How to Create a Trial Separation That Doesn’t Suck

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Trial Separation  

"An informal agreement between spouses to live separately from each other for a certain period of time."

Your marriage isn’t going well.

... Okay, so your marriage pretty much sucks.

But the thought of getting a divorce ties your insides into knots! You’re not sure you're ready for a divorce.  Maybe you don't even want a divorce! (Or, at least you don't think you want a divorce.)

You just want your marriage to change. You want your life to change. Maybe a trial separation will help.

Putting some space between you and your spouse might give you both some room to breathe. It could give you the time to figure things out - WITHOUT doing something rash and irreversible (... like getting a divorce!)

At the same time, everything you’ve heard about trial separations is bad.

People say that a trial separation is just the beginning of the end of your marriage. If you're going to get divorced anyway, doesn't it make more sense to rip the band aid off right now and just do it?

The answer of course depends on you and your situation. But in order to answer that question in a way you won't later regret, you need to understand exactly what a trial separation IS and how it works.

Man walking away from distraught woman on the beach in the sunset.

What is a Trial Separation and What is It For?

The term “trial separation” has been defined as everything from “an informal splitting of a couple.” to “an experiment in living apart.” What a trial separation feels like is the end of your world -  or a chance to finally breathe - depending on where you sit.

That’s what makes trial separations so tricky.

Most of the time, only one person really wants to separate. The other person wants to stay together and work things out. That’s why knowing what your trial separation is FOR (i.e. knowing your purpose) is so important.

If you don’t know what you are trying to achieve by separating, you’ll never know if your trial separation was a resounding success or the biggest mistake you ever made.

To figure out your purpose you need to start by asking yourself some basic questions.

  • WHY do you want to separate?
  • Why does your spouse want to separate?
  • What do you hope to achieve by separating?
  • Are you trying to get clarity about what to do with your marriage?
  • Are you trying to figure out if you still love each other?
  • Or are you just trying to determine if you can live alone?
  • Do you really want a trial separation … or do you really want a divorce?

Knowing the PURPOSE of your trial separation (preferably BEFORE you separate) can make the difference between a trial separation that brings you clarity and peace, and one that leads to the ugly divorce you don't want.

Considering separating but not sure how to do it? 

Get your FREE Trial Separation Checklist now.

Paper with figures of a man and a woman on it, torn in half with a gavel dividing the sides and stacks of $100 bills next to it.

What’s the Difference Between a Separation, a Trial Separation and a Legal Separation?

A separation, a trial separation, and a legal separation are all totally different things. Understanding the differences between each type of separation is critical.

What's the difference?

When done right both a separation and a trial separation can potentially save your marriage. At the very least they'll help you get clarity about whether ending it makes sense for you.

A legal separation, on the other hand, effectively ends your marriage, in all but the technical legal sense.

Separation: Definition

A "separation" in marriage can mean a lot of different things. It can mean:

  • One spouse moved out of the house;
  • One spouse moved out of the bedroom;
  • One spouse moved into the basement/attic/other distinct space in the house.

The spouses in a marriage can "separate" at any time, for any reason. The separation can be temporary or permanent. It can have clearly defined rules or no rules at all.  

The challenge is that establishing rules and setting boundaries requires you to talk with your spouse. You've got to have hard conversations about topics you'd probably rather avoid. That's why most people don't do that. As a result, their "separation" is a free form jumble of confusion and hurt feelings. For the most part, these types of separations don't go very well.

Trial Separation: Definition

A true “trial separation” isn’t just the thing that happens when one spouse moves out of the house in a huff. A real trial separation is a conscious arrangement both spouses make (hoepfully) BEFORE they actually separate.

In a real trial separation, both spouses talk to each other about their expectations. They set the ground rules, establish boundaries, and decide on a time limit for their separation. 

Ideally, they put all of that in writing so that each one of them is CLEAR about the purpose, rules, and duration of their trial separation.

[NOTE: Because a trial separation is an informal arrangement, writing down your terms doesn’t require lawyers ... although having someone mediate your trial separation and write down the terms for you can be extremely helpful.]

Legal Separation: Definition

A legal separation is much different. A legal separation is an actual legal change in status. It's much like a divorce, except that it doesn’t end your marriage. It only separates you and your spouse in some legal ways.

In a legal separation, a couple will divide up their personal property. They will make formal agreements regarding when and how they will see and parent their children. They will also agree on child and spousal support. But after they do all that they  will remain legally married.

When you're getting a legal separation you will go through a legal process that's very similar to the legal process required to get a divorce. For most people, that means getting a lawyer, filing a petition in court, and going through a lengthy court process that ultimately ends with a judge signing a court order that says you're legally separated.

Trial Separations v Legal Separations

True legal separations are much rarer than they used to be. In the past, they were used by spouses who needed to stay married for one of two reasons: 

  1. To stay on their spouse's health insurance; or
  2. For religious reasons.

Today, getting a legal separation usually doesn’t make a lot of sense. Getting a legal separation is just as complicated and expensive as getting a divorce. What’s more, most health insurance companies today generally won’t let separated spouse sstay on the same insurance policy any more. So, unless you are avoiding divorce for religious reasons, getting a legal separation usually doesn’t make sense.

Napkin with the word "Bye!" on it next to coffee cup. Divorce after a trial separation.

Does a Trial Separation Always End in Divorce?

Trial separations get a bad rap.

Lots of trial separations, maybe even most of them, ultimately end in divorce. But that’s usually because the person who says s/he wants a trial separation really wants a divorce. S/he just doesn’t have the guts to tell his/her spouse that their marriage is over.

So, instead of being honest, the spouse who really wants a divorce suggests having a “trial separation" instead.

Not surprisingly, that kind of trial separation usually does end in divorce. That couple’s marriage was over long before they separated. They just weren’t ready to sign the death certificate.

Trial separations between couples who need some time apart to work on their marriage, however, can have a much different result. Those kinds of trial separations can actually strengthen a marriage – especially if the couple gets the right professional support to help them along the way. 

If you manage your trial separation properly, it can actually lay the groundwork for a better marriage or an amicable divorce. On the other hand, if you make a botch of your separation, you can set your marriage on the course for an ugly divorce before it even starts.

Considering separating but not sure how to do it? 

Get your FREE Trial Separation Checklist now.

The 3 Essential Elements for a Successful Trial Separation

Essential Element #1: GOALS

If you think you’re separating to work on your marriage, but your spouse thinks you’re separating so you can figure out how to live apart, you clearly don’t have the same goals!

Knowing your goals, and doing your best to agree with your spouse about the purpose of your separation, is critically important. If you don’t do that, you risk dooming your trial separation from the start.

So, how do you agree on your goals? You start by deciding what you want and talking about it with your spouse. You talk as openly and honestly as you can about what you want and why you want it. 

white ball with red arrow saying "common" meeting a blue arrow saying "goal" around the ball.

What if you and your spouse CAN'T agree on your goals?

Simple. Be honest about it.

You can't force your spouse to share your goals. You can't force your spouse to want the same things you want. But if your spouse wants a divorce and you don't (or vice versa), at least admit that so that both of you can start coming to terms with it. 

Lying about your goals just to avoid conflict is what makes so many trial separations go off the rails.

Essential Element #2: Ground Rules

One of the main things that differentiates a true trial separation from one that’s an unofficial divorce in disguise is: Rules.

Real trial separations have rules. Ideally, they have written rules. Those rules ensure that both spouses are totally clear on what each of them can and cannot do during the separation period. The rules define the trial separation.

Here are twelve rules you need to think about if you want your trial separation to work.

Hand with chalk writing "Rules" on a chalkboard. What are the rules of a trial separation?
Hand with chalk writing "Rules" on a chalkboard. What are the rules of a trial separation?

12 Ground Rules for a Successful Trial Separation

1. Have a clear end date.

Trial separations are meant to be exactly that: trials. They are meant to be a time during which a couple works on figuring out whether to stay together or split for good.

In order to keep your trial separation from morphing into a de facto divorce, you’ve got to put a limit on it.

Most trial separations run for about six months. If you’re apart too much longer than that, your chances of ever getting back together diminish enormously. 

2. Figure out your living arrangements.

Obviously, if you and your spouse decide to separate, someone is going to have to move out. You need to figure out who that will be and what "moving out" means.  Is someone moving out of the house ... or just moving out of the bedroom?

If someone is moving out of the house you need to decide the rules surrounding access to the house. Can the person who left  still come and go as s/he pleases? Since both you and your spouse still own (or lease) the home together, the spouse who left may still feel like that’s his/her home, too. But, then what about the staying spouse’s privacy?

It helps to set out the house rules on the front end.

3. Decide how you will pay the bills while you’re apart.

When you’re living apart, you’ve still got to pay all of the marital bills, plus the bills for a second home, utilities, food, etc.

How are you going to do that? Who is going to pay for what?

If you don’t set rules about paying the bills from the beginning, your trial separation can turn into a full-blown divorce really quickly!

4. Set your spending rules during the trial separation.

Paying the bills isn’t the only financial issue you have to think about when you separate.

What if one of you wants to take an expensive trip to some exotic place while you’re living apart? S/he will still be using marital money to pay for the trip. Does that mean that the other spouse gets to take the same amount of money out for something for him/herself too?!

What if one spouse runs up a huge credit card bill? It’s wise to set limits on your spending from the beginning before you create long term financial problems.

cell phone with online dating app in a heart on it.

5. Talk about dating during the trial separation.

Dating other people during your trial separation can make your struggling marriage totally flat line.

On the other hand, since you and your spouse will be living separately for a while, one of you may assume that dating others is part of your deal. That's why you and your spouse have to talk about the rules surrounding dating others.

What's more, you MUST be on the same page about this. If one of you thinks dating means your marriage is over and the other person starts dating anyway, any bit of trust and goodwill you had with each other will be blown. So you NEED to talk about this and you NEED to understand and be okay with the way each of you feels about dating others during your separation.

Dating scene of man and woman having coffee.

6. What about sex? (… with each other and with others.) 

Dating other people is one thing, but sex takes dating to a whole new level.

Having sex with third parties can potentially affect your spouse’s health. It also dramatically increases the chances that one of you will form a more serious relationship outside of your marriage. Once that happens, putting your marriage back on track will be next to impossible.

Don't assume that just because YOU would never dream of having sex outside your marriage that doesn't mean that your spouse feels the same way! You may be surprised to discover that you and your spouse have very different definitions of what “dating” during your trial separation means. 

Finally, even if you and your spouse agree not to have sex with others, what about having sex with each other? Can your spouse still have sex together while you're separated? You may not be sure of your answer right now, but it's still worth having a conversation about the question.

7. Set a schedule for when each of you will see the kids.

Once you and your spouse separate, you can’t both be with your kids all the time anymore. You’re going to need a schedule for when each of you sees the kids.

Look at your schedule for the next six months (or whatever time you have agreed on to be separated). Talk about when you will each see the kids on a weekly basis. Talk, too, about how you will handle any holidays or vacations that come up while you are separated.

(HINT: If you want to give your kids a feeling of security and stability during this period, make sure that you also let them know in advance what their schedule is going to be!)

8. Decide how you're going to parent your kids during your separation.

Making a parenting schedule is only one small part of parenting your kids.

You and your spouse need to agree on what you are going to tell your kids about your separation. You need to talk about how you will make decisions about your kids, and how you will handle the issues that come up with kids while you're separated.

You also need to be clear about how you'll decide what activities the kids participate in and how you make medical and education decisions for htem during this time. You would also be wise to talk about how yo'll handle situations when the kids try to play you off your spouse or vice versa?

The bottom line is that the more you can figure out in advance, the smoother this time will be for your kids.

9. Set rules for how (and how often) you will communicate with each other.

This may seem like a silly thing to waste your brainpower on. But, if you think you’re separating so you can get some space to think, you may not want your spouse texting you 24/7/365!

Or, you may be okay with texts, but you don’t want calls. Or maybe calling is okay, but "just dropping by" to visit isn't okay.

Whatever you and your spouse decide is up to you. What’s important is that you talk about this issue and decide something.

Frustrated couple going through marriage counseling with a therapist.
Infographic depicting 5 of the 12 rules for a successful trial separation.

10. Get professional help while you’re separated.

You don’t need to go to couples counseling just because you and your spouse separated. But, if you want to dramatically increase the chances that your trial separation will end in reconciliation, you will. (Getting an individual therapist wouldn't be a bad idea either!)

Also, you might want to talk about whether it’s okay to talk to a divorce lawyer or a financial planner during this time. You may think talking to a divorce professional at this point is wise. Your spouse may think it’s a sign that you have no faith that your marriage will ever work out.

There is no right and wrong way to handle all this. What matters is that you and your spouse talk about it so that you eliminate as much miscommunication as possible.

11. Decide what you will (and won't!) tell your friends and family about your separation.

Unless you live thousands of miles from all of your friends and family, someone is going to notice that you and your spouse are no longer living together.

If you tell an inquiring friend that you and your spouse are “just taking a breather,” and your spouse tells that friend that s/he is now “almost single,” you’re going to have a problem! (And, not just with your friend!)

Take the time to write a short “elevator speech” that both you and your spouse can get on board with right now. That will make answering questions later a whole lot easier.

12. Decide in advance what will happen if someone breaks the rules.

You can have all the rules you want, but what are you going to do if you or your spouse breaks one?

Does it matter which rule someone broke? Will you agree to talk about what happened before anyone does anything rash? Or, will breaking a rule be the last straw that ends your marriage?

Again, there are no right or wrong answers. What matters is talking about the questions, preferably before you’re in crisis.

The words "Golden Rule" carved in a wood block.

Essential Element #3: The Golden Rule

Having rules for your trial separation sets you up for success. But following the Golden Rule is what will truly seal the deal. In other words: Do unto your spouse as you would have him/her do unto you.

What does that mean?

1. Be Honest.

All the rules in the world won’t matter if you just B.S. your way through them. If you really want to see if you can save your marriage, then being honest is non-negotiable.

If you don’t care about saving your marriage, that's fine. But do everyone a favor. Be honest about it.

Forget about a trial separation. Just get divorced.

I mean, seriously. What’s the point?

Being honest with your spouse, of course, can be rough – especially if you haven’t had the courage to be honest for a long time. (Or ever!)

Being honest takes work. It takes guts. It may even take professional help. (Hence, another reason to get a therapist! or a good divorce coach!) But it is an absolute must if you want your trial separation to be anything other than a ginormous, painful, waste of time.

One more thing. Being honest with your spouse isn't enough. You have to be honest with yourself, too.

You may have been telling yourself for years that everything was going to work out fine. Or, maybe you convinced yourself that you “should” want to save your marriage even though, you've known for a while that you just want out. 

Whatever the truth is, now is the time to face it. In the end, that’s the only way you’ll ever create a marriage (with your sposue or with anyone else) that’s worth saving.

2. Be Patient

Figuring out what to do with your marriage - especially if you've been married for a long time - takes time! Sometimes, no matter how many ground rules you set, your separation drags on for way longer than you want. Living through that can be rough.

No one likes living in limbo. Yet, sometimes, limbo can actually serve you.

For example, if your spouse needs time to adjust to the idea of divorce, then having a long"ish" trial separation can be a good thing. Pushing your spouse to divorce too quickly usually backfires. It makes your spouse dig in harder. Then your divorce takes longer.

The same thing is true if you're working on your marriage and things are still too "up in the air" to move back in together. Rushing back into your relationship before you're ready can doom your marriage to failure.

On the other hand, while you want to be patient, you don't want to be so patient that your "trial separation" becomes just another place where you get stuck.

The bottom line is that you probably need to be more patient than you think. But you also need to know your limits.

3. Be Kind

Going through a trial separation is hard. Even if you're the one who wanted it (and especially if you WEREN'T the one who wanted it!), separating from your spouse is hard! Extending a little kindness to yourself AND your spouse during this difficult time can go a long way.

Kindness toward each other will make getting back together more possible. It will also make having an amicable divorce more doable.

So, before you act, or react, in anger, frustration, or despair to anything your spouse does or doesn't do: Stop. Take a breath. And ask yourself if what you're about to do is kind.

Open Bible with a golden ruler over it saying "The Golden Rule"
Upset married couple sitting back to back thinking about a trial separation.

The Bottom Line

When used correctly, separating from your spouse can be an amazing tool. You can use that tool to work on your marriage or set the stage for an amicable divorce.  You can use it to maintain a legal marriage, but separate from your spouse in most other ways.

But to get the most out of a separation you must:

  • Understand what a separation is and what you want to achieve by separating;  
  • Consciously choose the kind of separation that will work FOR you
  • Structure your separation in a way that's designed to meet your goals.

Doing that isn't always easy. But in the end, it will absolutely be worth it.

________

This post was originally published in January, 2017 and updated on April 8, 2024.

Considering separating but not sure how to do it? 

Get your FREE Trial Separation Checklist now.

Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


Tags

deciding to divorce, divorce advice, divorce blog, parenting issues


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  • Hi there my name is sherry. Im from ohio. Am thinking about a legal seperation. My husband is in prison to me i already consider our marriage a trial separation. What do you think.

    • Sherry,

      Well, if he’s in prison and you’re not, you are definitely separated! Whether you turn this into a legal separation or a divorce depends on you. When you’re deciding though, ask yourself what you want. These days there isn’t usually a benefit to getting legally separated vs. divorced. So whatever you do, make sure you understand what you’re doing and what you want. Otherwise, you may end up having to go through the legal process twice for no reason.

      • My husband & I separated 2 weeks ago. He is bipolar, refused help, & went on a spending spree which has drained our bank account. He is currently sleeping on his mothers couch. I am going thru bankruptcy. He tells me he loves me very much but has done nothing in the way of a marriage counselor. He continues to blame shift & guilt me. Tells me how much money he would’ve had had he not married me 15 months ago. He has mentioned divorce many times then he’ll say trial separation, then he guilts me & says I don’t want to be married to him. I need one month to get thru my bankruptcy if we were to divorce & before there will be any financial relief. He is calling himself homeless. He needs money & a place to stay (granted he spent ($1300 in 10 days on frivolous things) Do I let him move back in for 1 month as a trial? Our arguing is so toxic & I have 3 teenagers in my house that I don’t want them exposed to the tension. I feel I’d be breaking my boundaries I set. He has went on & on about his family & how I’ve kept him from them but now…where is his family? I do really feel he & I should figure this out rather than put his living arrangements on his family. What to do?

        • So, I have questions for you:

          • Do you want to let him come back because you feel guilty about his family, or because you really want him back?
          • If he comes back, will your arguing affect your 3 kids?
          • What’s more important, your kids’ mental health or his?
          • If your husband hasn’t gotten help for bipolar condition, what will change if he comes back?
          • WHY would you let him come back for a trial? A trial implies that you are “trying something out.” What do you hope to achieve by this trial? If the trial has no purpose, doing it makes no sense. If you truly want to save your marriage, then maybe a trial will be helpful. But if you want to save your marriage, my guess is you’re going to need help. That means marriage counseling. Is he willing to do that? If not, what will be different?

          The more honestly and completely you can answer those questions, the more clear you will get on what to do.

          Hope this helps.

          Karen

          • Hi Karen,
            I have been seperated from my spouse for 2 weeks now and have moved out of the house with our 3year old, I love this man dearly however his every weekend partying is out of control as well as his infidelity, we were to marry 27 Sept 2018 but he was having yet another affair this time with a colleague and I found out 2 weeks before our wedding and I cancelled our wedding. You would think that was an eye opener yet he still continue to disappear on weekends and then cannot take responsibility for his actions and then blames me and sometimes even gets violent, he also has had great success in work and has admitted that he has felt invincible since and needs to come back down to earth the thing is, he will mess up, apologize, change for 3 weeks to a month tops and then go back to this behavior. I do love him dearly hence putting up with this so I feel I need a proper break from him to not only emotionally recover from all the chaos he has brought upon us but I want him to seek help for his issues as he thinks he can change it but it just doesn’t work. He has issues deeper than our things too and he seeks such overboard affirmation and attention from me and others and no matter what I do he just cant be content not only with me but himself, he is someone that cant be happy in even keeping his own company and cannot be alone which really bothers me. He needs help and so do I naturally my family hates him through all this stuff, he has good qualities however the bad definitely has outweighed the good for some time and he has no respect for not only me, but none for himself.Do you think a trail seperation is good in this instance or that a clean break is better? P.S I had no clue where to post my comment hence the reply haha oops. Thanks

          • Oh my! It sounds like you’ve got a lot of things to work through. I agree with you 100%: you need help working through it. I STRONGLY recommend getting yourself into therapy. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with you. But a good therapist can help you make sense of what you’re going through and what you’re feeling. S/he can also help you emotionally recover from what you’ve been through.

