Your Husband Wants to Separate — Now What?


If you’re reading this, you’re probably going through, or fearing that you’re about to go through, one of the scariest things that can happen in a marriage: Your husband wants to separate.

It’s hard to pinpoint exact numbers on how many couples go through a separation, but research suggests one in four U.S. couples will legally separate in the first six years after getting married.

It’s perfectly normal to feel lost and panicky when the other person says, “I need some time away.”

But you’ll have a better chance of saving your marriage if you can avoid acting from a place of fear. If your husband wants to separate, your first reaction might be to tearfully beg and plead for him to stay. Sadly, when we try so hard to pull another person back to us, it often only makes them want to leave more. This all ties back to something we talked about in a previous blog post: that when we chase after something in a relationship, we often end up driving away the very thing we want.

If your husband is saying he wants to leave, it’s helpful to deal with him from a more confident place. Now, I’m not talking about screaming “FINE! Get out!” and expecting your husband to change his mind. Instead, you want your message to be more like this: “If you want to leave, I can’t stop you. I’m still committed to this marriage and would like for you to stay so we can figure out what happened and fix it. But you’re an adult, and I know I can’t tie you here.” If he insists on moving out, ask if your husband would be willing to seek professional help. You want to make sure separation has a clear purpose and doesn’t just cause you to drift further apart because you’re living completely separate lives.

If your husband does actually leave the house, don’t pressure him to come back. Allow him to experience the reality of what divorce from you would mean. If you have children, let him fully care for them when they are staying with him. Be supportive of his visits with the kids, but don’t become a doormat to get him back. Give him space to understand your importance in his life. It’s possible he’s not interested in reconciliation and will eventually want a divorce. It’s also possible that if he truly experiences a separation, he’ll eventually start missing you and the life you have built together.

When there is talk of separation, it is really important that you take a good look in the mirror. It’s possible you’ve done some things that have really hurt your marriage. You may be guilty of constantly criticizing your husband, neglecting him, or having an affair. Take responsibility for any part you’ve played in creating your marriage problems, and stop adding to the hurt. If your marriage has any chance of survival, you both have to be honest about what’s not working, and fix it. Use this opportunity to grow and become the kind of person you would want to be married to. Being calm, confident, and considerate will get you much further than groveling if you hope to save your marriage..

I wish that I could give you some guarantee that if you follow these tips, your husband will stay in the marriage, but there simply isn’t one. About 5 percent of couples reconcile after a separation. Ten to 15 percent remain separated long-term without divorcing. If your husband does return, he’s more likely to genuinely want to work on the relationship.

You’re going through a lot right now, and my heart goes out to you. Even thought it’s really hard to accept that your marriage is at risk of failing, let your husband’s talk about separation serve as a wake up call. Do your best to listen deeply to his concerns, and sincerely offer to work to improve your relationship. Like I said, sometimes a person has already decided they want to divorce, and there is little you can do. However, if your husband is on the fence about ending the relationship, how you respond could be a deciding factor in whether your marriage survives.

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