My husband and I have been separated for over eight months. He left when our youngest was 10 months old due to me conversing with other men I knew. I was severely postpartum and honestly felt like he was going through the motions to make me happy to throw it up in my face later, which is exactly what he did.
Our fourth wedding anniversary is coming up soon. We agreed to dinner but I’m honestly not wanting to go. I feel like although I was the one who messed up, when I think of him leaving, especially in the mental state I was in, there’s nothing to celebrate. I didn’t want him to leave. I set up counseling immediately and paid out of pocket. It cost money I knew I would need later to supplement the income lost when he moved. But I was desperate and wanted him to know I would do anything to work on our relationship.
Back to the anniversary, I don’t think we have anything to celebrate. He’s still gone and I sit and stress about everything seems like it. He doesn’t want to do overnights or spend an entire day together but will sleep with me when it’s convenient for him. I know I shouldn’t give in, but I keep thinking it will being us together quicker, but it hasn’t.
He says he wants this year away to heal but I’m honestly tired of waiting. I don’t know how much longer I can do this separation thing. I lack intimacy, affection, and love and want that from my spouse. He’s not giving it right now and I’m about ready to walk away. I think about how he left and if he came back, he could do it again. Is that what I really want for my children to see.
I’m honestly just ready to put the plan in place to move forward with life without him.
I not only hear how lonely you are waiting for your husband to return, but I also recognize that your uncertainty about his plan or his time frame makes this situation even more difficult. You guys are stuck in a standoff right now and it’s clearly not sustainable. Let’s talk about how to break the impasse.
Although I want to be sensitive to the very real challenges associated with postpartum depression and other conditions caring for a newborn, I also think it will be more healing for your relationship to step into some deeper accountability around the lines you crossed by messaging other men. I don’t know any more details than you shared, but it obviously had a huge impact on your husband.
It’s human nature to immediately focus on justifications and excuses when we’ve betrayed someone. You recognize that you weren’t your best self during that time and can probably see more clearly now where you went wrong. I encourage you to use that clarity you’ve gained in the past several months to show accountability, compassion and curiosity about the impact this has had on him.
It’s difficult to care about someone’s reasons when they haven’t cared about their impact. You want him to understand how much you are hurting now that you’re alone. Have you spent enough time understanding how much you’ve hurt him?
Please don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that your pain isn’t real or that he shouldn’t eventually care about the impact he’s had by moving out. But, like any crisis, triage is important. Things need to happen in a certain order. Trace your steps back to the injury you caused by talking to other men and make sure that you have done a thorough job caring about and understanding what this changed for him.
Find out what he needs to feel secure and safe in the relationship. If you’ve only spent your efforts explaining why you did it and blaming him for your actions, healing is more unlikely to happen.
Anniversaries are a good time to reflect and review on the state of your union. Perhaps you can use this opportunity to repair anything that is left undone. Instead of focusing on the traditional anniversary dinner that is based on romance and positive feelings, get real about the crossroads you are facing and let him know how important it is to you that he’s healthy and that you are healthy. Prioritize addressing the wounds of the relationship instead of trying to dress it up with the distraction of romance.
Instead of demanding that he move back home from a position of entitlement, see if you can invite him to heal with you. What reassurance can you give him about your fidelity and desire to make this work? Obviously, he needs to be clear about his intentions as well.
You can’t force anything with him, but you can make it clear that the distance is taking a toll on you and the children. This is also a chance to ask for more clarification about what he needs. If he stays distant and vague without committing anything, you’ll ultimately have to make some tough decisions. I recommend you slow down and not make any decisions from a place of entitlement or resentment.
Also, if you are using physical or sexual intimacy to keep him close to you, I recommend you surrender trying to control him and, instead, focus on creating conditions that align with the best version of yourself. You both need to know that you are each in this relationship for the right reasons instead of feeling controlled or compelled to be there.
If he’s not willing to engage with you, you can always invite him back to counseling so you guys can have a structured place to work through the injuries. I recognize there are likely relationship injuries that precede you messaging other men. Every relationship has injuries that sometimes get ignored. Instead of trying to go forward only by putting yourselves back together in the same house, use this time to look at yourselves and make any needed adjustments.
If he’s asking for a year, how can you make the most of this time apart? Are there ways you guys can build your relationship even though you aren’t living in the same place? Separation is difficult and can often leave couples feeling more hopeless about the future. That’s why it’s essential to structure the separation so that you can both be intentional and work your way back toward a new and healthier marriage.
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