            If your fiance/spouse (I’m not sure which it is) will go to marriage or relationship counseling with you, that would be awesome too. But you definitely need your own therapist to help you figure out why you’re putting up with this kind of treatment. Yes, I know you love this guy. I can totally hear that. But he’s treating you like garbage. That’s not okay – even if you love him!

            As for whether a trial separation or a clean break would be best, that’s not my call to make. You’re the only one who could sort through that. But, again, a good therapist can help you do that. If you’re not sure where to find one, check out BetterHelp. They can help match you with a good therapist in your area.

            I wish you the best.

        • Hi Karen,

          My husband and I just separated recently without ground rules due to escalated argument that’s been going on for a year. We are not good at communication. It’s been 3 weeks and still no progress. He initially wanted divorce, out of anger? I’m not sure. But our fights and his behavior has hurt me emotionally. We’re mostly happy during our marriage until we have a disagreement or lingering past issues that were not resolved. Our age gap was not a factor, atleast I thought, but I’m unsure if he is going through a mid-life insecurity coz he won’t tell me or in denial. During our separation, I worked on myself and am learning to forgive him and myself. I don’t wanna rush or force him to stay or work on our marriage if he doesn’t want to but I would also like to know if he’s willing to work it out or not so I could move on. I want him back obviously but I also want him to acknowledge his mistakes and So am I. I gave him the option to leave in which he did. Our contact has been minimal but somehow gives a mix signal that he misses me but he won’t be direct about it. Could you please advise how to move forward on this or guide me step by step. I am confused what he wants. Attempted to do a marriage counseling but he has refused in the past. Please advise, Thanks.

          • Oh my! It sounds like you are confused and have a LOT going on!

            I know that your husband has refused marriage counseling in the past. But at this point, he may be willing to give it a try. It’s definitely worth asking. You might want to start there.

            No matter what he says, though, you would probably benefit a lot from getting your own therapist. A good therapist will help you work through your own issues AND the issues that you see affecting your relationship. S/he may also be able to give you some insight into how you can end the argument that you’ve been in with your husband for a year, and how you can improve your communication. All of that could help a lot.

            I’m sorry I can’t be more specific here, but it sounds like you’re dealing with a whole lot of issues, and I’m sure you’ve left out a lot of details. (For privacy reasons, that’s a good thing!) Without knowing a whole lot more, I can’t tell you much of anything. But that’s why a good therapist can help you so much. In therapy, you can talk openly and freely, and fill in all the details that someone would need in order to guide you responsibly.

            I wish you the best.

            Karen

      • My husband and I have been married for 10 years and have a 4 year old. We are terrible with communication and there is already a lot of resentment on my end due to some of his actions, and my desire for more. We definitely had things to work on that counseling could have helped with but we kept putting it off or acting like everything was fine.
        Recently I found out he has been taking indecent pictures of me in my sleep where my clothes had either shifted or he moved them himself for at least 5 years. Initially I told him we need counseling immediately and how much it hurt and thoroughly broke trust between us. But I decided we need separate counseling first, to see why he thought it was ok and to see if it’s something I can even get past. It’s been 3 weeks now and I don’t feel any better about it. He got a therapy appointment but it’s not for another 3 weeks, i’m in the process of finding a therapist.
        My issue is that I don’t want to be around him, I want him to go stay somewhere else so I don’t have to pretend to be ok around him in front of our child, and so I can actually process what’s happened. He is not on board with leaving even though he said he’d do anything I needed from him. He specifically told me that me needing my space was a mistake.
        I feel like not taking time apart is just going to make me bitter, angry, and mean. Also, not feeling like I can trust him makes me not even want to work on our other issues so i’m just stuck feeling uncomfortable in my house around him unless I leave myself.
        I just feel like him not leaving is one more violation of my needs and that he’s way more concerned about nothing changing instead of actual happiness…

        • I can see why you want your space. Your husband’s refusal to leave does tell you something.

          On the other hand, if things get too difficult, you can always take your 4-year-old and live somewhere else too. I know that can be challenging, both physically and financially. But if things get too difficult, it’s a possibility. At the very least you might want to think of sleeping in separate bedrooms and putting a lock on your bedroom door.

          I wish you the best.

          Karen

        • Hi Karen. We’ve been married almost 19yrs. Both our second marriage. Last 5yrs. Have been bad in that she watches Tv for hours and that’s basically all we do together. Her inactivity has hurt her physically. I have tried to get her out to exercise but she’s content w the Tv. Now her hip and back pain w her weight has kept her from being active. And don’t see her even try. Our intimacy is really non existent. But she is ok w that. She has had depression issues and is on medications but this behavior has depressed me.I’m active and would love to have a partner that I can do things with. I’ve told her how I feel but things really don’t change. I’m planning a trial separation to work on ourselves. Do you think it’s time for that? Thankyou

          • I wish I could answer your question, but the only one who can do that is you! (Sorry!)

            You’ve written a tiny bit about your life here, but I’m sure there is so much more to it! That’s why I can’t answer your question. But it sounds like you may be ready to answer it for yourself.

            One question you might want to ask yourself before you dive into a trial separation, though, is: what are you trying to accomplish? There are lots of reasons for trying a trial separation. Maybe you want to see if you miss your wife if you leave separately. Maybe you want to see if you’re okay on your own. Maybe you want to use a separation to see if it will re-invigorate your marriage.

            Whatever your reason is, it helps to know it on the front end.

            Trial separations are exactly what they sound like: trials. They are not meant to last forever. Knowing your purpose – knowing WHY you wanted to try separating for a while – will help you know when it’s time to end the trial and either move back in or move on.

            I wish you the best.

            Karen

      • Hello,
        My wife and I separated 3 weeks ago due to lack of communication and just her feeling alone in our home. We argued often but used silence to cover up the wounds. She announced that she was moving out and looking for a place to live. At first she wanted full blown divorce. After talking she said the divorce was off the table and she wanted to be by herself for a while and see if she really misses me. We have been married 14 years and have an 11 year old son. She is very apologetic about hurting my feelings. But has put up barriers for contacting me and holding back “I love you’s”. She admitted she still loves me but holds back on everything except a hug and embrace. I want her back ASAP but trying to be respectful of her space. I try to text or call only once a day. We have worked out time with our son and agreed to talk about us after some time. What else can I do?

        • I’m sorry to hear about your situation. It sounds like you love your wife and want her back. But you’re in a tough spot.

          You HAVE to give her space. If you push too hard you’ll push her away. At the same time, if you don’t push at all she will think you don’t care. So you’ve got to hit that fine line between too much and not enough. (I know. It’s hard.)

          While you try to navigate that, you can also work on yourself. If she’ll go to marriage counseling with you, that would be awesome. The two of you can use that time with the counselor to work on your communication skills. But, whether she goes with you to counseling or not, I also suggest you get yourself a therapist too. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with you. But: A) Having a therapist will give you someone to talk to so that you can work through your own feelings and issues (we all have them!); and B) a good therapist may also be able to guide you in how to handle your relationship with your wife moving forward. (As much as I try to write great answers to your questions here, it’s still only ONE website comment. A therapist can go way deeper.)

          I know this time has got to be beyond frustrating for you. But remember: Slow and steady wins the race. Push, but not too hard. Work on your communication. Show your wife that you love her like crazy. That’s really the best you can do.

          Best,

          Karen

      • Hello my name is jasmine and I wanted to know how I can get a divorce from my husband he’s in prison and i don’t have any children by this man so please can you help me get and divorce now he’s never coming back he has life sentence

        • I wish I could help you, but what you really need is a good divorce lawyer in your area. You need legal advice, which I can’t give you online or outside the state of Illinois. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

          • I’ve got a good one for you. My wife told me she wanted a divorce on thanksgiving. I was shocked at first, but understood for my work had gotten to a point I was having to work 14 to 16 hours a day for about 2 months and no way out of it at that time. I asked her to be patient until after xmas for I was getting an evening supervisor to take the strain of me, but I guess she couldn’t. When I told her I was not moving out for I was going to stay with my kids she then decided that we would stay together but separate. She said she can do that for she loves me as a friend and being a great father. We get along great as friends, we communicate now so much better. She would hold everything that bothered her inside until it was a boiling point then just yell, and I would get defensive from being yelled at and not really hear what she was saying. I have a room with my oldest son we share to give her space to hopefully think. What hurts the most is we still have intimacy from time to time then she goes into no hugs or kisses until the next time. I have seen her get to the point she don’t know what to do when I impress her. We went to a bash for New Years and danced laughed and had a great time. Stayed the night in the hotel When we got back home the next day she said she needed to think about what just happened she was confused, so as soon as we pulled into the driveway she kissed me and when we walked into the house it just turned cold for a week. I finally asked if she was ok and what she was going to do. She told me I was reading to much into it she was just being what she thought I needed for the night it was not real. I told her I know what I saw and heard but it’s you that can only make that observation. We have had intimacy again but back to the same way, just now she refuses to do dates unless it’s with friends. I’m in love with my wife, but so confused by her

          • Oh my! I can totally understand why you’re confused!

            The question is: what kind of marriage do you want? Are you happy with the way things are going?

            I don’t know what the issues are between you and your wife, but there are definitely issues! I also suspect that those issues go well beyond two months of crazy work hours. Something else is going on. I STRONGLY suggest working with a marriage counselor so that you and your wife can start to sort all this out. If your wife isn’t willing to do that, then that tells you something.

            I also suggest that you start working with an individual therapist yourself. You need support. You also could use having someone around who you can talk with on a regular basis. It sounds like you’ve got a lot going on, and your wife’s behavior is all over the boards. A good therapist can help you figure out what may be going on, and help you decide what you want to do about it.

            I wish I could tell you more. I know that what you’re going through is hard. Unfortunately, ignoring it, and expecting your wife to suddenly change, is not a great option. Human behavior is consistent. Whatever is going on with her, or between the two of you, is not likely to change until you address it head-on.

            I wish you the best.

            Karen

        • My girlfriend and I had been together for 4 years and lived together for 3. We fell in love hard early. She feel in love with me much much faster. She has two boys and I have a daughter. The kids were able to get along fine. The relationship has always been a on/off type of relationship. I did cheat on her early in the relationship and thankfully she was able to take me back. After that I put my past in the past and was there for her and her boys. We would constantly talk about marriage but she had a hard time forgiving me and was trying to control my every move. She was in therapy for two years. Mainly because of her bi-polar disorder and her anger rages but also becuse she didn’t feel love in the relationship although she constantly talked about marriage with me. Anyways she kind of dropped a bomb on me and ended it. I asked her if she was sure and if she wanted to take a break but she said that she is choosing her and she needs to heal. I tried to tell her that things are getting better because her her anger had diminished and she agreed but she felt like she still has personal issues she needs to work on. Well I moved out with my daughter and a week later she states that she wants to reunite and I can move back in after my six months lease. She is being very accountable and vulnerable by saying she needed to release the pain so she could treat me the way I needed to. She felt sorry for all the rage, anger and disrespect and realized she was self centered. For the past 3 weeks she has been great and she wants to re-date. I do to as well as I love her much but I can’t get over the fact that she dropped the bombshell my saying she is choosing herself. I am hesitant about moving back in because I would like stability but she is saying she will even be ready for marriage then! Confused on why she would leave and then a week later want to fix things and feel bad that I was gone.

          • I have no idea why she would leave and then come back a week later either. I can understand your confusion. More than confusion, though, I think you need to have a healthy dose of caution here. People don’t go from: “You need to leave because I want to work on my personal issues so I’m choosing myself,” to “Everything is great. You can move back in AND let’s get married!” in one week! That’s NOT normal! I’m not surprised that you don’t trust that things will magically work out if you get back together.

            I also have a question that you didn’t raise in your comments, but I’m sure you are thinking about.

            What about the kids?!!!

            I can understand that you love this woman and want her back. But how do you think all of the children (yours and hers) are going to cope with all this back-and-forth stuff? What are you teaching your children about love, relationships, and marriage? How are they going to feel when one week they’re all living together, the next week they’re not, and then the week after that you and your girlfriend are back together and planning to get married.

            Your daughter and her sons need stability. Right now, with all due respect, this relationship is NOT stable!

            If you want to date your ex-girlfriend, fine. But I would also suggest that you two get into relationship therapy AND that you take things slow. I wouldn’t plan on moving back in until your relationship gets back on solid ground.

            Sorry. I don’t know that that’s what you wanted to hear. But I hope it helps.

            Karen

        • That depends on what the law in your state is. Many states require parties to be separated for a certain period of time before they get a divorce. The length of time varies depending on the law in that state. Some states, like Illinois, have abolished a separation period for couples who agree they both want a divorce. So you need to check with a lawyer in your state about what the law is for you. (And if you don’t live in the U.S., I can’t tell you anything about the law of whatever country you’re in! You need to check with a local lawyer.)

      • My wife told me she wants a trial separation for 6 months but could be less if her feelings change. Told me she loves me but the spark is gone. We have been married for 20 years together since 16 years old. She said she doesn’t want to date that she simple wants some time alone. She also said she wants to go on dates and be like boyfriend/girlfriend to get the spark back. I found an apartment and will be moving out any day. She has only mentioned divorce once saying it was a possibility if nothing changes, but said that was not what she wants. Im scared, sad, heartbroken, but trying to stay positive. Do you have any suggestions? She has had bad experiences with counselors (not marriage) in the past and is not open to them as of now. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

        • I’m so sorry! I can hear how heartbroken you are.

          If your wife won’t go to a counselor, would she consider going to a coach? A good divorce coach could help you structure a trial separation so that you and your wife are both clear on the ground rules. That will help discourage misunderstandings in the future that could push one of you into a divorce that you might have been able to avoid.

          Meanwhile, I encourage you to stay as positive as you can. Remember what you did to win your wife’s heart 20 years ago. You know her even better now. What could you do to win her back again? What can you do to show her you love her and that you will fight for her – without being too over-the-top creepy or pushy? Do those things! (Just be careful. If you push her too hard you will totally turn her off. You need to finesse this situation. You want to show her how much you love her and want her back WITHOUT begging, pleading, or coming on too strong.)

          Finally, you would probably be wise to spend some time working on yourself. Do what you can to make yourself happy. You can never lose by improving yourself.

          Keep your chin up!

          I wish you the best.

          Karen

    • Hello,

      My wife and I have been together for almost five years, married for almost four. We also have a 17 month old son that is the absolute light of our lives.

      Recently, I have left my job and industry I was in, and have taken a significant pay cut. My wife also lost her job around the same time, and there was a period of time where she was searching for a job but was unsuccessful and just now got back into the workforce.

      She has pointed out that I have attitude problems and I snap irrationally when we talk, or at times I remain silent when she tries to talk to me. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to her, it’s simply because I am not the best oral communicator in the world, and when I try to think of how to get the right words out, she yells at me and demands that I start talking. I should add that most of the time when she gets in her snappy moods, she interrupts me all the time when I try to talk. So it’s not like I don’t try.

      Also, there is all sorts of pressure from our families about when we are going to get a house for our son and ourselves. I’m in a career transition and don’t even know what I want to do for a profession, and both our credit scores are demolished beyond repair. She has all these unrealistic expectations for us, and I really don’t know if I can provide enough for her and our son. I have thought about telling her that a separation would be the best thing for us, mostly for me to work on fixing our credits and working on myself personally so I can try to be a better husband and father. She has said on more than one occasion that she can find somebody better than me in a heartbeat and I don’t doubt her. I really think she is the more desirable one out of the two of us, but I just can’t deal with her temper sometimes and it just makes me depressed that we are in the situations that we are in. Not to mention, she has all her family here, and my family is about 1200 miles away. So a separation would most likely hurt me the most, as I would have no family to fall back on. I also know that if we would proceed with this, she would come after me for every wage I would earn to try to fix our finances, so that’s another reason I haven’t done it yet. She has also said that if we do separate for any reason, I would never see my son again under any circumstance. So that’s a reason why I’ve just kept my mouth shut about it and I’m scared to ask about this. I don’t know how to proceed forward with this. I love her, but I would rather see her with somebody that can provide everything she wants and I don’t think I can live up to her expectations. She also has family members that are still married and hate each other, and I don’t want that to turn into us. She also will refuse to go to therapy under any circumstance. What do you suggest I do? I’m truly at a loss and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

      • Okay, since you asked, I’ll tell you what I think. But be prepared for a little “tough love.” (If you don’t want to read it, that’s fine. Hit the back button now!)

        First of all, I know you’re hurting. I can hear it through what you’ve written. My heart goes out to you.

        I also hear quite a bit of feeling sorry for yourself. It’s great that you want your wife to be with somebody that can provide her with what she wants, but there’s no reason I have read why that can’t be you! It’s time to take the bull by the horns and see if you can pull this relationship up from the depths. If you can’t, and you have to divorce, so be it. But with a 17 month old son involved, you probably want to make sure you’ve tried everythign to make your marriage work before you throw in the towel.

        So, what to do? It starts with you! YOU have to step up and work on yourself. It’s not enough to say “I’m not the best communicator.” Communication is a skill. You can learn it!

        You and your wife also may want to try marriage counseling. That, too, can dramatically improve the communication between the two of you. (It sounds like she’s not the best communicator either. So both of you could learn a lot in counseling. Just remember, you can’t control her or change her. That’s up to her.)

        As for your credit – why do you think you need to separate to work on your credit? Is that really true? I don’t think so. Go talk to a credit counselor and find out what you have to do to start to repair your credit. Then start doing those things!

        Finally, with all due respect, you are NOT in a position to buy a house now. With both of you in career transitions, and given your current credit situation (not to mention your shaky marriage) buying a house is the WORST thing you could do!

        Again, I don’t mean to be hard on you. But you have so much more potential than you think. You are stronger than you are letting yourself believe. Do what you need to save your marriage. Will it work? I can’t say. But, if it doesn’t, you will know that you gave it your all. And any improvements in communication that you and your wife can make will also help you even if you get divorced. Remember, no matter what, you will both be your son’s parents forever.

        Hope this helps

        Karen

        PS Lots of people threaten each other about the kids when they’re upset. Talk to a lawyer. It’s highly unlikely that you will really never see your son if you divorce.

        • Hi,
          My husband and I have been together fifteen years, and married for seven. We have a beautiful family, which includes two sons together (ages:7 & 14) and his two children (ages 15 & 16) from a previous relationship, we have had full custody for the last fourteen years. We began a relationship when they were babies and I have raised them like my own. We both work full-time jobs and I also go to school, so our time is limited.
          We have been struggling to make things work for two years now but we have been through worse, or so I thought. In the past two years, I started working outside the home (I had always worked in the home) and had great success in promotions and raises, his father, uncle and brother passed away, he hates that I make more money than he does, our son was diagnosed with epilepsy and the list goes on. It has been a lot of change. Yesterday, he told me he wants to seperate and I’m really struggling with it.
          My own parents seperated for two years and it was hostile to say the least and ultimately ended in divorce. I’m terrified that this is the beginning of the end, neither of us is easy to live with and we have made mistakes in this relationship, I am owning my mistakes regardless of the good intentions that I had to protect him. I’m afraid that this time won’t give him space to clear his mind but space to clear his heart and stop loving me. I’ve tried to tell him this but now he won’t speak to me because of how I, initially, reacted.
          How can I help him to understand my fears and how can he help me to understand his need to leave?
          Thank you.

          • It’s hard to make someone listen to you. You can talk to them. But whether they listen is really up to them. The only one you can control is you.

            Instead of focusing on getting your husband to understand you, focus instead on understanding his need to leave. (Yeah, I know. It’s hard.) But here’s the deal. Until your husband feels like you’re hearing him, there’s no chance that he’s going to hear you. I know that seems like a contradiction. But when both of you are thinking only about what YOU want to say, that doesn’t leave a lot of space to listen to what the other person is saying.

            I also suggest that you work with a marriage counselor or coach so that you set ground rules that will work for you during this separation. Not setting the rules before you separate is a great way to promote misunderstanding and mistrust once you’re apart. A good marriage counselor can make a world of difference in how your trial separation goes, and whether it ends in reconciliation or divorce.

            I also think that having your own individual therapist right now might be a good idea too. You’ve been through A LOT in the past two years! All that turmoil had to bring up issues for you as well as him! A good therapist can probably help you a lot.

            Hang in there!

