Doing the right thing may make all of the difference.
To suddenly realize that your spouse wants you to move out will likely hit you in the stomach. You probably wonder what planet you have existed on. Sure, maybe she signaled some dissatisfaction. Maybe she even begged you to go to marriage counseling with her.
Still you must be finding it hard to wrap your arms around this seemingly radical decision. Your mind races to who she’s fallen in love with. Is she cheating? How could she do this to you? Can she really give up your life together and separate in spite of the impact on the kids.
You are not alone. Many, many husbands come to my office bewildered and frankly quite enraged that their wife has had the audacity to draw this line and want to stand on it. You are playing catch up ball with something she has thinking about for quite a while.
Let me suggest that you step way back and give yourself time to absorb the shock. You will not find it to your advantage to coerce her into seeing how irrational she is being. Women are so used to hearing this from men that it makes them more determined to defend their positions.
This is not a time to pull out all of the beautiful letters of love and pictures of your good times to show her how crazy this really is. She will not be moved.
This is what you can do. Assume that she is serious and that she has been working on this decision for quite a while. Invite her to explore what has let up to her making this decision.
You do not want to put her on the defensive, though this feels like a time that you engaged in a battle you must win. Instead you want her to feel for the first time perhaps in her mind that you really care that she has experienced so much pain.
Let her realize that this has hit you over the head like a two by four and that it has stopped you in your tracks. Only if you listen to understand and not disagree will she notice that you care about what she has been feeling. She may have thought completely otherwise
Let me explain. Most couples with the advent of children and career trajectories lose touch with each other. They began to distance without even noticing. So they began to tell themselves stories about how the other simply does not want to be there for them.
You see, both of you need to feel that the other will be there for you when you need the other. The basic question each of you will be raising, “Can I trust that you will be there when I reach out to you? Will you show up, take time to understand why this hurts or is important, validate it and have a appropriate response that is soothing and supportive?”
If you listen, you will often hear stories that shock you because you had no idea that she might have interpreted the event that way. Maybe you were in Hong Kong when your baby was born. Perhaps you knew she was going through a lot with her mother’s illness , but you felt she was handling it pretty well and besides you were under the gun at work and feared you were about to be fired.
Now is the time to express a deep sense of regret that she did not feel you were there for her. You can easily name all of the reasons why you could not be there, but don’t. Just let yourself imagine what it was like to be her place in that moment and express appreciation that she must have felt very alone.
This will mean more to her because she often has felt that you would only get defensive and tell her why she was crazy to feel the way she has. Now saying that you are sorry, that she has your attention and you do not ever want this to happen again may make all of the difference.
Of course there are no guarantees that this will work. The tragic part of doing marriage counseling for me, is that couples often wait too long to reach this point and too much water has gone over the dam. The wounds have begun to harden into scar tissue.
Rest assured, however, if you challenge yourself to take her seriously in this way, you have opened the door that has the most likely chance of softening her heart so that she and you can now seek help to find new tools and skills to know what a deep intimate relationship can be.