhappy and don’t feel that the other person listens. Worse still, you are having a trial separation that involves living together. In my opinion, it sounds like the worst of all possible scenarios. You’re not really certain what the rules are going to be. ‘Is he eating with me tonight or not?’ ‘Can we still have sex?’ A hundred other intricacies that need to be negotiated. You feel that you’re on show and on your best behaviour all the time (for fear of pushing him away). Do you talk about problems or just pretend there’s no problem? There is no space to think or just be yourself. You’re permanently feeling judged and found wanting.
So what are you going to do? I would suggest a weekend away at a friend’s house, hopefully in the countryside, where you sleep late, go for long walks and be on your own for while. It won’t solve anything but it will at least do something about the exhaustion. Perhaps when you come back, you’ll be able to reflect and sort out a way forward.
Let me give you some observations—for when you return:
- It sounds like you’re both really angry with each other and saying: ‘I’m trying terribly to be what you want, turning myself inside out, and it still doesn’t feel enough.’ Unfortunately, the anger is just pushing each other away – which in turn is making you both angrier and angrier (and increasing the distance).
- You’re both waiting for the other one to make the first move. In my book ‘Help your partner say yes’, I talk about giving with an open heart. By this I mean, giving without expecting to get anything back. (It is often the test of whether a relationship can be saved or not is whether you love enough to be the ‘big one’. But don’t worry, it’s not you making all the effort forever. If you change your behaviour – rather than waiting for him to change – that will have the knock on effect of encouraging him to approach things differently and turn the current negative spiral into something positive where you’re both willing to compromise.)
Use your therapy to discuss the following topics:
- Are we having a trial separation (which I think involves living apart and meeting up on a regular basis) or are we working on our relationship (which involves living together and improving our communication over small day-to-day issues)?
- How can we improve our communication? How could he open up more? How could you express your issues in a different way so it’s easier for him to hear? How would we both listen better? What would help you both to bring up personal concerns, negotiate and find a way forward?
- What would happen if we put the ‘future’ on hold for a while and instead of discussing whether we want to be together or not but concentrate on making day-to-day issues better. (If you can – hurrah – you will have a future together.)
So in a nutshell, my advice is step back, get some rest, unload and look at the problem through fresh eyes.
Photography by Chris James Dade.