            Best,

            Karen

    • Hello Karen,
      My wife and I are 10 years apart and are about 7 years married now. We tries counseling but it was only surface level. Neither of us REALLY dug deep and got uncomfortable so although it felt better it wasn’t where we should have been. We continued to go for a while until my best friend passed away suddenly this Feb. It obviously derailed what we had going on and my wife (self admittedly) is not a good communicator while I on the other hand an an over communicator and can be overly sensitive. Bottom line is that I pushed and she slid back. I believe I am a codependent which also has played a major role in my insecurity in our marriage. We are now at a place where I want to make it work and she doesn’t know what she wants or just doesn’t want to tell me that she doesn’t. I continued to go to the therapist we used to go to together since I started with her and she goes to a separate therapist who suggested discernment therapy and/or separation to see if she would even “miss me anymore” if I wasn’t around. This has all come out over the last 6 weeks and it has been pretty rough for me. We have 3 children (1 I have from a previous relationship not marriage) and it’s hard to look at them and think that this may not work. I feel as though my wifes only staying because of that at this point although she hasnt said that outright. The fact that she brought up discernment therapy and separation tells me somewhere in there she may want to try. So if I decide to go with it and not just ask for a divorce myself, do you think we should go to discernment therapy before a trial separation? So many more details but not trying to send an essay.

      Thank you for your time.

      • Yes, I think going to discernment counseling first makes the most sense.

        The problem with trying a trial separation first is that people often just separate without taking the time to establish the ground rules. That turns what was supposed to be a “trial separation” into the first step toward divorce.

        Going to discernment counseling will give you the benefit of a therapist who can help you dig deep and get to the bottom of what’s going on and what you really want. It’s not a comfortable process, but it works.

        Best,

        Karen

        PS I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I wouldn’t read too much into the fact that your wife brought up discernment therapy and separation. It could mean she’s open to trying to save your marriage. It could also mean that she’s already done but is looking for an easier way to tell you that. (Sorry!)

    • My husband and I are in the process of building a new home and he hit me recently with he loves me but isn’t “in-love” with me and doesn’t know if he will ever be again.
      Instead of rushing to divorce, he wants us to be smart about this and process things slowly. We settle on the new home in about a month and a half and he wants us to move in and live in separate rooms from one another. He said he doesn’t want to have to answer to me but we will bar dating other people. Basically that he wants space.
      I don’t have any family or friends here to stay with so if we did this plan, I’d have to live in the house with him so I can stay close to my job and not spend my whole paycheck on renting my own place. He has a few friends he could stay with while paying the mortgage of the house I’m living in but doesn’t want to burden them with himself so he’d rather we both live at the house.
      I just don’t want to be stupid and do this, then he hits me with divorce anyway. I don’t know if I can trust him as he did have an affair in the past (1 night stand).
      Should I just be safe and go back home and to my family and quit my job here. Start a new life and file for divorce?
      I really feel like living with him and watching him come and go would feel like I’m being used to help pay the mortgage so we don’t lose the house and not because he wants to marriage to recover.
      The only upside with my staying is I can pay off my car and save some money before I leave him and go back home to start over.
      I just don’t want to prolong the pain if it’s going to happen anyway is what I’m saying.
      Thanks for your help

      • Sherry,
        Forgot to add some other stuff. We’ve never had a problem with our sex life, in fact he says sex with me is amazing and always tries to have it with me. He has told me I’m an amazing wife and his best friend. His main complaint is we’ve had some hard times in our marriage and can’t get those moments out of his head. He says when he looks at me all he sees is fighting.
        I just find it strange he’s so attracted to me for not being “in-love” with me. Maybe he’s stringing me along cuz he wants no one else to have me? He knows I’m a beautiful, educated, loyal, and nurturing woman but says the fighting has taken its toll.

        • You said a lot about what your husband has told you, and how he feels, but not so much about what you feel and what you want.

          Your marriage is at a crossroads right now. So the question is: do you want to work on it or walk away? And does he want to work on the marriage or walk away? There’s nothing wrong with “needing space.” But the bigger question is, what does he need space FOR?

          If he’s already decided he’s done and he’s just trying to divorce without being financially stupid, that’s one thing. But if he just needs some space to figure out whether you can save this marriage or not, that’s something different entirely!

          Before you both do ANYTHING you need to figure out what’s going on in your marriage. Then decide what you want. Do you want to be married or do you want a divorce? You BOTH have to answer those questions. THEN you will be able to have a clearer picture of whether you should stay with him or go back home.

          Hope this helps.

          Karen

          PS Marriage counseling can help you figure all this out. I highly recommend it!

    • Hi Karen
      My husband and I are married with 2 young children and one teenage stepson from his past relationship that lives with us. We’ve been married for 6 years, together for 16 yrs. To the outside world (including the kids and relatives) we are doing great. They may have noticed us a little distant with each other lately. The truth is, he’s been unfaithful, untruthful and irresponsible to our marriage and family. We get along great and are capable of talking about our issues, I just don’t know if I can get past his dishonesty. Looking back, I can see that I married a man with “baggage” and I went the distance because he was on a path to bettering himself. We have accomplished a lot together – 2 beautiful children, a place where his son can be with us as a family, a home more than half paid for and an investment property in the midst of being built. When I discovered his lies, I was so shocked, I checked out emotionally and just went on with the “fantasy”. I just recently opened my eyes and let him know that I’m not over any of it! I’m ready to leave, but I do love him…we’ve known each other since we were kids…we have a special bond which makes the betrayal so much worse. He wants to fix it…I don’t know if I have it in me. BUT, my kids deserve the best outcome possible. I don’t know if that’s trial separation, separation or divorce. We live together and are tight with monthly income flow right now. All of our money is locked into our home and property and he’s in the middle of finding a secure job…Is a separation while living under the same roof even possible or successful? One day I want to save it, while the next I’m ready to move on. So confused!

      Help.

      Liz

      • Liz,

        I can totally understand why you’d be confused! IT sounds like you got blind-sided and neither one of you has dealt with all of the hurt that goes along with being unfaithful!

        First of all, I STRONGLY suggest you get yourself into therapy, and get the two of you into marriage counseling. When you go to marriage counseling, make sure you get someone who has EXPERIENCE in dealing with infidelity! A good therapist can make an enormous difference. But a bad one can do more harm than good. (IF you don’t know of any therapists, check out BetterHelp. They have a whole slew of therapists in all kinds of different specialties. So they can help you find the right therapist for you.)

        As for whether you can do a “trial separation” while you’re living in the same house, the answer is yes … but it’s tricky! You’ve got to do a lot of talking to work out what your “rules” and your boundaries will be. If you haven’t done so already, grab a copy of the Trial Separation Checklist. That will help. You might also want to work with a good divorce coach or a discernment counselor to help give you the best chance of success.

        Finally, if I can give you one piece of advice, it’s this: DEAL with this situation now! Don’t just sweep it under the rug. What you sweep under the rug today you trip over tomorrow. Letting this go won’t make it go away. It will just destroy what you already have.

        I wish you the best.

        Karen

    • My husband of 17 years just asked me for a separation. Im devastated as are my daughters, 12 and 15. I honestly don’t know if there’s any hope, if he wants a trial separation or a divorce. I don’t even know where to go from here.

      • My heart goes out to you. The place you’re in is very painful and confusing. Step number 1 in starting to deal with it will be to find yourself a good therapist. No matter what happens with your marriage, you’re going to benefit from having some ongoing support.

        I encourage you to keep the lines of communication open with your husband. Perhaps you could have some conversations about what’s going on with your marriage when both of you are ready to do so. Also, you’re going to have to deal with your husband forever because you’ve got daughters together. So maintaining some communication will be important moving forward.

        As for what else you can do, it depends. If you can get your husband to go to couples counseling or discernment counseling with you, that could help a lot. At the very least it may provide you with some insight about what is going on with him, and whether he really just wants a separation or a divorce.

        If your husband wants a divorce, then the smartest thing you can do is to educate yourself about the divorce process. That will help you manage it better, with less drama and less expense. Here is a link to the Divorce Road Map 2.0. It’s an online program that can give you the knowledge and insight you need when you’re facing divorce.

        I wish you the best.

        Karen

    • My wife and I have been unofficially separated for three months. I’m lost, confused, and I do not know how this will turn out. I know what I want, but it may not be for the best. Do you have any therapy/counseling resources I can leverage for support during this process?

      • There are lots of good counselors and therapists around. But finding one during a global pandemic can be challenging.

        That’s one of the reasons that I recommend using BetterHelp. It’s the largest online counseling service. It can link you with a therapist within less than 24 hours … no matter where you live.

        CLICK HERE to check them out.

  • Hi Sherry,
    My wife initiated our separation and moved out. At first I wanted to try to work it out together. We’ve been living apart but have very frequent contact and never set boundaries. Now the roles are reversed. She says it was a mistake to move out, while I now feel that time apart is the only chance we have to reset some well engrained patterns that aren’t good for us. I have asked her to meet with a couples therapist to work out how we are going to approach this but she refuses – says it’s up to us to figure it out. I truly don’t know at this point if I want to stay married. If I had to make a decision today, I would say no. But I don’t know if that is just how I feel now and will feel differently in a few months. I want to have limited contact for a few months while she wants us to “date” regularly – every week. That doesn’t feel like a separation to me.

    • Oh my! The truth is that it is not uncommon for one person to be “leaning out” of a marriage while the other is “leaning in.” It’s also not unusual for two people to switch roles during a separation.

      I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of discernment counseling, but it could be exactly what you and your wife need right now.

      Discernment counseling is limited scope counseling. It only lasts for 4 – 6 sessions. It is specifically designed to help couples decide whether to stay married or get divorced. I highly recommend that you and your wife try it. If you want more information about discernment counseling CLICK HERE.

      Of course, if your wife refuses to go, there’s not much you can do. But you may want to point out to her that, if she does think moving out was a mistake and she wants to make your marriage work, this kind of counseling can help a lot.

      Also, there is no shame in needing a little professional help to get your marriage back on track. After all, if it was so easy to do by yourselves, chances are you would have already done it. Right now you can’t agree on whether to go to counseling, whether to stay married, or whether to even date each other every week. How in heavens name are you supposed to work on your marriage when you are at odds about everything? Right now a little professional help could be the difference between saving your marriage, or ending it badly.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

      • Hi,
        Married 20 years with a teenager. My husband cheated on my with prostitutes, has broken my heart and ruined my self esteem. I forgave him. He is a health nut and I love my couch. We have really distanced both of ourselves.
        Final straw was last year, he called our teenage daughter useless and then ‘slapped’ me (he cannot admit to hitting me so it’s a different adjective.
        He barely works, doesn’t pay bills, wants my checks to be placed in our joint account, refuses to acknowledge that sex isn’t important, and that he loves me, but isn’t in love with me. Who says that?!
        He told me that he wants to separate and I can date whom ever I wish. I am taking that as we are done. Am I correct?
        Confused

        • I’m not sure how to answer your question.

          If you’re asking are you legally done, the answer of course is “no.” You’re not divorced until a judge pronounces you divorced.

          Are you emotionally done? According to him, it sounds like it. But YOU also get to decide whether you want to be done or not.

          Also, just so you know, human beings are strange creatures. Your husband may say you’re done one day then act like he wants to stay married the next day. Until you’re legally done, you’re not really done.

          Best,

          Karen

  • Hello.. I am from Ohio and me and my husband are not legally separated. I am willing to go to counseling and make things work,but he is unsure rather he wants to make things work or even unsure about our marriage. He also don’t want to go to counseling because he feels it’s not going to help his thinking. I’ve never cheated on him but he says I haven’t been supporting him as a wife. We’ve been married going on three years;together for five. He believes he is single and is able to do what he wants. He is now sleeping with a girl that I felt was a problem from the beginning when he was calling her “friend”. I am not sure what to do or how to act towards him.

    • Maybe the question you should be asking is not how you should act towards your husband, but how do you feel about him?

      How do you feel about your marriage when your husband is openly cheating on you and doesn’t care how it makes you feel?

      How do you feel about your marriage when your husband is acting like he’s single?

      Whatever your husband is saying, doesn’t matter much. What he’s doing tells you everything you need to know.

      Sorry.

      As for the question about what you do now, it seems to me that your options are to either continue to live as you are, or to move forward to change your life. I know this may not be what you want to hear, but your husband is already acting like your marriage is over. (Again, sorry.)

      I wish I had something more positive to say. But, seeing the truth is usually better than denying it and living a lie.

      Good luck.

      Karen

      • Or a third option would be to stop accepting that shit and let him know he needs to decide to be with the other girl or be with you. But he can’t have both, because you do not agree to an open marriage. Believe me when someone sees that they are truly about to lose you they will know the time for BSing is up. But you’ve got to be courageous enough to stand for what you want goddess. You are beautiful and worthy and you need to remember that. He may or may not be a good man going through some confusing times but he will keep going as long as he can because you keep letting him do it. Decide what you want, what you need and all he can do is step up or hit the bricks. I hope that helps. Be brave woman! There is a man whether inside of him or out in the world that matches and wants what you want.

        Massive Love!
        Coach Mandy.

      • My wife wants a legal separation because I drink at night. I’ve been working on it for health issues, and I don’t do anything wrong when I drink except fall asleep. Well I quit cold turkey and she still wants out. I don’t think she’s cheating. I don’t know what to do. I’m heart broken. I thought we were doing better.

        • Congratulations on being sober! That’s awesome!

          As for your wife, you might want to try marriage counseling. Or you can work on your marriage in other ways. But, unfortunately, if your wife doesn’t want to do that and just wants a divorce, you’re going to end up divorced. (Sorry! I wish I had better news!)

          Good luck.

          Karen

          • Try marrigemax by mort Fertel! He has a marriage fitness boot camp that really works well when only one side wants the marrige to work. So many couples are swearing it changed their life.

    • My wife and I are both active duty military and have been working through issues for 3 yrs now. We recently have been physically separated located half way across the country from each other and will be for about a year. She wants to take this time to have a full separation (minimal communication) to figure out if we can move forward with clarity. I love her like crazy and I know that she loves me, she just doesnt feel the passion in her heart and soul that was once there. Being that marriage counseling is not possible, what are your suggestions? I want to stay together but I want to ensure that she has clarity that she needs. Heartbroken

      • Oh my! I have suggestions, but I’m not sure she will be on board with them.

        I understand that your wife is looking for clarity. Maybe if the two of you are apart for a while, she’ll realize how much she loves you, too … but, unfortunately, the odds are that not communicating much in other ways will just make things worse. (Sorry!)

        When two people in ANY relationship stop communicating, the relationship suffers.

        Perhaps rather than going “minimal contact” your wife would agree to set “rules” that would limit you to X number of texts/calls per day/week. Or you could set specific times each week for video calls. (Video is best for keeping relationships going.) But you need to be able to talk to each other – the more the better.

        Another suggestion would be to do “virtual” marriage counseling. Here’s a link to BetterHelp. It provides all kinds of counselors. Many of them will do virtual counseling.

        Just CLICK HERE to check them out.

        Hang in there! Things will probably be tough for a while. The good news is that, if you make it through this, your relationship will be more solid.

        Best,

        Karen

  • Hello, my husband is bipolar and has had an on-and-off cocaine addiction for about 20 years (long before I met him). We also have a toddler together. He is very successful, owning 2 companies, but his work life is extremely stressful. I’ve finally become fed-up with his constant mood swings and aggressive verbal habits. We have been in therapy together, per his suggestion, since January. But, I did finally have a very public breakdown in front of colleagues after his habits didn’t improve. After that he moved out stating he was doing an “immersion” with his drug therapist since he doesn’t have the option of going to rehab. However, he had told some of business partners that we were separated, which was news to me. This was about 6 weeks ago. I have been going to therapy twice a week to work on myself and try to make sense of the situation (our therapist specializes in couples dealing with bipolar disorder). I thought things would have been better by now, but it’s not, his mood is all over the place and I’m not sure what to do. I love him dearly and he is a good person deep down, but he has some serious issues. I also gave up my job (before we were married) and put everything into our family, so I’m scared of the financial ramifications this could have on me and my son, we’ve only been married for 3 years. I’m at a loss right now and would be interested in hearing advise from a legal perspective. Thanks for your time.

    • I can appreciate that you’re looking for legal advice, but unfortunately, I can’t give you legal advice online. I am also only licensed to practice law in Illinois, so if you live in any other state, I can’t give you legal advice either.

      What I can tell you from a more practical perspective is that going to therapy yourself is the best thing you can do. You are also going to need to have a whole lot of patience as this plays out. (Sorry! I know that’s probably not what you wanted to hear.)

      If your husband has had an addiction problem, on top of being bi-polar, he’s not going to sort out his feelings or his behavior in just a few weeks (or even in a few months!). You also can’t control what your husband does, or how he acts. You can, however, control yourself.

      I understand your financial concerns. Right now, since you don’t know what is going to happen in your future, you would be wise to start putting together a financial plan for yourself and your son. Maybe you need to find a job. Maybe you need to pick up a few classes to re-tool your skills so you can get a job.

      You also need to start thinking about what you want for yourself and for your son. If you want to stay married, it will be a lot of work. It will take time, energy and money. If you want to get divorced, it will also be a lot of work. It will take time energy and probably even more money. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. All you can do is your best.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

      • Hi Karen, me and my wife have been married for 13 years. We have 4 children (13,11,7 &5). We are currently going through a separation and remain under the same roof. We respect each other and get along great. Our comunication is decent. My wife had a very tramatic childhood (sexually abuse by a family member in the same household). She told me when we dated and i was the only one she ever told. Just recently she told her family and she started sessions with a counselor. With that said, those problems krept into our marriage. She had no affection for me and was very sad. I always deal with my problems by getting “numb” with alcohol and marijuana. It was kinda getting out of control on my part. No infidelity or anything like that we have a deep respect for each other. So we talked and she said we need to separate.I was devastated after that conversation we has heartbreak ensued. Then I got angry I took a little time to think about it, and I decided to go through this situation with a sober mind. Because I did not to make any rational decisions. But I did it especially for the kids, because I feel like they were starting to not like me anymore (especially the 11 year old). I’ve been sober for a week and feel amazing my thoughts are clear and I feel at peace with whatever happens. I love my wife so much but she seems to think we got married too you she tells me (21&23) and with all her issues feels like her whole life is a lie. She also tells me not to put any hope in us getting back together. She also told me the old I love you but not in love with you line. There is also alot more to the story (community, close family’s & friends) I have been trying to go about daily things as usual and giving her her space but doing nice things for her so the kids are at peace and have a peace of mind. I guess I’m going to ride it out and whatever happens happens. Just wondering if you had any pointers you seen like a fountain of knowledge by reading your responses.
        Thank You

        • So I have a few ideas, but I’m not sure you’re going to like them. (Sorry!) If you don’t want to see my comments, hit the back button on your browser now!

          Okay. Still here?

          First of all, let me say kudos to you for getting clean and sober. I encourage you to stick with it. No matter what happens in your marriage, being sober and having your wits about you will help you manage your life much better. It will also help your relationship with your kids. So, congratulations and stick with it!

          As for your wife, I know you love her and want things to work out. But, in my experience, when someone says something to you like “don’t put any hope in us getting back together,” they usually mean it. That doesn’t mean you can’t change your wife’s mind. And, if you want to try, definitely try! Do everything you can to save your marriage. (That includes staying in counseling.) But I wouldn’t get my hopes up. (Sorry!)

          What you CAN do is keep working on yourself. Decide to be the best “You” that you can be! Also, do your best to keep getting along with your wife as much as you can no matter what happens. That will ultimately make everything so much easier – especially on your kids.

          I wish I had better things to tell you. But, you never know what life will bring!

          Hang in there!

          Karen

    • Hello
      My wife and I have been together for 30 years and married for 20. Over the last 3 months we have been sleeping apart in the same home. She is in meno pause stages and she she if fed up with living my life and needs to find herself and what she needs to do with the rest of her life. This has a complete blindside to myself. We never had the best communication but I thought she would come to me with any issues. We are both seing therapists to deal with this and are seeing a marriage cousilor soon. I love my wife and this has been very hard living apart the last 3 months. I’ve been doing everything I can to make things good between us but still getting a cold shoulder that’s she needs more time to figure out what she wants. How much time does one give?
      Thanks Mike

      • How much time do you give? You give her as much time as she needs, and as much as you can stand.

        I know that sounds like a flip answer. But it’s not.

        You can’t set a time limit on emotions. Your wife’s process is going to take as long as it takes and that’s it. Trying to rush it will only make it take longer. (Sorry!)

        On the other hand, while you can’t control your wife, you can control yourself. If at this time next year you and her are in exactly the same place and you just can’t take it any more, you can then decide to move on, or take whatever action you think is best at that point. You don’t have to wait forever. (You don’t even have to wait for a year. I was just using that as an example. You may reach your breaking point after a few weeks or months. How long you can stand to be living apart in this situation depends on you.)

