Yesterday I received an email from someone explaining that over the past few months, her husband was becoming distant and shutting her down. When she asked for an explanation, her husband initially assured her that he was just dealing with the stress and that everything was fine otherwise, but nothing changed and the distance kept growing.
Eventually, the husband finally began to admit that he “didn’t feel it anymore” and “needed his space,” but still wanted to stay together and take time to work on himself. Of course, the wife agreed, thinking this was better than letting him out the door or parting ways. But, despite her trying to reason with him, showing him more attention and affection, and being as reassuring as possible, the situation still deteriorated.
Finally, one day he came home and said that he wanted to break up, but he wanted her to know that he still loved her. Of course, she is completely confused and lost. Aren’t these two contradictory things? How can he love her and not want to be with her at the same time?
A confusing and contradictory message: There’s obviously no way I’m going to get inside your husband’s head, or grab him, shake his shoulders, and demand a true answer. I can tell you that men ask for these “breaks” or “trial separations” for a variety of reasons. What makes this really confusing is that they will often send you mixed signals or say mixed things. They may say “I’m just not sorry anymore,” or “I just want a break right now,” or “I’m just not happy,” or even “It’s me, not you,” while still holding and reassuring you, and professing their love and , sometimes, wanting to be intimate as if nothing had happened.
Understanding what your husband is really saying and how he really wants you to respond: One thing to remember when you’re going through this is that you probably know your husband more than anyone in this world (other than him).
Watch your nonverbal cues when you are communicating these topics. Pay close attention to what is left unsaid. Watch her lips, her posture, her eyes, and how she holds her arms. Do you have pursed lips? Does your fist shoot?
All of these things will tell you if he’s angry, confused, doubting what he’s saying, or sad or torn up. Are his words spoken with conviction, force, or doubt?
It is very important that you have a good handle on this, because his true feelings are very important in how you approach him and try to resolve this.
You should calmly ask your husband if he will share the events or feelings that led him to want to separate. (He will probably continue to be evasive.) You can ask a few follow-up questions if you want, but don’t pester him or continue if he resists. Let your husband know that you are very available if he wants to talk about it, and leave it at that.
He may reject you or act negatively, but at least you’ve opened the door for him to have a healthy conversation and he’ll remember it later.
Hopefully, you’ve been able to read his cues, unspoken words, and body language to gauge where your husband’s head is right now. This is important because the position you take and the answers you have to give will largely depend on this.
For example, if your husband shows defiance, hostility, coldness, or aggression, then you would approach the situation from a point of calming these emotions.
The method would be different if your husband is showing sadness, fear, or severe anxiety. In this case, you would approach him coming from a reinsurance place.
What your husband really means vs. what he is saying (reading through the mixed signals): It can be very difficult to believe your husband’s words and take him seriously when he asks you for distance while hugging or reassuring you or sending mixed signals.
In the end though, most men who say they want a break or a break up are trying to verbalize that they have lost a feeling or intimacy and closeness and don’t know how (or don’t currently want) to get it. back.
They feel they need a break to assess these feelings. You may not believe it, but sometimes it works in your favor.
What to do when your husband asks you to separate even though he says he still loves you: Usually, there are two phases to consider here. It usually has the phase where the husband starts to mention the separation for the first time. This is the phase where they are less sure of what they really want and this is where you have an input.
Honestly, you probably already know what your husband really wants. You have acted in such a way before that he has fallen deeply in love with you. (So much so that he married you.) You know the attributes that drew him the most (probably attention, sense of humor, easy-going personality, etc.). Now is your chance to re-introduce these attributes to your husband on a regular basis without being too obvious about it.
So without being a doormat or giving away your power, just start showing your husband more of what drew him to you in the first place. (Important: You have to play this the right and convincing way.)
The second phase is when the husband is absolutely sure he wants the separation and has talked about it for a while or has one foot out the door. This may sound risky, but please bear with me. The best thing to do here is to look him straight in the eye and tell him that he is right. Tell him that he agrees that the relationship needs to improve and that he really wants to work on yourself.
Then go out, see your friends and do those things that make you happy. This is likely to increase the husband’s interest in her and, when she does, she will then display those characteristics that she first fell in love with. And, giving her time to think will often give her time to miss you and realize how far along she’s probably gone.
Many times, after a brief separation, the husband realizes that the grass isn’t really greener on the other side of the fence and he comes home, apologizes, and is ready to patch things up. When he does, meet him with an open heart, but with a renewed conviction to keep working on yourself and doing what will make you (and in turn both of you) happy.