        Hope this helps.

        Karen

  • Hello… My situation is a doosy. I have admitted that I am in a mess. Let me explain. Hopefully you can answer as you can with your expert advice. Let me start by saying I love my husband and do not hate him. I also want to admit we are separated because of myself right now but it is due to his actions along with mine. Last year we moved away from home and closer to some of his family members. His mother does live with us and has since the beginning of our marriage pretty much. Anyhow, we moved away from Indiana to Kentucky to be closer to his sister. I thought this would be a positive thing and kind of talked mt husband into it. He had his doubts but I figured we had each other and the kids we would make it. Well granted he works 2 hours away from home and to begin with I worked an hour and a half. He comes home every night. Well last year in every sense of the words he had an emotional affair, lied to me, and hid a lot from me. It was all an emotional and mental drain for me. I admit I did keep him up at night terrorizing him about this because he would bring this woman’s problems home, compared her to me, and sometimes treat me like complete garbage and when I would bring it up to him I was expected not to talk about it and not have an opinion and I was crazy and psychotic. Well I gave him an ultimatum in December because I was sick of it. Well he picked me but continued to talk to her because I really didn’t want to be that spouse that could tell him what to do. I felt awful for it even though to me it was a lack of respect and disregard for my feelings. Well to me I honestly think he checked out on our marriage. Well in February I was just sick of their relationship still being the same and I erupted one day and finally got the nerve to approach this woman. Well then I get told there is nothing on and she won’t talk to him and she was sorry. I get a phone call from her boyfriend about how my husband got this woman a sentimental gift because her dad was dying and it was a gift that he linked with his own childhood. Granted friends do this for each other but the kicker to all of this is he got me a just because gift at the same time and then completely hid that he bought this for her after I told him to tell me everything and his excuse is he “forgot.” Now this man that I married tells me that he is not thoughtful, he has always been an asshole, and I should know that when we got married. To me he showed me that he could be a better man for someone who isn’t me. Now as this panned out a week after this and me screaming at him that I wanted a divorce when I heard about the gift I was a mess. I flipped out and he showed me that he does not talk to her but honestly I was an emotional mess. Now come April I finally asked for a separation because I had sought advice from multiple people whom granted may have had ulterior motives but at the time I think they were just being friends at the time. I reached out to an ex to ask about this because he had just went through a divorce. I was genuinely asking for advice and mind you as this conversation went on it may have been mentioned about other things but this was after I asked for a separation and I liked the attention. I was open and honest with my spouse and I told him about me reconnecting with another ex and told him that I may go out and spend time with these people when I went off to my class reunion. Well he gets mad goes and tells him mom whom then interrogates me, he yells at me, and then they make me feel bad to where I don’t even want to go at this point. And this was also where my family was so i wanted to see my family and go to my reunion because I missed home. Well one of the guys quit talking to me and I blew it off and continued to talk to one of the other guys as emotional support. I became emotionally connected to the feeling of just having a random conversation, trying to help him through his struggles, and make him feel better in turn he did the same. Well the reunion weekend came up and I explained that I did not plan to have sex with anyone because I didn’t, I planned to go to a dinner because I had this planned with guy B pretty much and I looked forward to it honestly. Well what happened is I went to dinner with guy B and I didn’t plan to go to his house for a movie we were going to go out. But it ended up that I grabbed a bite to eat with him and we watched a movie on his couch and it felt surreal and it felt comfortable. I don’t know if it was the anticipation or just old feelings or what honestly but I genuinely enjoyed this man’s company. It felt different and then my husband of course started blowing up my phone when he thought dinner would be and I wasn’t exactly honest with him about some things and then he fought with me for hours after. Well for emotional support I reached out to guy B because I just was upset and wanted to just be told that I would be okay I think. Then I parted ways with him and talked to him the next day and we had a good time and it was uncomplicated. Mind you then I went to my class reunion and saw guy A after all this time and I did drink quite a bit and then we ended up talking and I tried to just tease him to joke around then I was going to leave. Well my plan soured when I ended up drinking too much and we ended up in a hotel room. Long story short everyone can assume what happened. At times during this I remember him being intimate emotionally at times and it was all odd because I figured it would just be you know and mind you I did not plan to do this. It just happened and the perfect storm happened and it happened. Well my husband had my phone tracked this whole time and found out not that i wouldn’t have told him. Well he showed up in town and kind of scared the living crap out of me because he was mad now I understand why he was upset and I get it. He is emotionally upset too and he will bring it up at times and there are things I don’t remember and don’t want to talk about. He gets so obsessed about all of this at times and he won’t let me sleep at times until he gets an answer and he says spiteful things at times. I am trying to just figure out what i want and this remains difficult because my mind is a mess. I am hung up on guy B more than guy A. I caught feelings for guy B I think and I can’t completely shake the feelings that I have for him because he made me feel comfortable. I have been honest with my spouse about my feelings for guy B and he was not happy about it but says he can deal with it but I am not allowed to have contact. until I figure out what I want. Feels like that is perfectly acceptable but I came home to him getting hateful, aggressive, his mother threatened me, and I am a big ball of emotions. His mother has trash talked me to his whole family, he has trash talked me to some of our mutual friends. Mind you when i was going through what I did I asked multiple people’s advice but I never completely called him a liar, never said he was cheating on me, and I stated how I felt and what I felt was he was having an emotional affair and completely destroyed my self-esteem in the process and acted like my feelings didn’t matter. Well now he wants to try and he has been nice but I just don’t foresee it as real. I see it as a show and he knows in a way I have just checked out of life in general I have been completely honest about this. I am jaded, hurt and I recently have been diagnosed with bipolar. I have not had time to process my feelings and he is trying to me manipulate me to go back to where he can be in control of everything and I refuse to have that happen. I have let stuff slide because I love him, I have forgiven stuff because I didn’t say much back, we have 4 beautiful children together, and I just fear that this stuff with this girl has just ceased my emotions and things just don’t feel right. I used to be a positive happy person and now I am just a negative emotionally jaded low self-esteem woman who is trying to figure my life out. I just feel so lost. Now he wants to be a better man but I just fear that I am fed up and so emotionally damaged by himself and my own doings that I can’t begin to recover. I fear that I want to be alone.

    • You’ve got a LOT in here! Honestly, with the number of things that have happened in your marriage, if you ever want to have a chance at dealing with it all, you’re going to need help.

      I strongly suggest that you get a good therapist AND a good marriage counselor. You have a lot of healing to do yourself. You and your husband also have a lot of things to work on in your marriage. That’s why you need both an individual therapist and a marriage counselor. (Your husband would do well to get his own therapist, too. But, that’s for him to decide.)

      Also, know that, whether your marriage works out or not, the work you do in therapy will not be for nothing. Whatever you learn will stay with you always. When you grow, you will take that growth with you into your next relationship. So taking the time to do that hard work on yourself now always pays off later.

      You’ve been through a lot. You’ve still got a lot to process and a lot to heal. Don’t try to do it alone.

      I wish you the best,

      Karen

  • Good afternoon, I’m Hank and have been married for almost 31 years. Happily married about 15-20. I do love my wife but I’m far from being in love with her. Once she went thru menopause her personality has completely changed. She is super aggressive, abrasive, belittling in her tone and how she treats me. She has absolutely no boundaries when she needs to be tactful. I’ve tried and tried to talk to her. We went to counceling and eventually our therapist informed us that she no longer needs to see me, only my wife. Well that was it as far as my wife was concerned. She completely flew off the handle. So eventually I asked for a trial separation. We don’t have any debt, no loans awn everything we have. There is plenty of funds to take care of individual expenses. She is completely against it. I packed a bag and I left. I’m at my brothers now and my cell has been off the wall. I don’t want to stay in this wreck of a marriage. What are my options?

    • Oh my. You actually have more options than you might think.

      Obviously, you can go back to your wife and stay in the same marriage/situation you’ve been in for years. You could also get divorced. In between those options, you could stay married and live separately from your wife for awhile in a controlled separation. Or you could stay married and just live separately forever. (Some people do that.) I’d suggest counseling, but you’ve already tried that. If you and your wife want to work on your marriage you could try a different counselor, or try just working on your marriage yourself. If your marriage changes and gets better, you might not want to leave. If it doesn’t, …

      All of these are options. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which option you should choose. That’s for you to decide. What’s positive is that it sounds like you have enough money to be able to decide among all of these options. That puts you in a decent position. Of course, the hardest part is deciding what you want, and then committing to move forward.

      But, you can do it.

      Best,

      Karen

  • Ms. Karen,

    I recently deployed about 3 months ago. Before I left everything was fine (I thought). I have done some horrible things to my wife in the past, such as send graphic pictures to another women and treated her like crap at 3 other formal dining’s. We have been married just over 10 years. We have went to counseling and benefited from there to work out our relationship. It’s been 2 years since I sent the pictures and now that I’m deployed she wants a trial separation. I will give her all the space she needs during this time. The one thing that is heartbreaking is she said if I meet a nice guy and go on a date with him she will know what she needs to do. If she thinks about me the whole time, she knows what to do. She says she loves me, misses me, and still sends me care packages. I don’t agree with the dating thing, but is it something I should be ok with her doing while I’m gone? She has a lot of things on her plate, completing her masters, our child, work, and me being gone. I didn’t feel the nessecity to put much work into our marriage because I thought everything was going fine. I was definitely wrong. After some self reflection, I have not been treating my wife as she should be treated emotionally. I still send her flowers and congratulate her on things she accomplishs and I tell her I love her (not in a pushy way). I’m an open book and love her with all heart. What recommendation would you have in this situation?

    • Oh my!

      First of all, what you can do is unfortunately limited by the fact that you’re deployed right now. It’s not like you can walk in the door and sweep her off her feet.

      But, that having been said, there still are things you can do.

      Self reflection is a great place to start.

      What most people don’t realize is that working on yourself IS working on your marriage. When you change, you bring a different (and hopefully better) version of yourself to your marriage. That changes your relationship. So, for now, I would start there.

      You also want to keep in contact with your wife as much as you possibly can. Talk to her. Ask about her life. Be interested in her! Show her you care.

      Of course, you don’t want to go all psycho on her either! You don’t want to be too over the top, and you definitely don’t want to beg her to stay. But you do want to be around enough for her to know that you care about her and about your marriage and you want to make it work. (It also wouldn’t hurt to ask her what you could do to make things better. When she says “nothing,” don’t believe her. Gently keep asking. Eventually, she will start to open up.)

      Finally, as for the dating thing, that’s your decision. You can’t stop her from dating. If that’s what she needs to do to figure out whether she wants to leave, that’s up to her. What’s up to you is what you will do in response to that decision. If you’re not okay with it, then tell your wife that. Also, tell her WHY you’re not okay with it. Be honest. In the end, that’s really the best thing you can do.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Hello, great article and advice, thanks. Over the past 5 years the Mrs and I have drifted apart. She no longer likes the same things I do. I’m social. She’s reclusive. We have two young wonderful kids. Our parenting views don’t mesh well though. I’m more relaxed (the fun parent if you will) and the kids respond well to that. She is a stickler for rules and that ends up causing issues between all of us. I feel bad for her because the kids don’t behave for her. But advice I directly give her is not taken well and if I try indirectly she calls me passive aggressive. She’s got some health issues and I figure that plays a lot into her negative behaviors over the past few years. She curses a lot even in front of the kids. She instigates arguments with strangers (flipping people off in traffic, trolling people on Facebook, etc). I don’t believe in that type of behavior. Treat others as you would want to be treated. She drinks a little more than I am comfortable with. I have never approved of her marijuana use but I’ve come to accept it because she’s made it clear she will never stop. She threatens to leave us (and she tells this right to the kids faces) when they are not behaving for her. She gets mad at me if I don’t intervene on her behalf but she also gets mad at me when I do and they respond well. It’s a lose/lose for me most of the time. But she is stay at home and I work to support the family. I don’t want to divorce but thinking separation may be an option. We’ve done marriage counseling in the past and it helped but we are back to where we were to begin with. I’ve never cheated but she has although I don’t feel she is currently. She’s just always tired and wants to sit and read or watch Netflix. I like to take the kids on adventures. She used to go on them with us but never wants to anymore. There’s no intimacy left. I initiate any hand holding or kisses or touching. But it seems to annoy her more than anything and that’s as far as it ever gets. All these behaviors I find unattractive even though she is still a physically attractive person to me. I just want her to smile and be happy but I have no idea if she is capable of that anymore. She can only relax and smile when she’s tipsy or high. I grew up in a loving household white picket fence style. She grew up in a broken home with a lot of physical and verbal abuse. Several of her siblings and relatives are in and out of jail. I’m afraid that her childhood is playing a huge role in her parenting. She loves the kids and I would never want to keep her from them but I’m doing all i can to counter her negativity and usually it just means we go out all day and mom stays home. I don’t know where I’m going with all this. Just wanted to type it up and see what a knowledgeable stranger would suggest. Thanks!

    • Thanks for sharing your story. If I can sum up, it sounds like you are really unhappy but you don’t want a divorce, so you’re thinking about a separation.

      So, I’m wondering: Why?

      Not why you’re unhappy. You were really clear about that.

      But, what do you think that a trial separation will do? What are you hoping to accomplish? (Btw, I’m not suggesting that you should or shouldn’t separate. That’s your call. I’m just asking what you hope to achieve by doing it?)

      If you’re separating in order to get some time alone to figure out whether you want to be married that’s fine. If you’re separating as a “trial run” to get you and the kids used to living alone before you divorce, that’s fine, too. (ALthough some people would definitely disagree with me on that!) Or, if you’re separating so that you can work on your marriage, that’s also fine.

      The bottom line is that knowing the PURPOSE of your separation is critical.

      That’s the part that so many people mess up. They SAY they’re separating in order to have time alone to think, but in the back of their mind what they’re really planning is to use this as step 1 to divorce. Then, when they ultimately do divorce, it looks like they were planning it all along. Actually, they were. But they couldn’t admit that to their spouse, or even to themselves.

      But it’s that dishonesty (even with yourself) that causes problems.

      So, whatever you do, take some time and think about what you want and why you want it. Then be as honest as you can with yourself and your spouse. Doing that will also help your kids adjust to whatever it is you’re trying to do. (Remember, kids don’t do any better living with uncertainty than adults do — especially when it involves their lives and they have ZERO control over what’s happening.)

      Hope that helps.

      Karen

      PS One more thing. Remember that it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle. If you’re not willing to entertain divorce as a possibility for yourself, then separating is risky. Once you and your spouse are living apart, getting divorced becomes easier to consider.

    • Separation is hard. My H doesn’t communicate at all, just waits for a text from me. He’s supposed to be sorting his drinking out, I don’t know what measures he’s taken, its just silent. Our marriage was the same. I’m rubbish at ending things and would work on the marriage for my distraught children.
      I guess I’m just waiting, as I’ve always done for something to change.
      If I stick out the separation long enough he will just want a divorce I think. Is that a usual ending???

      • Sticking things out long enough for your spouse to want a divorce is NOT a good strategy for you OR your children. You may not want a divorce, but your quality of life now while you’re hanging in limbo has got to be pretty miserable, too.

        It sounds like your Husband is waiting for you to communicate with him and you are waiting for him to communicate with you. That can’t be making for great communication on either end!(It also definitely doesn’t make for much of a marriage.)

        What if, instead of waiting, you took the bull by the horns, decided what YOU want, and then went for that? Doing that is a much scarier, riskier course of action. It could very well lead to a divorce (… or not. You never know!). But if you’re already separated and not communicating, how much of a marriage do you really have left?

        I don’t mean to be harsh, but sometimes, the kindest thing you can do for yourself (and for your kids) is to rip the bandaid off so the wound underneath can finally start to heal. Pulling slowly on the bandaid, while hoping that it won’t hurt so bad, often just prolongs the agony.

        Karen

    • Hi ..
      I realize your post to Karen was last August. I went through a personality shift too just like that in fact. I had Bartonella. It actually causes swearing and aggression in many people as well as depression, addiction, etc. If you do a search for “bartonella aggression” you will be overloaded with info. I with you the best.

  • Hello. Great article. I’ve been married for 10 years not. My husband suffers from PTSD from his time in the Marines and we’ve always worked through it. We have an amazing 4 yr old and I’m due any day now with our second. Two years ago I caught him cheating with his boss. He broke it off immediately and sought help. I forgave him and we moved on. Two years later, and with baby #2 almost here, we’re back where we started. I’m so torn: I have a young child who adores his dad and a newborn on the way and I know my husband’s issues stem from his time in the service. But at some point I need to stand up for myself too and not be so co-dependent. I’m always looking for a reason to stay: the baby, the house, his service, but I fear I’m just delaying the inevitable and that I’m the only one trying. Help.

    • Oh my! Where do I start?

      First of all, with your new baby almost here, I’m not sure that you’re in the best position to do anything right now. (Sorry!)

      That’s not to say that you should just sweep everything under the rug, or forget what has happened. But, you’ve got to make priorities.

      What’s your #1 priority right now? My guess it is to have a healthy baby. So, for now, focus on that. Focus on bringing your child into the world in the best way possible.

      Of course, after your baby is born, you’re going to have your hands full. You will have a newborn to attend to, plus taking care of your 4 year old. You will also be sleep deprived. None of that makes for the clearest head.

      You said you fear you’re just delaying the inevitable. Maybe you are. Maybe you aren’t. Or, maybe you’re just getting yourself together so that, if and when you do make a move, you put yourself and your kids in the strongest, healthiest position to take on such a major life change.

      Does that mean you just hang out and stay in a marriage with a serial cheater forever? No. But it does mean that you have to be smart about yourself and your future. Remember, you will have two small children to take care of no matter what happens. Taking the time to plan for a smooth transition for them will be wise for them, and better for you, too.

      Of course, if you still want to try to save your marriage, now would be a great time to do that, too. Regardless of your current condition, you can still start talking to your husband about what’s going on. You can get yourselves in therapy. You can stop making excuses for him and ask him to work on your marriage and see what happens. (It’s beautiful that you are so understanding about your husband’s issues. But the question for you now is whether you want to live with those issues for the rest of your life. And, his question is whether he is ready to start dealing with those issues in a more productive way.)

      Will any of this work? I don’t know. Will your husband even want to try to save your marriage. Again, I don’t know.

      What I do know is that with so much on your plate right now, you might have to do everything a little more slowly than you would like. Instead of beating yourself up about that, if you can accept that you are only human, and can only do so many things at one time, you will make this difficult time just a little bit easier.

      Hope that helps!

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,

    Thank you for the article. It has a great deal of information and provides a lot to consider. I’ve been married to my wife for 15 years, together for 22. We have two children, 14 and 11. My wife and I have been “struggling” in our marriage for the past two plus years. The gauntlet for me was when she drop the bomb of “…I love you, but I’m no longer in love with you,” and is when our marriage took a sharp turn for the worse. Leading up to that point, we had a number of squabbles. We were having difficulty parenting our now 14 year old son. He is a challenging young man to parent, and my reaction to his behavior was not always positive and was not acceptable to my wife. The stress of this situation was erosive, in hindsight, to our relationship. Prior to that, I’d often considered our marriage a model as inspiration for others. My wife is 47 and is experiencing biological changes. I feel this, along with what I shared above, is having a double affect on our happiness. We have discussed seprating, but alwys come back trying to work it out while living together. It;s been two years now that we have worked on mending our relationship. Soon after the “bomb” I sought therapy to help with primarily my relationship with my son. During this time, we sought professional help to determine if our son may have some sort of disorder – I was the driver towards to assessment of him. Turns out he scored low on the spectrum for ADHD. This alone helped my wife and I gain some clarity about how to better parent our son and thus potentially resolve some of our conflicts.

    We are about a year into this knowledge and things have gradually gotten better between us. However, and this is my dilemma, our level of affection has dropped off significantly. We no longer hug, unless I initiate it. She rarely says she loves me, something I make a point to do, although lately I have been less inclined to do so. I’m struggling with the level of intimacy we are exhibiting to each other. It ebbs and flows but mostly ebbs. So, I’m at a crossroads. I’m considering proposing to her that we consider an informal separation. I’m 53 years old and love to live life. I’m love my wife, but I feel like I’m suffering. My gut is telling me to makes this porposal to her, but, of course, it is scary at the same time. Anyway, any kind of insight, or advice is appreciated.

    Thanks for your time,
    Dave

    • Dave,

      Of course separating is scary! It will totally change your life. And, there are no guarantees that you will ever get back together, or that your trial separation will not turn into a permanent separation. At the same time, it doesn’t have to.

      I can hear howmuch you care about your wife. But you’re missing the intimacy. From her perspective, I wonder what she’s feeling? I wonder if trying to parent your son and take care of everything else she has got going on hasn’t left her exhausted. Have you tried helping her around the house? Have you tried lightening her work load in any way you can? Have you tried treating her to a beautiful dinner occasionally, with NO expectation that it will lead to any “extracurricular activity” in the bedroom?

      Here’s what you might not be considering. Your wife is tired! She’s been fighting your son for a long time. It also feels like she’s been fighting you too! It’s really hard for a woman to want to be intimate with someone she’s been at odds with for so long — especially when she’s exhausted AND hormonal!

      It sounds like you’ve been trying to repair your relationship, and have had some success (except in the intimacy area). That’s excellent! Now it’s time to try something new.

      In your head, think back to what drew you to your wife years ago. Think about what you did to win her heart. You probably took her out on dates. You told her she was beautiful (and meant it!). You treated her like a queen. Do THAT again! And, don’t just do it for a day or a week. Do it for months.

      Here’s why.

      When you start trying to actively win back your wife’s heart, she’s not going to believe you. She’s going to shut you down and test whether you really have changed. (Don’t blame her. All women do this, whether we mean to or not.) If you listen to her and stop trying to woo her, you will lose her. If you stay the course and spend a good 3 – 4 months just being funny and charming and helpful and all the things you used to be when you met her, you may be amazed at the changes you see in her behavior.

      Finally, don’t beg her to stay. Don’t beg her for sex! Don’t even expect her to give you sex when you’re “nice” to her. If you do that she will not think you really care about her. She will feel like you’re only being nice so you can get what you want. That never works.

      I know all of this may sound a bit unusual. But, my guess is that what you’ve already tried hasn’t worked. If it had, you wouldn’t have written here. So maybe doing this will be worth a try!

      Karen

      PS Obviously, this may not work. There are no guarantees in life. But, it’s usually much easier to try everything you can to save your marriage before you separate than it is to try to put the pieces of your relationship back together when you’re already apart.

  • I have a chronic illness. My husband is an airline pilot. We have two grown children that are married and one 14 yr old daughter that we adopted at birth. I have been sick my entire life with a rare genetic illness that is progressive. A year ago I found out that my husband was having a three year affair. It was during the three sickest years of my life. I was unable to parent or be a wife like I should have. My youngest resents me because I wasn’t there for her and now she resents me because I am because I am the stricter parent. Her dad gives her anything she wants and let’s her do anything she wants. I forgave my husband for the affair simply because I felt like it was my fault. I know my poor health has affected everyone in my family and in a negative way. My youngest openly defies me and my husband does nothing. He constantly undermines me as her mother and she takes full advantage of that. She has told me to my face that she doesn’t like me. She loves me because I’m her mother but she doesn’t like me as a person. She wishes she could only live with her dad. At this moment I am seriously considering a divorce but there are so many problems to achieve that. Because my husband is a pilot, he is gone four days a week so our daughter would have no choice but to live with me during those days. So I can only imagine how she would be with me. Also because of my poor health, I can’t work so my finances are limited to child support and disability. Indiana is a no fault divorce state so no alimony. I will be honest and say that if I could survive without being married then I would. I’m always at fault for anything bad in our family because of my poor health and I’m tired of the resentment over something I can’t control. But I also know that I need health insurance and I’m not completely sure that I could make it on my own because of my poor health. We are in marriage counseling and he says he wants to stay married but he isn’t changing how he treats me or how he parents our daughter. And I’m not the only one that disagrees with his style of parenting, our adult daughter and son agrees that he spoils her to the point of her being a self entitled brat.

    I’m just lost.

    • I’m so sorry to hear all that you’re going through. Unfortunately, you’ve come across a hard truth that many people don’t want to admit: sometimes you can’t afford to get divorced! I know that sounds harsh, but it’s also realistic. At the same time, that doesn’t mean you have no options.

      It sounds like your husband has pretty much said he’s not going to change. So stop trying to make him change. It won’t work anyway.

      The only one you can control is yourself. So start doing that. Put energy and effort into getting as healthy as you possibly can. Parent your daughter the way you think is best. If your husband undermines you, that’s his issue. You will never be able to change that. But you can set an example for your other kids and do the best that you can do.

      I also suggest that you start working on yourself. You may not be able to change your circumstances right now, but you can change your attitude about them. A good therapist could also help you work through all of your emotions and perhaps start going in a better direction. You might also want to check out some personal development material. Tony Robbins has done phenomenal work. He has books, tapes, YouTube videos and other resources that can help you change yourself. When you do that, you will change your world.

      I know that right now change probably seems impossible to you. I also know that making any kind of change takes time and effort and attention. It definitely won’t be easy. But when you stop trying to change those around you, and instead focus on changing yourself, you may be able to make progress you only dreamed of before.

      I hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    Thank you for a great article. My question is about whether I’m at a point before needing a separation or need a separation now. My husband and I have been married for just over a year. This year has been stressful because I was in my first year of medical residency (working 80 hours a week, stressed, tired). Six months ago we had a tremendous argument about when to start having kids. It was bad timing for me, obviously, but I tried to entertain the idea because he was relentless about it. Ultimately I was resolute in saying no, but he feels there was a breech of trust because I wasn’t honest about wanting to delay it from the beginning. Thankfully the fights have not been as intense (I stayed in a hotel after the first one), but it has been relentless- once a week. I am now stuck in this vortex of knowing we need to effectively communicate before complicating it with a child, but also having agreed to try for a child (don’t ask me how we’re back to that) and risk re-breaching his trust. So at this point, I know I need to go to counseling (he won’t-I’ve asked ), but I am doubtful that there will be a real change because he does not assume culpability. Aside from occasionally agreeing his actions could have been better, he does not formulate a concrete plan for change. I have been direct about my needs but they are unmet. Now back to the question about when to consider separating- I don’t think he understands how unhealthy the relationship is. I’m considering a trial of 6 months of counseling while staying at home. If there isn’t an improvement, initiating a separation. Or maybe I need a separation now because if I stay at home, I’m doubtful he realize he needs to change, too. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Okay. I’m confused.

      You want to consider a trial of 6 months of counseling while you stay at home. But, if he won’t go to counseling, then who is it that’s going? Just you? With all due respect, I’m not sure how YOU going to counseling alone will change HIM or make him realize he needs to change. (Not that going to counseling is a bad idea. I highly recommend it!)

      Also, from what you’ve written, your relationship does not sound healthy or happy.

      I just want to reflect back to you what you wrote. Your husband doesn’t communicate well, doesn’t meet your needs, doesn’t listen to you, and has badgered you so much about having a child that you’ve agreed to try to have a child with him when that’s NOT what you want right now and have told him so. Oh, and, he won’t take responsibility for his actions or go to counseling.

      I don’t mean to be harsh, but I’m not sure why you WOULDN’T be considering separating!

      I know you probably don’t want to give up on your marriage, but if you’re the only one trying to repair a relationship with this many problems, you’ve got more than an uphill battle in front of you!

      I also want to ask you one question: What are you going to do if you DO get pregnant now? Can you imagine bringing a child into this relationship? Can you imagine having to be a parent with this man FOREVER? (Couples divorce. Parents are parents forever.)

      It’s not my place to tell you what to do. But, you’re a smart woman. I’m confident you will figure out what’s best.

      I wish you the best no matter what you decide.

      Karen

  • Dear Karen,
    My husband moved out about 87 months ago and said we are separated. We tried marriage counseling but it didn’t seem to help. Back story is that my step daughter had mental health issues and was in and out of hospitals. We have two small children together as well as my step son. While this was going on with my step daughter I tried to keep the fort down at home. I took care of our two littles and step son and tried to keep them happy. When my husband would come home from work or hospital from seeing his daughter, he had nothing left to give to the boys. I get that part, but at the same time, the little ones would act up for his attention and he wouldn’t give them any. This would cause them to act out. I had said to him several times it would be better if he didn’t come home unless he was able to give them attention. He never said to me that this made him think I “hated” him until two years later when we were in marriage counseling We also had financial stress during that time and almost lost our home. Now we no longer go to counseling and he has been out of house since March. We hang out as a family with the kids and things go nicely and I thought that mean we were headed in a good direction yet he still says he doesn’t know what he wants and that if I need an answer now then it’s divorce. He brings up all the time how I was mean to him while his daughter was in the hospital ect yet it was a hard time for me too, I helped raise her but felt alone because I wasn’t mom and had no control over her care and had the three boys to take care of. Tonight I mentioned how I thought things were going foo with us all hanging out and maybe that was leading somewhere. He said he never thought of us all hanging out as a family as time for him and I rebuilding and it was just about the kids. I’m heart broken all over again. We have taken mini trips to water parks, going out to the beach for the day, gone out for day in boat, taken kids to play places ect. All great times. I told him tonight that if the family times together aren’t also a time that could help us lead back to each other than I cannot do it anymore and he can take the kids in his days by himself. He tried turning it around on me saying that it makes the kids happy and why wouldn’t I want to do that for them. I’m so torn. I feel like by now, 7 months in, he should know what he wants, but when I ask him he just tells me he ha seven busy working and that we aren’t even friends and several other repeated things. I still love him but I feel like my heart keeps getting broken again and again. I feel like I am getting blamed for a lot more of his feelings during our daughters hard time then I am responsible for.

    Thank you,
    Confused in NY

    • Okay Confused, it’s time to get your life back!

      I read what you wrote and can hear how torn you are. It sounds like you would love for your husband to come back, but you’re waiting for him to make it happen. You’re living in limbo because you’re not deciding what YOU want. You’re also not doing anything pro-actively to move things forward. You’re just waiting for him to do something. (… which I totally understand, by the way. I’m not judging. I’m just saying that your behavior isn’t helping you right now.)

      You’re living your life based on what your husband wants. That puts all the power in your relationship in your husband’s hands. It also puts all the responsibility for the relationship in your husband’s hands. To have a healthy, balanced marriage, you both need to share power and share responsibility. (Yes, that can be scary!)

      I don’t mean to be hard on you, but you’ve been separated for long enough that it’t time for you to decide what YOU want. To help you figure that out, it would be helpful to work with a good therapist. Also, you said you WERE in marriage counseling. If you want to work things out in your marriage, going to marriage counseling now would also be helpful.

      It sounds like there are a lot of events in your past which caused pain to both you and your husband. I’m sure there are a lot of hurt feelings on both sides. Those are things that you are going to have to work through. A good counselor can help you do that.

      If your husband doesn’t want to go to marriage counseling, you can try discernment counseling. That’s a specific type of counseling designed to help you and your husband figure out if you want to stay married, or move toward divorce.

      One of the hardest things about being separated is not knowing what the future holds for you. You don’t want to lose the marriage you have. You don’t want to lose the person you love. I totally get it. But the only person you can control is yourself. If your husband doesn’t want to stay married, in today’s day and age, he will get a divorce. You can’t stop him from doing that. (Sorry!) So rather than focusing on what you may be losing, and letting your fears control your behavior, you can focus on what you want, and start working towards getting it.

      Will deciding what you want, what you will live with, and what you’re not willing to tolerate in a relationship, end your marriage? I don’t know. Will it save your marriage? Again, I don’t know. Either outcome is possible. As with so many other things in life, the honest answer to that question is: “It depends.”

      All I know is that, right now, you’re clearly not happy. The only person who can change that is you. So, the real question is: what are you willing to do to make that happen?

      Karen

  • Hello. My husband and I have been married for 3 years and together for 8 years since highschool. I had been a stay at home mom for 2 years before we separated and now that we’re separated I have started working. We have 2 little ones and recently became separated about 7 months ago. We separated because he would become aggressive toward me while drinking. Never hit me but would shove me and get in my face and raise his voice and punch walls. All this while our 2 year old was in room listening. I always put up with it thinking he would change and it came to a point where I got fed up when the last incident happened that I had to bite him to get him away from me and from being so scared I screamed for help. This was while we were living in our own apartment. Mind you his parents lived a an apartment unit below us which bothered me so much bc he would go down there almost everyday and I don’t get along with his family so I wouldn’t go bc I never wanted to and he’d take the kids with. Anyways, we’ve been separated 7 months now and he stayed in the apartment while Kids and I moved out to my parents. At first we weren’t really talking. I was scared of the things he’d say while us being separated that I’d lock my doors Incase he did go insane and try to come see me because he’d say he didn’t care what happened. Then after completely ignoring him for 2 weeks he finally gave in and said he’d help pay “child support” and that he’d help with anything the kids needed. From then on we have slowly started talking again and things seem good between us. Though we are still separated. I have managed to gain some trust for him to start taking the kids out and bringing them home at a certain hour. And we’ve actually gone out as a family a few times. Now my problem is that though he says he hasn’t drank in few months now and he seems to really be trying to b a better father, husband and man I don’t know if it’s really “fair” that if I do give in another shot (after so many times we tried) that I’m the one who kept getting hurt while he never did and is still going to get our family back again. And while being separated I did start seeing life as a single mom, getting a good pay job to move out of my parents and live alone with my kids. I just wanted that good relationship with him for the kids sake if we ever got divorced so that I’m not like all those bad divorce stories where him and I can’t even talk or see eye to eye knowing we have kids who look up to us. That’s why I hoped and kinda waited for him and I to have a good relationship but like I said now that we have hung out as a family here and there it feels nice at the moment. But then I think about my parents giving me the chance to live with them while separated and if I ever told them I decided to give it another chance they would be devestated and probably won’t want to talk to me and then family events would be odd bc no one would want to see him since everyone knows about our situation and eat he has done. I’m so undecided but he’s all in for making it work. I don’t have anyone to ask for help bc they all hate him so all I will hear is to leave him. For the longest I felt like I was going crazy with these decisions going in circles in my head.

    • I’m not surprised you’re going in circles in your head! Here’s my question to you: What has changed since you left?

      If nothing has changed, then shortly after you go back (if you go back) you will probably end up right back where you started. Is your husband in AA? Do you have proof that he’s stopped drinking? How long has he been sober? Has he done any work on his anger? Is he seeing a counselor? How many times has this pattern repeated itself? Those are the kinds of questions you want answered before you can decide whether to go back.

      At the same time, you need to look inside yourself too. You said you don’t know if it’s “fair” to give him another shot. Fair to who? You? With all due respect, if that’s how you feel, this isn’t going to work. You’re never going to get emotional justice for what happened. There is no cosmic tipping scale in the sky that balances how much you’ve suffered against what he’s done. You either decide that you love him and that you’re going back and giving your marriage your all, or you stay away. (Mind you, I’m not suggesting that what he did was justified in any way, or that you don’t deserve to be treated better. You absolutely do. What I’m saying is that if you go back to your marriage with a chip on your shoulder, you lower your chances for making your marriage a success right from the start.)

      You’re facing a tough decision. No matter which way you go, it will be hard. But give this more time. Give yourself more time. Start working through your emotions with a counselor. And try not to obsess about your marriage. That will only make you spin more. Instead, try thinking about what you want your life to look like in the future. Focus on your kids and your job. See how your husband does, and whether he can stay sober. That will tell you a lot.

      Good luck.

      Karen

      • Karen, i came across your post by accident. I love that you let ppl express their issues openness and with not so much limitation.

        In your opinion, how well does Discernment Counseling work?

        • In my opinion, discernment counseling works really well. Remember, the goal of discernment counseling is to help a couple make a decision. It is not designed to steer them towards marriage or towards divorce. From what I understand, it has a fairly high success rate. (And, by success I mean helping couples come to some kind of a decision about their marriage.)

          Karen

  • Hello Karen,
    I am not usually one to post but I was moved by some of your previous responses. I have been married almost 5 years (together for 8). From previous military deployments, my husband is now 100% disabled with PTSD. When we first met he struggled with binge drinking and anger management, however, prior to getting married he quit drinking completely with my assistance. This lessened his anger issues but did not alleviate them entirely. A few times a year he would have the outbursts where he described these moments as “seeing red” and though he never directed the aggression towards me, it was still frightening to see him throw something against the wall, etc. After we were married and had our first son, we were living in a highly stressful environment with his family who didn’t accept me as I was a different nationality. One day during an argument he became physically violent and pushed me to the ground – an action he said he immediately regretted. We spent weeks sleeping in different beds, and had multiple conversations over a period of several months. I went to counseling, but made the mistake of not demanding that he go because at the time he was studying to become a doctor and had little told to devote to anything else except for us. I also started to see the kind man I knew and didn’t hold him accountable. That was 3 years ago. Since then, he was also diagnosed with IGA neuropathy and received a kidney transplant. He was forced to end all communication with his family due to their poor decisions while he was ill – these events caused him serious depression for the past year. Since May of this year, we had been in a great place, he had attended an anger management class and was seeing a counselor from the VA. We were in couples counseling to assist with getting over his depression/ my emotions/ etc. and were considering having another baby. A month ago, during another argument, he had a dissasociative episode where he blacked out and head butted me causing my nose to break. Immediately following the incident I could tell he had no idea what happened and to this day doesn’t remember, though he takes full responsibility and has told me that his actions scared him and that he will do whatever it takes to get better not only for me and our son but for himself as well. We are each in individual counseling along with couples counseling. The issue is – I am not sure I want to be in this marriage anymore. I posed the question of separation to him and he said he understands and would agree but I would also like to try dating (without sex) which he said he would not be okay with. My biggest fear is that I stay in this marriage out of the fears associated with divorce. Unfortunately, neither of us have family and rely heavily on each other so just separating would feel like being isolated as we recently moved to a new state and I work from home making it challenging to make new friends. I want to try living in a way where I meet new people both male/female. My biggest quarel is that I know my husband is truly a kind man. Those who know him know he would give you the shirt off his back. He is normally the calm one in our marriage and has helped me through some very difficult times, but he has gone through a lot in his life and has not dealt with a many of those emotions which has led him to this point. This is not justification for his actions, it’s only my explanation as to why I feel so torn about leaving. Neither our therapist (who is a VA counselor specializing in PTSD) nor I think he fits the criteria of the typical abusive husband, but that doesn’t mean I should stay. Ultimately, I just want to be sure that if I choose to stay #1. Both my son and I are safe long-term, #2. I’m doing so because I love him and want to fix our damaged marriage. I feel like trying a separation where I can meet new people is the only way to really know if that is what I want. I would truly appreciate your opinion on the matter given my brief explanation.

    Thank you in advance for your time and response.

    • First and foremost you have to do whatever it takes to keep you and your son safe. Once you’ve done that, it’s time for you to decide what you want to do. That means getting honest and getting real.

      Please understand that I’m not trying to be hard on you or inconsiderate. But if I’m not honest, what I say won’t do you any good.

      You say you want to try dating other people — without sex. But you still want to be married while you do it. With all due respect, that won’t work. You either want to be married and you commit to the marriage. Or you want to be divorced and you commit to doing that. But separating from your husband so you can see other people (and see if you can make it on your onw and maybe find a new relationship) is a cop out. You want the security of your husband being there while you see if you can find someone else.

      That never works.

      You’re looking for your answers in other people, and other relationships. But other people don’t have your answers. Only you do. So, instead of trying to see whether making new friends will help your situation, look inside yourself and see whether you can help your situation. Work on YOU.

      You’ve got to work on your own stuff FIRST. If you want to get divorced, do it because you know your marriage is over and you know you can’t make it work without seriously compromising or endangering you and your son. If you want to stay married, do it because you truly love your husband and want to make your marriage work.

      Staying married just because you’re afraid to be alone will leave you miserable and unfulfilled. You will also blame your husband for your misery even though the truth was that you are also partly responsible because the only reason you stayed married was that you didn’t have the courage to leave. At the same time getting divorced just because your husband has problems and you think the grass may be greener on the other side will also likely leave you unfulfilled and full of regrets.

      Your best option right now is to keep working with your counselor and keep working on yourself. Decide what you really want. Become the best “you” that you can be. Push yourself. Grow. Learn. I promise you that, as you do, you will get clear on whether it would be best for you to stay married or get a divorce.

      Hope that helps. (And I apologize if I was too hard on you! I’m just trying to help.)

      Karen

  • Hi, I have been with my husband since we were teenagers. We had a baby when I was 15 and he was 16. It has been 30 years. About 3 years ago he told me he wasn’t in love with me but wanted to work it out, at this time he was having a texting relationship with another woman. In order to work on us the texting stopped but as of last night the love has not come back. He said he is trying but we both decided that a separation might help with him and how he feels about being apart. I am devastated but do think it is the right decision. He is not a talker it’s like pulling teeth, so I have no idea where he is going to stay and we haven’t even told our children as of yet. In the beginning all I did was want it to work and as of the past 6 months with no I love you my heart is beginning to harden yet all I can do is cry and I want to be with him. Last night he said he’s been trying but it’s just not happening. This is the first time in 30 years we have separated and I am just confused as to what I want. I wanted to tell him not to go but then we are just in the same old rut. I don’t know if he will ever come back and that scares me but might be a reality.

    • I am so sorry! I can hear how upset you are by all this.

      If your husband is going to leave, I strongly suggest you work with a coach or counselor on setting the terms of your separation. Otherwise, things are so open-ended that the “trial separation” usually ends up being more of a trial divorce than anything else. (Sorry!)

      Another thing you might want to look into is discernment counseling. That is a special form of counseling you can use to help the two of you figure out whether you want to stay married, or get a divorce. This kind of counseling is specifically designed to help couples where one (like you) mostly wants to stay married while the other one (like your husband) is seriously considering divorce. You can check out an article about it here.

      I also suggest that you look into getting a therapist for yourself. One way or another, you’re going to need support through whatever is coming your way.

      Best,

      Karen

      • Hi
        Been married 6 years and parent to a lovely little boy. My wife blindsided me week ago stating she feels we both experience love differently. When I pushed her for clarity (my bad as I regret it) she stated she doesn’t feel she can be herself and doesn’t feel attracted to me anymore. She dropped this “bomb” a few days before she left to Germany for new work. The last two years have been tough workwise for her as she has been under extraordinary strain and money has been unpredictable for her. I work a stready job, and have been keeping the household together financially and taking the full nuturing responsibility of the little one (under 4). I get she’s exhausted and stressed and but after this event, in her absense, part of me feels I spoiled her with too much time for work and took too much home responsibilities on myself. I want to try maintaining our marriage, she has never explicitly said she wants a divorce but I guess what I’d like your advice on is how does one live with the terrible, heartwrenching things said to one’s face like “I don’t want us to be man and wife intimately”, “I don’t mind if you bring another women into our house”, “I feel I can’t maintain our marriage vow’s” afterwards if you do manage to restore one’s marriage? Does one partner just need to give the other unconditional forgiveness and pin these statements down as stuff said as products of a stressed mind?

        • I don’t know your wife, so I can’t tell you whether she only said those things because she was stressed, or if there’s something else going on. What I can say is that a happily married woman will NOT say those things to her husband. Ever.

          How do you live with the terrible things she’s said? If they were only words, you can go to therapy and hopefully work things out. You can forgive. But if she actually meant what she said (and it sounds like she did) that’s harder.

          What your wife seems to be telling you is that she doesn’t want to have sex with you and that she’s okay with you having sex outside your marriage too. Is that the kind of marriage you want? Has your wife always felt this way? Have you had an open marriage? Do you want an open marriage? Those are the kinds of questions you need to be asking yourself. What’s more, if you and your wife answer those questions differently, you’ve got a problem.

          I strongly suggest that you get into marriage counseling asap and try to figure out what’s really going on in your marriage. I can’t tell you what’s up, but I can tell you that something is definitely not right. If your wife won’t go to marriage counseling, that tells you something. Given what she’s already told you, it may be that your marriage is (or soon will be) over. (Sorry!)

          I wish I had better things to tell you. I’m sorry.

          Best,

          Karen

  • Hello Karen,
    My husband and I just made the decision to separate. He wants me to go the the gym more often and says I dont take my appearance and how I look for him, as far as losing weight, seriously. He recently has lost about 50 lbs and 90 total. His 2eight has always been a big deal to him. Because we have 2 young children, a home and full time jobs, going to the gym is overwhelming and a waste of time to me. I have recently lost weight, but more so by making changes to diet.
    My issues is that, I feel like he is mean. He says things he cant take back that are really hurtful. We both work from home and so he moved everything out oou bedroom, bathroom and closet upstairs. We cannot afford for him to get his own place or anything and we don’t want to freak out the kids. We ha e been married for 10 yrs and together since I was a teenager. He is not very open to counseling. I’m not sure what to do and this is all very fresh.

    • He may not be open to counseling, but it sounds like the two of you definitely have issues you need to work on. If you can get through to him that your marriage is in serious trouble and that you need to do something about it, maybe he will come around. Or, if he won’t go to marriage counseling, maybe you can find a weekend marriage retreat, or some other program that will help the two of you work on your differences and on your communication.

      You said that his weight has always been a big deal to him. It sounds like you are sensitive about your weight too. (Don’t worry. That’s not a criticism. Most women are sensitive about their weight.) What your husband needs to understand is that when he gets on you about your weight, it makes you feel hurt and unloved. By the same token, it sounds like he wants you to know that your weight is apparently an issue for him right now. While losing weight FOR someone else rarely works, you still need to understand his point of view, too.

      It sounds like, even though the two of you are having problems, there is still a lot of hope for your relationship. But if you want to make things better, you need to work on them. Otherwise, the problems are likely to only get worse over time.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

      • Hello, I’m having problems with my husband. 1stly he has two children from his previous relationship & I have a 1 child from my previous relationship too. We were happy before getting married but since we are married there’s no happiness in our marriage. We argue a lot & saying terrible things to each other. We decided to buy his mom the house, but now his ex girlfriend suddenly she’s friends with his mom. My child cannot visit us coz whenever she’s visiting he becomes so moody & treat her like she not welcomed. I want out this marriage but I don’t know where to start. I have compromised a lot by letting my child be raised by my mom & now I can see she needs me as she’s a teenager. I’m so miserable in this marriage nothing seems to work at all. I’m beginning to hate him.

        • Before you really start to hate your husband, you need to deal with your emotions, and your marriage.

          I suggest that you get a therapist/counselor. That will help you deal with your emotions. As for your marriage, you need to decide if you’re truly done. If you are, then you need to start working step by step towards your divorce.

          It’s understandable that you don’t know where to start. Divorce changes everything. There is a lot to it. Working with a divorce coach would be a great place to start. If you want to know the legal steps in divorce you can talk to an attorney. Unfortunately, no attorney is going to tell you everything you need to know about divorce.

          That’s why I created the Divorce Road Map 2.0. It’s a simple online program that takes you through the steps you need to go through in order to get divorced. That way you can make a plan for your future and prepare yourself for what lies ahead. If you’re interested, you can check it out HERE.

          Whatever you do, I encourage you to keep your daughter’s best interests in mind. It sounds like she needs you.

          Hang in there!

          Best,

          Karen

    • Hello. Thanks for your comment here. You really illuminated what many struggle with (facing pressure from their spouses). I’m a journalist in NYC working on a piece on this very subject. If you might like to be interviewed or have questions please reach out at [email protected]. Thanks so much.

  • Hi Karen…I need help. My wife is in a emotional affair with a man she first loved when she was 19-25. She saved herself until she was 21 and he was her first. He gave (what he thought ) was a clasindauph ring but instead was a pre-engagement ring and hope chest. After they broke up when she was 25, she took 4 months off and married a man for 24 years and suffered a emotional marriage which ended in divorce. After taking a year off, she met me…it was great….we didn’t want to leave each other and got married after 12 years together. We live at different ends of the state. we have been together for 18 years. Well after 4 years of my wife having major medical issues..me having a nervous breakdown… the death her mom (her only friend) and me of my dad plus me having minor medical issues, she friended him on face book and now he’s back in her life. He has a girlfriend of 9 years but has written my wife a lengthy letter telling her he loves her and to sell her house and leave me her husband. At first she said she was going to commit to our marriage but after 3 months she still texts him, calls him and face books him, lies about doing theses things and doing a lot of it right in front of me. She has new health issues and they seem to be getting worse. She wanted time part when she told me but I could only take 2 weeks. After 3 months I thought we were getting better but now she wanted a 2 month separation to try and figure things out. I was going to do it but decided instead to initiate divorce proceedings. Am I wrong …I tried for 3 months but she did not give me any sign she was trying and she still contacted him with the most recently going out to dinner with him. Yes she could have gone out with him to discuss things…but photos of him started gaining placement in her bedside table. And she will not go to counseling. Did I do the right thing …shooting one over the bow to hopefully show her …I love her and she needs to change or come back to our marriage..Thank you

    • Oh my! I can hear how much you’re conflicted. Here’s the thing though: it’s not my place to tell you whether you were right or wrong to file for divorce. It’s your life. The only person who knows whether what you did was right or wrong for you is YOU!

      I do know one thing though. “shooting one over the bow (ie filing for divorce) … to hopefully show her I love her and she needs to change…” usually doesn’t go well. (Sorry!)

      I know so many people who thought that, by filing for divorce they would save their marriage. But, that’s not how this works.

      Filing for divorce is HUGE! It doesn’t send a message of “I love you” OR “I want our marriage to work.” The message it sends is “I’m done. It’s over. I want to end our marriage.”

      Can you get your wife back now since you’ve already filed? I don’t know. Maybe. If you do, is she likely to end her emotional affair? Again, I don’t know. But, if she doesn’t, where are you going? (… unless you don’t mind if your wife is having an emotional affair with someone else!)

      Honestly, with so much having happened between you and your wife, your best shot at repairing your marriage would be to get some professional help. See if you can get your wife to go to marriage counseling. That’s really your best shot at pulling your marriage out of the jaws of divorce.

      • I’d like to offer my experience on this for what it’s worth. I am now the ex-wife of a man that used filing for divorce to save our marriage. it backfired horribly. so much life happened to us. I had been a stay at home mom throughout his 12 jobs in 10 years. we had recently moved to a new state to be near my terminally ill mother and he wanted to quit job #12 which was our only source of income. that was the straw. he began escalating at home, blaming me for all our troubles. my individual therapist educated me on emotional abuse and as I drew boundaries and took care of myself he escalated more and our home became a tense and unsafe place for me. he got us into marriage therapy but i was pretty much already ‘done’ numb from pain and his history of abuse. marriage counselor drew up terms for a separation and we made it 10 weeks until he got so scared of not having control that he filed to try and force me to commit to him one way or the other. he made unreasonable parenting time demands and it became highly contentious as he put more energy into fighting for his ‘rights’ than working on himself and his actions of filing was THE act that put a headstone on our marriage. any bit of me that had wanted to work on things shattered and the results have been so sad for our whole family. he got everything he wanted but at great cost financially emotionally and relationally. At the start of our mediation he even said “I don’t want this divorce. I just want you in marriage counseling with me.” too late. his actions told me everything I needed to know. instead of doing his own work and individual counseling he was trying to control me and his selfish proposals repulsed me.. I can’t live like that. we were a high conflict divorce and it’s still bad as coparents.

        • I’m so sorry to hear all that, but I appreciate you sharing your story.

          I wish I could tell you that the road ahead will get easier. The truth is that, once your kids are grown, it probably will. But, unfortunately, peoples’ personalities don’t fundamentally change simply because they’re divorced. If you’re married to an abusive person, when you divorce, you will be divorcing an abusive person. Then, as you know, you will have to co-parent with an abusive person. All of that can be incredibly hard.

          What’s positive is that at least you’re not still married to this man. In time, things will get better for you. If you were still with him, that probably wouldn’t be true.

          Hang in there!

          I wish you the best.

          Karen

  • Hello 🙂 Thank you for a great article and all of your responses.
    I am not married bit me and my partner have been together for 7 years, we met when I was 17 and he was 22. We had a whirl wind of a relationship which started full of partying and bad drug habbits, after a few years he had a break down and was hospitalised. During this time, I was still involved in drug use and became homeless after he left to stay with his father after said breakdown because I couldnt support him. After 6 months we had both cheated him a short alcohol fueled one night stand and mind a drug fueled 2 week after. Once ended and I realised how much I missed him, I left our home town became sober and moved to live with him and his dad a few months later I became pregnant. We were happy, well as happy as we knew with our mental health issues and addiction problems. We got our own place and where going along fine. 3 years down the line we both were still over coming our addiction issues, him drinking too much and me smoking weed after one particularly horrific fight we had on a get away together while my mum was with our daughter we decided to stop substances all together we stopped drink and smoking, but we were still struggling getting along.
    We love eachother dearly we have been through so much together and understand eachother so deeply, but we were still arguing everyday, my attraction to him has gone, we dont respect eachother like we should and its impacting our daughter and there is a feeling of resentment built up towards him which he doesn’t deserve, but there s this feeling that we got together when I was so young there is o much I dont know and understand about myself. After a particularly hard week with some horrid arguements that our daughter sadly witnessed I went to go see an old friend of mine, I got intoxicated and ended up having an affair, when I got home I felt alive and appreciated and I was alot kinded to my other half, I thought I xould just carry on with my relationship and maybe I just needed to get something our od my system. I couple of weeks later I end up going back to my old friends not wanting to ruin our friendship over a stupid encounter and my other half wanted a weekend to himself and it happened again. Instead of feeling elated this time I had a horrible pit grow in my stomach that I needed to end my relationship. Not to be this this friend as I know we are not suited at all but because I was unhappy and I am causing my partner pain. I havent told him about it and I dont think im going to, it will cause him so much anguish and play on his paranoia and other mental health issues but im considering asking for a separation at least for now. I love him so and the idea of not having him there everyday and not having holidays with him terrifies me and makes me sick but im unhappy im making him unhappy and my daughter unhappy. I think sometime appart both of us find a job so we have some security and not stuck in this endless loop doing the same things everyday both of us depending on eachother and never making changes, we could work. I believe I need to find myself learn about what its like to be a woman now not the girl I was when we met. I want to grow old with this man but I feel like I need to learn what its like to be me. I dont want to hurt him, he s a good man. We both jist have some aerious issues on our own and I dont think we re helping each other. Any insight would be fantastic, im at a loss and this is consuming my thoughts.

    • It sounds like what you’re doing isn’t making you, your partner, or your daughter happy. You are right in saying that something needs to change.

      Spending time apart can be good, but it is best done in the form of a true trial separation. That means writing up rules about what you’re each going to do and not do while you live apart. Without rules, you will both just end up doing things that the other person doesn’t like and making your relationship even worse.

      I strongly suggest you get professional help to set up your trial separation, and maybe even do a little relationship counseling as well. I know you said that both you and your partner don’t have jobs right now, but many therapists work on a sliding scale, or are covered by health insurance (if you have that).

      If you can’t afford anything right now, then your first priority should probably be to get a job. That will give you the flexibilty to get the help you need and start sorting through all of this one step at a time.

      Finally, if you really want to change yor life, stay sober. Stop drinking and stop doing drugs for awhile. Just doing that much will help you feel better. It will also help you clear your head and will improve your coping skills.

      I know this is a lot. Repairing your relationship (or moving on in peace, whichever you choose) will take time. But, you will get through this.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hello,
    My husband and I have recently decided to separate. We’ve had problems with him being faithful from the start but when he’s good he’s the sweetest nicest gentleman. He was involved in a bad wreck last year which left him particially disabled and with a brain injury.. don’t get me wrong he can still walk, talk, drive, and everything but he’s a lot slower and less independent. Well, earlier this year I caught him sending nudes to another woman.. I let it go but then a couple of weeks later he got aggressive then promised he’d quit drinking because it triggers him. He has stopped. All was going well then earlier last month I caught him messaging another girl and trying to get drugs. I tried to brush it off this time and stick around.. but the longer I did the angrier and more heartless I felt. When we decided to live apart from each other I was the one who was more for it, he still wants and thinks we can work it out.. but I’m done. Done taking care of him, done with these repeats. I’m young and I deserve to be happy but I’m scared to rush into divorce And regret it later.

    • No one says you have to rush into a divorce. You can try a trial separation, like what is outlined in this article. Try it for 3 – 6 months and see what happens. See how you feel then.

      Also, right now you’re going to be going through a ton of different emotions. Your feelings will likely go back and forth many times before all is said and done. So you might want to consider getting a therapist to help you sort through all of this. That will really help.

      Karen

  • Karen,
    I really liked this article it is very straightforward and honest. My marriage of 20 years is quite dead. On this my wife and I agree. Over the past 6 years she has withdrawn from the marriage due to stress with kids (11, 13 and 17), an aging mother who requires care, unemployment and now a high stress job and menopause. During this time she unbeknownst to me began using vibrators for masturbation. I view this as further sign of withdrawal. She feels this is her personal matter and none of my business and that I am invading her privacy. I do not believe there has been any adultery in our marriage but the more she has withdrawn the more I have behaved like an adolescent jerk. To be honest I don’t know which came first her withdrawal or me being ass (she would say the latter). To my defense I have felt alone, abandoned, neglected and that our marriage was not even in the top ten of her priorities. This and other issues caused me anxiety and depression for which I have been treated. We did try counseling a few years back and while this did help her efforts were minimal in fact she did not attend our second to last session and so I chose to end sessions. Recently as the stress of day to day interaction has become unbearable I made the decision to not have my happiness and sanity be a function of whether my wife likes me or not. This decision alone has provided me with great relief. We had very good honest conversation where I explained this and suggested counseling. She is also at a tipping point but feels we are “beyond” counseling. We both feel a separation is a good idea. I would like the marriage to work out but have no desire to be in a marriage alone. I get the feeling she really wants a first step to divorce. In our area a short term lease is expensive and not kid friendly and I am not sure it is worth it. I would prefer at least initially an in home separation with counseling. Do you have thoughts on an in home separations or the situation in general?

    • Obviously, in home separations are much trickier than a trial separation where you and your spouse live in different homes. But, you’ve got to deal with your financial realities as they are.

      I strongly suggest that you work with a divorce coach or a therapist to work out the terms of your trial separation. They definitely should be very clear, and in writing.

      You are going to have to divide up the house (on paper at least). Your agreement should clearly state who has access to which parts of the house, and when you have that access. You should put down clear rules about when each of you has time with the kids, and what your responsibilities are with respect to the kdis. You need to clearly lay out your finances – who pays for what and what you can each spend money on.

      If doing an in-house trial separation gets too hairy (and it can!) you also might want to check out discernment counseling. That is limited scope counseling that is specifically designed to help you and your spouse figure out whether you want to stay married and work on your marriage, or get divorced. That way, rather than spending countless hours trying to come up with an intricate set of rules that each of you must abide by during your trial separation, you can focus either on repairing your marriage or, if that’s not possible, then figuring out how to divorce with the least amount of damage to all of you.

      Hope that helps.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    My wife said those dreaded words “I don’t feel the same way about you, I love and care for you but I am not in love with you anymore” this was just this past Sunday 9/30/2018. I made all the stupid mistakes as a man that I possibly in reaction to that. She does want a Divorce, but there’s conflict in her, I can see in her eyes and actions. Since Sunday we continued sleeping in the same bed up until I kept pushing on Wednesday by slipping a note in fer bag.
    My wife has been dealing with a lot in her own family being let down and hurt, and I did not help the situation by doing the same. Honestly I know I been jealous, insecure, and protective which sounds like her biggest complaint, she wants freedom. Well I recognize that now, I am just so stupid to realize that now. I am trying to buy some time for her to think and rationalized everything so I offered a Trial Separation, up till the end of this year. At the moment she hasn’t gotten back to me, but tonight we are going to talk. I really do love my wife, I know I am still in love with her and I want to give her the space she needs. I have learned a lot this past week and I know my errors. Right now she is really closed off, but last night I saw a glimpse of my old wife, we were talking and I made her laugh, I know she is still in there and she is hurt and angry not only with me but with other family members and friends. I know that I may be the main problem but I feel I am the fall guy and taking the main hit. Since I could be the only she can actually get rid off. She cant get rid of her own family. So I am feeeling a bit desperate. Please any advise?

    • Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. But I get a lot of comments on this blog and, since I’m only one person, sometimes it takes me awhile to get to all of them.

      Hopefully by now your wife has come around a little bit. What’s positive is that you see the role that you played in this whole situation. That’s important. Of course, she played a role in getting your marriage to this point too. What’s important is that both of you recognize and own the parts you each played. Taking responsibility is key if you want to have a chance at putting things bck together.

      If you are going to do a trial separation, I strongly suggest that you put some rules around it. You want to define how long it will be, what each of you can and can’t do during the trial separation period, and how you will handle the finances of all this. A divorce coach or a therapist can help you work through all of this and write up a trial separation agreement. Doing that right from the start will help give your trial separation the greatest chances for being only a trial separation, and not a dress rehearsal for divorce.

      also, I don’t know if your wife is up for marriage counseling, but that, too can help. Even if your wife won’t go for that, you may want to get your own counselor or therapist right now. It sounds like you’ve got a lot going on. A good thereapist can make a world of difference right now.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Hello Karen,

    I ran into this article while doing some Google searching to find out what options I have at this point. I’ve been married for 18 years now, and we have 2 children, one having special needs (although his needs are pretty minor). Things have been rough since before we were dating… but I suffer from low self esteem (weight issues). We go through a cycle – we get to the point that we think something needs to change, that maybe we need to separate or divorce. My wife tells me that she won’t change, she won’t go to a counselor because it won’t do any good (we have already tried 3 times), and the latest is that I am 100% responsible for her happiness. We can come together on things for the kids… in fact if we don’t focus on our relationship we get along just great. As soon as there isn’t something going in there, things fall apart significantly.

    Things really kicked off when I had gastric bypass. My wife doesn’t support me with anything let alone bypass surgery, and after 6 months of evaluations, she showed up to the final appointment and told the surgeon she thought this was dumb. Surgeon said he wouldn’t operate, right then and there. Ultimately, it did happen, I lost a lot of weight, and we were really at odds (my self esteem rose and I was tired of just living with the pain), talked about divorce (which she didn’t want). At the end of the cycle though, I give up fighting, figure I’ll just live with things, and we go on our unhappy way until it happens again. Because of it, I gained all my weight back since I was tired of arguing about when I eat, what I eat, and getting time to go to the gym, and I stayed thinking it would be the best thing for the kids.

    Right now I am seeing a counselor to see what I can do on my side. I have started going back to the gym, doing the right stuff again, as I found motivation in a friend to help me start. It has caused tension.. not as much as before, but some, but all of the other problems still exist.. but my wife doesn’t seem to know what she wants when we talk about separation/divorce. We are at the stage where we are both tired of things… last argument one of us was going to move out, but I told her to wait until I heard back from my counselor. At this point, my counselor suggested talking through the options we have together and see what we can do. Tried that, have the battle scars to prove it…

    Anyway.. that conversation is coming up in the next few days for the hundredth time, and I am to the point I am thinking it isn’t worth going through all of this again. I don’t know how to break out of this cycle. We get closer to splitting every time.. and there isn’t much room to do anything else that I can see. I can’t fix this one sided, and she won’t see an individual counselor for herself let alone a marriage counselor (been after her for over a year to do that), so I am trying to figure out what my next steps are, or how I can break the cycle. I know she is going to say again that she wants to try, that things can’t change overnight… but every time I agree, nothing happens, nothing changes, and she refuses to see anyone. I just want the pain to stop, and get to a point I can stop blaming myself for the situation (low self esteem thing again, I blame myself because I am the one that voices my opinion when things are not working). If you have any thoughts or recommendations, I would greatly appreciate it!

    • Okay, thoughts and recommendations.

      If you want to break out of the cycle you have to decide to make a change. Period. I know that sounds simplistic, but that is really what it’s going to take. No more excuses. No more back and forth. Make a decision to change and then stand by it. (I know. Easier said than done! But, as Tony Robbins says, “It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.”)

      It sounds like you really want a divorce, but you don’t want the conflict that comes with fighting with your wife. That’s understandable. But, as long as you let your wife’s behavior control your decisions, you will stay stuck on the merry go round that you’ve been riding for so long.

      The ONLY person you can control is yourself. The ONLY person you can change is yourself. If you wait until your wife changes, or your wife goes to counseling, or your wife fixes your marriage, you’re going to be waiting a long time. Plus, it’s not likely that much will happen.

      On the other hand, if you work on changing yourself, your marriage will change, too. Your relationship will change. It has to change, because you will be different. (You may not LIKE how your wife responds to those changes, but, again, that’s not something you can control.)

      It sounds like you’ve already started changing. Doing gastric bypass surgery was a step forward in taking care of yourself and doing something to change your life. That’s awesome! But you’ve got more steps to take.

      Get yourself into counseling. Get yourself back in shape. Focus on making yourself better and stronger. Work on your self-esteem. It’s not a fixed commodity. You can improve your self esteem. Do that. It will take time. It will take work. But the more you work on yourself the more you will have the tools it takes to make the pain stop and break out of the cycle you’re in.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,

    My husband and I have been married for 3 years, 8 years together total. Before we got married, I found numerous inappropriate texts and pictures to other women, but he never actually cheated on me physically.
    He told me how sorry he was, and did make an effort to go to counseling- where the counselor told me at the session that I sat in on, that men often think that hiding behind a screen and sending inappropriate messages is not a form of cheating.
    Along with the messages I have found throughout the beginning years, he has lied over and over about money and has often hidden things from me. He has been arrested and charged with a felony and had to do probabtion over a money situation.
    Fast forward to our life today, I just recently found out that he had made a major decision behind my back, and now has a line of credit wracked up to thousands of dollars because he wanted to prove he was “responsible” and pay it off himself. However, me finding out about it starting with him lying about it in the first place- and it was an elaborate lie to myself and my father, who was brought into the situation to give us advice.
    I told him the night that I found out he had been lying (while he was STILL trying to lie even though I had contacted the person this was all about), that I think we ought to separate, because this past year alone has just been awful. Along with this money situation, my mother died in June at the age of 58 and he wasn’t there for me to emotionally support me, or our children- whatsoever.
    When I told him that I think we should separate, he just acts like I never said anything and that we’re still good and happy.
    Is this normal for someone to act like they’ve done nothing wrong and act like there is nothing wrong in their marriage when they keep lying and keeping things from their spouse? Especially after I’ve told him I want to temporarily separate and he just pretends I never said anything.

    • Yes, and no.

      Is it normal for people to act like nothing is wrong even when they know something is terribly wrong? Yes. Absolutely. Denial – the act of purposely ignoring what you don’t want to see or admit – happens all the time. And it can be wickedly strong.

      Is it normal to repeatedly lie to your spouse about money and make major decisions behind his/her back? Not in a healthy relationship.

      I wonder, though, if you’re asking yourself the right question. Asking, “Is this normal?” keeps you focused on your husband’s behavior.

      A better question for you right now, given all that has happened, might be, “Am I willing to continue to put up with this behavior?” and “Is this the kind of marriage I want?” If the answer to those questions is “No,” (as I suspect it is), then your next question will probably be, “What am I going to do about all this?”

      Asking THOSE questions will start moving you forward.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    Thank you for the great article!

    Me and my husband have been married for 4 years and been together for 6 years and now we are separated for one and half month. A few days ago he say he wants to date again and try to work on our relationship. But I am not sure if I should do it because I can’t see there is anything change.

    My husband is a good person and treat me very good. Our issue is that: He lost three jobs after we graduated from college 5 years ago. He is smart but he just doesn’t want to try hard on his career. Currently he is employed. Another thing is that as we grow apart. We do not have too many things in common. I am outgoing person who really wants to have a health life style and try to work out regularly. But he always eat unhealthy and sit in sofa playing his video game or watching TV.

    I have issue too. Not just him. I got upset easily. Most time is about his eating habits and his job. And I did not give him enough support when he has difficulties in his life. That’s one of reason I want to give it another chance for our relationship because I feel as a wife, I did not do good job during our marriage.

    I don’t know what should I do. Both of us went through the suffering of getting separated. After I moved out, I feel reliefed. I just don’t want get back together and go through the same thing again.

    • I can understand your position completely. Once you’ve gotten the courage to separate, and you’ve dealt with the pain that causes, going back into the “same old” marriage isn’t very appealing. The question is, will you be going back to the same situation if you go do get back together with your husband?

      If, while you are separated, the two of you actually work on your marriage – probably with a good marriage counselor – then you have a chance at changing your relationship now. If you also take the time to work on yourself, you will grow and you will change. That, too, will change your marriage.

      Will all of that change help make your marriage the relationship that you want? I don’t know. It might.

      But one thing is certain: if you don’t actively work on yourself and on your marriage, there is very little chance that your marriage will become any better or different all by itself. (It would be beautiful if relationships could magically “fix” themselves, but I’ve never seen that happen in real life.) Unforutnatly, change takes a lot of work.

      Without anything changing, if you go back to your husband, you probably will be going back to exactly the same situation that you left. (Sure, things might be better for the first few weeks. But unless you’ve done the work you need to change and grow on your own, you will quickly slip back into the same old patterns again.)

      In the end, of course, the decision is yours. I can’t tell you what to do. But I wish you the best no matter what you decide.

      Karen

  • Hello Karen,
    I’m in a mess. I checked out of my marriage several years ago. Divorce is highly frowned upon in my family, so I couldn’t bring myself to actually leave my husband. We sleep in different rooms and are nothing more than roommates at this point. I met a fantastic man at work that I fell madly in love with and ended up having an affair with him. I tried to leave my husband at this point, but he found out about the affair and is now threatening to tell my family about it if I decide to move forward with the divorce. We are in discernment counseling now as he is 100% against divorce and I am 100% for it. The only thing keeping me trapped is the fear that he will tell all of my family. I feel like that’s something he should let me handle. I’ve told the counselor and him that I only stay to try and calm him down from telling, but he’s convinced that we are not getting divorced. Is there a type of counseling that helps with our situation? I don’t feel like this is helping as we are making zero progress.

    • Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no counseling that specifically deals with blackmail. I realize that’s a strong word, but from what you’ve written, that’s exactly what’s going on here. Your husband is keeping you in your marriage by threatening to tell your family something you DON’T want them to know. Clearly, that doesn’t make for much of a marriage. But, the bigger question is: What are you going to do about it?

      I know you proablby don’t want to hear this (sorry!) but, if you’re 100% sure you want a divorce, and you don’t want your husband to hold you hostage by threatening to tell your family about your affair, there’s only one logical thing you can do: Tell them yourself first.

      Yes, I understand that sucks. It’s not a great choice. But right now you are giving your husband all of the power in your relationship. You are allowing him to control you because you are so afraid of what he will do if you tell him you’re getting a divorce. Once you face your fear and actually tell your family what you would prefer that they don’t know, and you get the divorce they don’t want you to get, you take your power back.

      Will this be hard? Yes! Absolutely! Will your family frown on you? Maybe. (Okay, probably.) You can’t control their reactions. But, if you want your life back, you need to take control back of you. The only way to do that is to do the one thing you’ve been putting off doing for years.

      I know this will be hard. It will be terrifying! (Sorry!) But if you want your freedom, that’s your price.

      Karen

      PS Just out of curiousity, whose life are you living: yours or your family’s?

  • Hi Karen,
    Thank you for such and awesome article that i somehow came up on.
    I have never wrote on one of this before because i have always been afraid to, but here is a little of my story. My husband and i are high school sweethearts. We been together on and off 14 years and in Nov we will be married 5 years with two boys. Here is the thing i think i married my husband for the wrong reasons, but i thought i could work past all of that. Well he has anger problems bad, he use to throw things be physical with me and just talk to me like im a nobody. He is very outgoing and out spoken and i am laid back so anything he do or say i think i have to go with that’s just how good he talk, but actions dont match up. He is very jealous, has came to my jobs just to see who i would work beside has to know word for word of what i talk about to someone of the opposite sex, til i couldn’t perform at my job like i was suppose to. In this time i decided to change jobs with less benefits and less promotions just to make him happy. He has been with and without jobs since we been married, just has no motivation to provide for his family, wants me, my parents, and his parents to do everything and feel sorry for him like money grow on trees. He has a smoking problem that i just cant accept which is a problem. He thinks because he is not blacking my eye or choking me to death that him pushing and shoving me is ok. He thinks its ok that he tells me that if i dont get away from him he going to end up in jail or hurting. He just want me to brush that off. When he get upset with me he calls me out my name and then try to say this didnt come from him thats its my fault want me to feel guilty of his actions. We went to counseling i cried the entire time because i felt like the blame and target from him and my pastor. Well he promised me after then that he wouldnt get physical and cause no more emotional abuse and he didnt stick to his word. This seems like a repeated cycle and i just cant open back up because im having to walk on eggshells on top of him thinking i have step outside my marriage never have. I want out he dont, now he trying to be sweet and do this and that and i cant accept this stuff. I just want to do whats best for my kids now at my breaking point. i had a great up growing he didnt and he told me thats a problem, i dont see how thats a problem my parents were great role models, I am at a stand still and dont know what to do.

    • You are 100% right: this is a repeated cycle. Unfortunately, unless you get help, or you do something to break the cycle of violence, it will happen over and over again.

      I’m sure your husband is trying to be sweet now. He may even mean what he says. But there’s a pattern here. It’s a pattern that has been repeating for a long time. Those kinds of patterns don’t just magically go away.

      I strongly suggest you contact a local domestic violence organization. Whether your husband is physcially abusing you at the moment or not, you still would be wise to start learning about how domestic violence works, and what you can do to break the cycle of violence in your life. I also suggest that you start seeing a counselor yourself. S/he can help guide you through all the craziness that you’re going through.

      Finally, know that you’re not alone. You are not the only one who has had to face situations like this. You also don’t have to go through this alone. Get a counselor, get support. Get the help you need. It can make a huge difference AND it can help you move from your “stand still” into a more productive and happy life.

      Good luck to you.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    My husband informed me yesterday that he is not happy anymore and he hasn’t been in awhile. We have been together for almost 19 years and have a 15 year old daughter. We get along great, rarely argue and things have never been better in the bedroom. He said we don’t have enough in common and he isn’t feeling fulfilled anymore. Also that he needs to be honest with himself as to our compatability. I’m just so confused because the last three months have been amazing but he said it was a last ditch effort to see if he could feel different. He is really into the gym and fitness and I am not. I’m overweight and struggle with diets often. I recently lost 20 lbs but he says he feels guilty asking me to change. I tried telling him that he isn’t and that his words are motivating for me to push myself. I don’t think that means we can’t be together. He said he doesn’t want to try counselling because he feels the way he feels and speaking to someone won’t change that. I’m a wreck! I’m still so in love with him, more now then ever. He is wanting to stay at the house for now because he says he needs time to think but is asking for some space. I’m so confused by that because it makes me think there is hope when deep down I know he is just trying to prepare us both for what is to come. We don’t have a lot of extra money and paying for two places seems impossible. Do you think I should let him think forever, or suggest a trail separation?

    • The first thing you should suggest is marriage counseling. If he won’t go, then you might suggest discernment counseling. It is different than marriage counseling and is limited in time and scope. Many people who don’t want to go to marriage counseling find discernment counseling particularly helpful. You can learn more about it here.

      I also think you would do well to start working with a counselor yourself. What you’re going through is difficult and confusing. The more help you can get, teh better. (Plus that may be covered by your health insurance, so that makes it even better!)

      As for whether you should ask for a trial separation or not, that depends on you. Like I say in this article, unless there are clear expectations and firm rules set up about what the purpose of the trial separation is and how long it will last, it often is just the first step toward divorce. Of course, that may be where you’re at any way. (Sorry!)

      I am also going to suggest something a little crazy-sounding. Instead of focusing on what you should do for your husband, you might want to start focusing on what YOU want, and what you can do for yourself. I know that sounds selfish. But, here’s the deal.

      The ONLY person you can control is you. The more you work on yourself, and the better and stronger you become, the better life will be for you and for your daughters. If, by getting stronger and happier and more confident in yourself, that leads your husband to come back to you – awesome! (Although by that time you might not want him back! I’ve seen that happen many times, too.) But, even if it doesn’t, you will still be happier. You will still be in a better place.

      The bottom line is that if you want a trial separation for yourself, to give yourself time to think and work on you, great. (That is, assuming you can afford it!) If you want to do it because YOU have had enough and don’t want to give him more time, that’s okay. But if you only want to suggest a trial separation because you’re trying to get HIM to reconsider his decision, that strategy usually backfires. All you end up doing is giving him an easier way to leave. (Sorry!)

      Hope that helps.

      Karen

    • Hi Amanda. Thanks for your comment here. You really illuminated what many struggle with (facing pressure from their spouses). I’m a journalist in NYC working on a piece on this very subject. If you might like to be interviewed or have questions please reach out at [email protected]. Thanks so much.

  • Hi Karen,
    I have a situation for you. I have severe PTSD from my deployments. I have been getting better but I still have violent nightmares. Nightmares where I am kicking and punching. Most nights I don’t remember them but my wife tells me I have been hitting her in my sleep. I have been getting help and have been taking meds to help, well are suppose to help. Last week my wife said she couldn’t do it anymore she asked for a divorce. After talking to her for awhile I convinced her to just do a trial separation. I keep bringing up me sleeping on the couch till things getting better but she doesn’t want that but I have been doing it anyway. Since I have been sleeping on the couch things seem to be getting better but she still wants the separation. She says she needs to do this for her and for me. We don’t argue or fight we still kiss and say our love yous. I am just really confused, If she loves me, then why do this? We are planning on moving closer to my job and even today she suggested that we move next door to each other if we can. I just don’t know how to read this. Does she want to do this to help her or she just want to be on her own? I don’t know. Please help.

    • Women are complicated! Without knowing her at all, I can’t really tell you what she wants. But I will venture a guess that there’s a whole lot more to this situation than just the fact that you have violent nightmares.

      Is your wife willing to try again, or is she done? Again, I can’t tell you. The truth is, SHE might not even know for sure. (I told you. Women are complicated!) But one way to find out is to work with a marriage counselor or therapist and see if you can get to the bottom of what’s really going on. I also suggest that you work with a counselor yourself for your PTSD. Medication is fine, but if you want to actually get past your PTSD, you need more than just medication. You need to talk to someone and work through your trauma so that you can heal.

      Will going to counseling save your marriage? Obviously, I can’t say. But even if it doesn’t, you will gain valuable insights that can help you in your life, and in every relationship you have.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Good morning, my wife and I have been together for 5 years and married for 2 years now. Unfortunately our relationship has taken a toll on the both of us. We love each other very much but for whatever reason we’re not able to communicate well which is leading to a lot of unhappiness for the both of us. We’ve been unhappy with the way our marriage has been going for over a year now. We’ve tried fixing it ourselves but was unable, she said she’s unhappy with herself and even though she loves me, she’s not able to give me the happiness that she once gave me because she’s struggling with her own happiness. Two days ago we agreed to have a short separation because us trying to make it work in the same house haven’t worked for over a year. She’ll be moving in with her parents and I’ll stay home with our 2 years old son. We agreed to get professional help separately and together every week. We both agreed that we don’t want a divorce but she feels like her leaving for 2-3 months will help. My question is, while we’re apart, what is OK for us to do with each other? I suggested to her that we should talk daily, we agreed to meet us on Saturdays for therapy and on Sundays just for her and I to talk. We both agreed to this, I also suggested that her and I should go on couple of dates while separated but she doesn’t think that’s a good idea. She said she doesn’t want to give out too much hope and mislead me. We both agreed that we’re going into this with the hop that she’ll return back home in January. But when I brought up the idea of us going on dates while separated she seems a little reluctant. She said she wants us to focus more on our issues, start making changes, start seeing some results/improvement before we can date again. Was I wrong for wanting dates and things such as that while we’re separated and trying to figure this out? I love her very much, she said the same about me and I hate that we’re at this point. Also what can I do to not focus soo much in the pain and suffering from not having her home with me and our son? I’m really struggling with that.

    • First of all, congratulations for getting into individual and couples therapy! Getting help at this point is the best thing you can do for your relationship.

      As for whether you’re right for wanting what you want, this isn’t a question of right and wrong. It’s a question of whether both of you are able to see and hear each other, and respect each other’s needs. It’s about communication. And it’s about love.

      I know you want to spend more time with your wife. I get that, and it’s beautiful. But if she needs more space right now and doesn’t want to go on dates, you need to respect her wishes and give her what she has asked for. Why? … Because it’s not only about space. It’s also about allowing her to feel heard. She said she doesn’t want to date right now. The more you push to get her to date you, the more she feels like you’re not hearing what she says. The more you push her to be closer to you, the more you are actually pushing her away. (Sorry!)

      I know that being in this place is hard. It hurts. But if you use this time to work on yourself, rather than focusing just on her, you will ultimately be better off in the long run. Paradoxically, by giving her the space to think, you also give her the space to come back. (Of course, there are no guarantees that she will. But smothering her will only drive her away for good.)

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    My husband and I have been married for 9 yrs, together for 19. This summer my husband suggested we separate. Although mutually unhappy, I am having a really tough time settling into this new life. Not because I struggle with change but because he made this decision for us, without me. Back in the spring, our relationship had reached a point where something needed to change. So I asked him if he’d go back to marital counseling with me. He declined, saying he just didn’t know where he’d find the time or energy. Knowing I wasn’t ready to pull the plug, I remained in individual counseling, trying to figure out how I was going to “cope” within the unhappy marriage. Months had gone by and my husband agreed that we were both miserable and he couldn’t continue living way we were so he decided to follow the advice of our former marital therapist, that marital counseling wouldn’t be beneficial without my husband doing individual therapy. For the next few months, he saw his therapist weekly but became incredibly distant and he requested I’d give him space to focus on the choices had made in his life and his unhappiness. I gave him weeks of space and he took a weekend away to himself, visiting his brother out of state but I soon grew impatient and demanded an update. In July he finally opened up and I learned that the time he was taking for himself, was actually time he was using to build up the courage and decide that HE wanted to separate. And now, I’m dealing with the reality that our relationship was indeed as bad as I thought and too damaged to repair (at least according to him) but I am also SO angry that we didn’t make this decision together. After reading your article, “discernment counseling” is probably exactly what we needed to smoothly initiate this difficult process of separation. I had originally proposed we NOT separate for the sake of our 14 yr old son but instead continue to discover the areas in our lives that make us unhappy and where we would like change but he had already made up his mind that separation is necessary. Because he made this life changing decision without me, I’m struggling with feelings of rejection and abandonment. Since July, I’ve been asking my husband for clarity in what this separation looks like to him and what he hopes to achieve from it. He says “space to decide if being apart is really what he wants”. It has taken 3 months of conversations to figure out a plan for this separation. He has been staying at his grandfather’s now for 3 weeks and totally agree with your article, that rules and boundaries need to be established. Today, he tells me he doesn’t like being asked his whereabouts and he wants space. That he is not dating and will not disrespect me so his whereabouts should not be of my concern and he doesn’t want the responsibility of having to report.
    My question is: besides financial agreements and co-parenting, is being separated like being single? Dating aside, during a separation, should spouses no longer expect the common obligations of each other, like how and where the other is spending their time? Does separation MEAN we’re both free from the restraints of marriage?? I’m trying to learn what our new roles are, temporary or not.

    • The interesting thing about trial separations is that the parties to them make the rules. So if you both decide that you are free from the restraints of marriage during this time, then you are. If you decide you’re not, then you’re not. But, here’s the critical part: Either you agree on the rules, or you don’t. If you don’t agree, like it or not, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.

      You can’t force your husband to agree on anything. (On the flipside, he can’t force you to do anything either!)

      Just being realistic, if he decides not to tell you where he’s spending his time, what are you going to do about it? (Mind you, I don’t mean to suggest that letting him do what he wants is easy or fun. It’s NOT!) But the simple truth is that YOU don’t get to decide what HE does. (Sorry!)

      Now here’s the good part: You get to decide what YOU do, and how you RESPOND to what he does. And THAT is where your true power lies.

      I know you feel like your husband took away your decision-making rights in your marriage. The truth is: he did. But another truth is that the same thing happens in most divorces. While having both people decide together to end a marriage together is ideal, most of the time it doesn’t happen that way. One person decides the marriage is over and the other person has to deal with it. So, now you’ve got to deal with your husband’s decision.

      How do you do that? You do it by deciding what YOU want, and how YOU will allow yourself to be treated. You do it by working on yourself, and becoming more of the person you want to be. You do it by deciding what you want out of this trial separation, AND by deciding what it will take for you to work on your marriage, and what it will take to end it (if that’s what you choose to do.)

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Karen,
    My wife and I have been together for 25 years since age 19, have 2 children under 12.
    We have had 8 years of high stress situations like losing our home to fire on Christmas, then a lost job and 2 year lawsuit, followed by 2 relocations and a second and third job loss while building our home. Last year we also lost my father, uncle and 2 close friends to me.
    The lawsuit and job loss due to various reasons had left us nearly broke. However, we managed to keep the family happy and semi comfortable until I found a stable position. The periods of unemployment were extremely worrisome for me as the sole provider, but we managed. Over the past 18 months I have been working 100+ hours a week and coming home most weekends for a day or two. We talked about a plan to relocate again and start planning for me to be able to be home more and make a move to drastically reduce our debt hoping to reduce my stress because there was growing concern about how short temered I’d become and I also was feeling the effects of the burnout and sleep deprivation as well as seeing the effects on our relationship.She battles depression and has now started feeling effects of early onset menopause.
    Over the years, we have had 3 or 4 major fights, mostly early on. We both have shortcomings and argue, rarely productively. She lands on the side where she pushes relentlessly and won’t stop without a reaction from me. I land on the side of anything short of physical to make her stop.
    Recently we had an argument that was mildly physical on her part that caused a unbecoming verbal assult from me for which I regret, and some of which I don’t recall what I said. My wife and I were so loud the kids heard and were extremely upset. We didn’t resolve the issues and went to bed at separate times. She didn’t stay in bed that night and was surely upset.
    The next morning we passed at the front door, her with the kids and me off to work. Both cordial had a few words and went on our way. I was still upset and imagine so was she. We didn’t speak for that day and I took the time to reflect seriously about our situation and decided that night that it was time to refocus on family regardless of the financial constraints and start step 1 of our plan.
    When I called she didn’t answer which is unusual for her. I called a bit later and left a message and waited, I called her work much later and was informed she had called in. This worried me so I called my kids school and no show for them. In a panic i called her father and he informed me she had left and didn’t or wouldn’t talk about where she went. I texted and called several times until I got a response. Text only and it stated they they(her and the girls) we fearful of me and didn’t want to be around or for me to know where they were. All I could get by text we’re repeat answers like we are safe. 4 days of this and no verbal contact. Finally i called the sheriff and asked if I should reort them missing, but to my surprise I had a TRO from the state where her family resides over a thousand miles away. The sherrif informed me that she was in that state, and then she called.
    She had said that during my rant I told her to “get out by the end of the month” for which I don’t recall but it is possible. During our conversation i stated that If I did say that I didn’t mean it and was sorry. She has since informed me that they are staying with her parents and I am to have no contact and she is taking time to heal from my verbal abuse over the years and is not sure if she is willing to work out our marital issues. She has left her job and me with all the debt 430k.
    I have sought out a counselor for my issues to show her I’m serious about making our marriage stronger but she won’t agree to come back home, even to attend couples counseling. I asked if she would consider meeting me at a counselor closer to her, but she doesn’t seem to be receptive. I fear her family support have more interest in keeping her there with the grandkids than providing soud advice based on what’s best for our family. I have been clear i don’t want a divorce but I don’t want to go to her because meddling from her family has been a constant negative in our relationship for 25 years.
    She states she doesn’t want to divorce but won’t return to our state and has enrolled our kids in a school there. I am contemplating filing papers to force her to return the kids back to there school and home but obviously see that it is likely to end any chance reconciliation. We have limited conversation. I need clarity but this is over my head. I suspect if I wait too long she may divorce from a different state which is less fair than where we are current citizens. It has been a short time but two different state laws come into play for divorce so I can’t afford to wait 6months to find out if we are working to fix it or forget it.

    What advice can you give a loving overworked overwhelmed husband and father?

    • Oh my! Where to start?

      First of all, you need to talk to a lawyer in your area and figure out what your legal options are for getting your kids back immediately. I can’t tell you whether or not you have a chance of getting your kids back in your state or not. But that’s something you need to figure out right away.

      As for your wife, I don’t know if there’s any chance of saving your relationship or not. She may not want a divorce, but if she’s moved to another state with the kids, won’t come back, and won’t go to marriage counseling with you, where are you going?

      It’s great that you’ve gotten your own counselor. Working on your own issues is ALWAYS a good idea. (Remember, whether you get a divorce or not, you will always have to live with yourself. So anything you do to make yourself better is positive.) Also, focusing on a little self-care is also a good idea. Working 100 hours a week is crazy! As you’ve already discovered, you can’t function when you can’t think clearly. You can’t think clearly when you’re seriously sleep deprived.

      In addition to talking to a divorce lawyer, you might want to talk to a bankruptcy attorney. I don’t know what your realistic chances are to get out of 430k debt, but it’s time to start dealing with your finances as well as your marriage. If you can dig yourself out of your debt, that’s great! But, if you can’t, it may be time to face that reality.

      Finally, you might want to have a really serious heart-to-heart conversation with your wife (… that’s assuming that the TRO doesn’t prohibit you from talking to her). Don’t just ask her if she wants a divorce. Ask her what she would need YOU to do to put your marriage back together. (Notice I did not say to ask her what SHE will do. Start with YOU! If you change, there’s a chance that she may be willing to meet you half way. But if she feels like you’re expecting her to be the one to change, she’s not likely to be as receptive.)

      Also, ask your wife to be honest and tell you whether there is ANY chance of saving your marriage. Then LISTEN to what she says. Her answer will tell you whether your marriage has a future or not. If it does – awesome! Then you have something to work with! If it doesn’t, that’s sad. But it’s better to know that fact now, then to wallow in denial for months or years.

      I wish I had better things to tell you. But, if your wife has passed the point of no return in your marriage, there’s not much you can do but deal with that fact and try to create the best life possible for your kids moving foward.

      Best,

      Karen

  • My husband wants a separation. We have been married for 8 years. Our jobs are on separate schedules he works nights and I work days. We hardly see each other or talk to each other. On Thanksgiving, he took an Uber ride far away to make money. (He drives for Uber) and missed our Thanksgiving dinner. We were supposed to go out to eat together as a family. We have a 7 year old daughter. I was pissed. We talked about it and I felt like he was giving me excuses. I ended up not wanting to talk or celebrating afterwards and gave him the silent treatment. It was wrong of me. I should have talk to him and forgave him but I felt rejected by him again. He’s done this before to me. So now he wants a separation. He says he wants to be alone. That he thinks about being alone and how happier he would be. He says we aren’t intimate that I’m stressed at work and my disease gets in the way. I have an autoimmune disease and I’m a teacher. I’m exhausted 24/7 have zero libido and just function most days. So we talked and decided to separate last night. Today I said we need to talk logistics about the separation. He seemed annoyed and didn’t want to talk. He said that I can control my disease and I don’t that he cares about me and loves me but he just wants to see in awhile if he wants to be married. I suggested marriage counseling. He said he doesn’t know. We see a therapist once a month already he’s a life coach and he’s been helping us but I explained to my husband that even though we go to this coach he hasn’t taught us how to communicate better or how to fight fairly or things to do to help fix us all he’s done is told us to go on more dates, pray, and read books. That’s not helping us. So we told our daughter things would be different and he seemed annoyed the whole time. I said let’s talk time frame for separation, rules, what he wants. He doesn’t want to talk about it! I’m so confused.

    • It sounds like you need to get to a marriage counselor sooner rather than later.

      With all due respect to coaches (I am a coach, so I’m not putting down coaches!), a life coach is VERY different from a marriage counselor!

      If, God forbid, if you had lung cancer, would you go to a dentist to get treatment? No. Why? Because even though a dentist is a medical professional, s/he can’t treat your lung cancer. The same thing is true of mental health professionals. A life coach is great for figuring out what you want to do with your life, but a marriage counselor is much better qualified to help you deal with your marital problems.

      Another kind of counseling you might want to investigate is discernment counseling. That is limited scope counseling that is designed to help you figure out if you want to stay married or get a divorce. You can check it out HERE.

      Finally, if your husband won’t go to counseling and he won’t talk about your separation, the only thing left for you to do is to work on yourself. You can’t control your husband or what he does. But you can control yourself.

      Do whatever you need to do to get yourself healthy. If it’s possible to get your autoimmune disease in check by making lifestyle changes, now is the time to make them! If nothing else, doing that will make you feel better and give you a new perspective on your life. You also might want to go to a real therapist yourself. S/he can also help you sort though whatever issues you may have and deal with them. (We all have issues!)

      I know right now is a really confusing time for you. But if you focus on figuring out what you want, and on being the best “you” that you can be, you will get the clarity you want much sooner than you will by focusing on your husband and trying to figure out what his mixed messages mean.

      Hope this helps!

      Karen

  • Continued from before: I also forgot to say before that my husband seemed annoyed and agitated that we told our daughter that things would be different. He said nothing to make our daughter feel better just sat there looking miserable. I said we wouldn’t have a lot of family time together now and he said we would still do things as a family. I’m like that’s not what a separation is all about. Im so confused! Does he want a separation or not? I love this man and want him to be happy and healthy. I just don’t know what he wants from me. He’s not communicating.

  • Hi name is rea from malaysia, me and my husband relationship is not the good because he got attitude problem and mental issue,, he is bad temper which he likes to shout on me in public which i cant tolerate it, he did it few times and i went out the house few times too because of his that issue but i come back after a month or and now its more than 2 months i didnt come home i gave him few chances which he promise not to do it again but lately he did it and i decided to come out from the house. i ask a divorce but he don’t agree as his face and status is very important to him and to his family. he once divorce and i am the second wife. but now i don’t have a heart to come back to him but instead i am planning to make some trial separation agreement where i can live separately from him while he keep his face and status..he keep saying that he cant live without but he dont want to change his attitude. by the way he has this panic attack as per his psychologist doctor. u think trial separation is best for us or should i go to legal separation? i already told him too that we separate first while he fix himself i give him time to fix himself and take medication. please advise me ,thank you so much

    • Rea,

      I wish I could advise you, but I know nothing about legal separation in Malaysia. Also, whether to get separated or divorced is a decision only you can make for yourself.

      I’m sorry I can’t help you.

      Karen

  • Karen,
    I appreciate the guidelines in this article. My wife and I are seriously considering a trial separation. I’ve looked for and found a possible apartment as well. I would be the one moving out since I have been the cause of distress in our marriage for a long time. We’ve been married for 21 years and have a 15 year old daughter. I’m 47 and was a firefighter in the Air Force Reserve for 21 years, with 2 deployments to war, and a civilian firefighter for 15. I retired medically with PTSD from the civilian department in 2016. During the last 12-15 years I have developed an alcohol problem and have accepted that I am an alcoholic. Not the kind that drinks everyday, but the times I have drank I wouldn’t normally stop when I should. I’m not abusive verbally or physically, but my drinking progressed into an obvious problem. I am now getting help from the VA and AA. I have slowly eroded my wife’s love for me over the years and I don’t blame her for wanting this separation. She is a very kind and loving and beautiful woman that I have taken for granted. I’m scared to take the very real step of moving out due to advice I’ve been given from those who’ve gone through a divorce. Everyone tells me that moving out would show a judge that I abandoned my family, even if I’m doing it for the right reasons. My wife and I have talked a lot about how it will work and additionally we’re both willing to go to marriage counseling together during this time. I’m hoping and praying that there is still a marriage and love to salvage. We agreed to a 6 month separation. Mainly since that’s the minimum length on an apartment lease. We both feel that a change in my comfort level and scenery, as well as I’m starting a new trade school for I.T. that will keep me very busy would benefit me. It would also give my wife some breathing room away from the constant reminder that she has forgiven me too many times which in turn makes her resent me. I just want to make sure I’m making the right and wisest choice by agreeing to be the one to move out.

    • It sounds like your heart is definitely in the right place! I applaud you for being willing to move out and work through this difficult time in your marriage. I hope that everything works out for you and that the timie apart helps you and your wife to rebuild your marriage.

      As for whether your choice is wise or not, I can’t tell you. You really need to check with a divorce lawyer in your area to see what the legal ramifications of your move might be if you and your wife ultimately divorce.

      I do know this much: people talk a lot – and they’re not always right. Your divorced friends may be very well-intentioned. But they also may be wrong. At the same time, they may be right. So, the wisest thing to do would be to check with a lawyer in your area to find out what the law in your state says. (I know that going to a divorce lawyer can be intimidating – especially when you’re trying to avoid a divorce. But moving forward without understanding the potential legal ramifications of your actions is foolish. So talking to a lawyer will be key for you.)

      I also suggest, as I state in this article, that you put your separation agreement in writing. It will help to have everything clearly spelled out in your agreement. So often people THINK they agree on everything, but, when you ask them what the terms of their agreement are, you get two totally different versions of the agreement!

      Good luck! I hope things work out!

      Karen

  • Hello Karen,
    My wife and I have been married for 4 years together for 6. She has recently told me she is not feeling “connected” to me and has even gone as far as telling me she loves me, but is not in love with me. She says she dosent miss me when I’m gone, our conversations , although to me feel good, consistent, supportive , for her they lack. We have 3 kids , 12 year old daughter (my step daughter), 5 year old son, and 1 year old son. We both are amazing parents
    My wife has had a crazy up bringing with an alcoholic father and Promiscuous Mother (bad examples of a good marrage). She grew up always moving, going to 14 different schools and got to witness some things a young child should never see. Our 12 year old daughter’s father is in prison (my wife had her when she was 17).
    We have agreed to do a trial separation for 6 months starting in January 2019. My hope is that she misses me, misses the “together” family dynamic. And wants to commit to saving our marrage. We are both highly coachable and would be open to going to see a consulor/therapist. Any advice would be greatly welcomed.

    • I can see that you are committed to saving your marriage. Since you asked for advice, I’ll do my best. Just know, though, that I may be sharing a little “tough love.” (Just remember: you asked!)

      First of all, you said you were both open to going to see a counselor/therapist. That’s awesome! Sign up for couples counseling NOW! Don’t wait until afeter you move. Do it now! It will take a little time to find a therapist who is good, and who you can connect with. If you can get referrals from anyone, that would be best. But, since the process will take time, it’s best to start it sooner rather than later.

      Second, having hope is great. But you need more than hope if you want to make your marriage work. (Sorry! Just being honest!) Going to therapy/couples counseling is step 1. But another important step is working on yourself!

      You said your wife had a crazy up bringing. That may be true. Her up bringing may be influencing her now … or not. She may not be connected to you for totally different reasons. You don’t know that. The truth is, she may not even know what’s influencing her right now. (Human beings are complicated!) So you need to focus on the only thing in life that you can control: yourself!

      Most people don’t want to change or to work on themselves. It’s hard. Plus, when you start to dig deeply inside of yourself you’re liable to unearth all sorts of uncomfortable emotions and unresolved issues that you will then have to deal with. It is far easier to see the problems that someone else (like your wife) has than it is to look inside yourself. Yet, you can’t change your wife. You can’t control your wife. And just hoping she’ll come around is a pretty shaky strategy to risk your whole marriage on.

      Here’s the one thing I know for sure: when YOU change, your relationship will change. Everyone gets that part backwards. They try to change the relationship or the other person FIRST. You’ve got to work on yourself first. Then everything else falls into place more easily.

      Please understand, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with you. It sounds like you’re a great guy and you’re trying to do the right thing. I’m also not saying your wife is flawless. But we all have things we can work on.

      So try to take a little time to reflect on how you’ve been showing up as a husband. Be honest with yourself. The fact that you think your conversations are fine, but they leave her feeling empty tells me that you’re probably doing everything that would make YOU happy. When it doesn’t work, you’re confused because you think you did everything you were “supposed” to do. But what makes YOUR WIFE happy is probably very different from what would make you happy. You’ve got to find out what SHE wants. What makes her happy? Do more of that!

      I can’t know for sure, but my guess is that what your wife wants is a real connection with you. That comes from your being truly present when you’re with her. If you’re having a conversation with her at the same time you’re thinking about what you have to do tomorrow at work, your conversation will NOT connect. She’ll feel like you don’t care. You have to take a real interest in her. Connect with her. Woo her like you did when you first started dating. That will give you your best chance at success.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hello Karen
    Me and my wife have been together 13yrs married 6 we have a 3yr old daughter. This last year has pretty rough she ran for a political office she worked her butt off and we were just busy busy She did not win. I thought we had a pretty good marriage and life but about 2 months ago she tells me she wanted divorce. It came as a shock to me as just months before I was the love of her life just though things were fine. I wanted counseling she refused said she loved me but wasn’t in love with me any more.

    She started seeing a counselor and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. We are now separated she moved out found her own place. And I’m gonna try give her her own space she has also said she feels she wants to just leave start over from scratch. She said she feels disconnected from everything work life just everything. I ultimately am trying to fight to keep our family together. We have never really fought argued always been faithful. I feel she is leaning towards not making it. Any help or advise

    • I can hear how you’re trying to fight to keep your family together. At this point, with your wife having already moved out, you have your work cut out for you. But, that doesn’t mean all is lost either.

      I strongly suggest you find a good marriage counselor in your area. S/he may be able to help a lot. If your wife won’t go to marriage counseling, then maybe she will at least try discernment counseling. That’s a special kind of counseling geared toward helping both of you decide whether you want to stay married or get a divorce. CLICK HERE to find out more about it.

      The problem with rushing into divorce is that when people do that, they often haven’t fully thought through what life will be like for them and their kids if they get a divorce. Discernment counseling can “reality test” both of your assumptions about staying married AND getting divorced. It can be super helpful when you one person (your wife) seems to be leaning out of a marriage while the other person (you) seems to be leaning in.

      Also, you might try having some deep, honest, heart-to-heart conversations with your wife about everything. I could be wrong, but most people don’t walk out on a fabulous marriage to the love of their life just because they’ve been depressed for a few months. There is probably something more, something deeper, going on here. I have no idea what it is, but that’s what you’ve got to figure out and try to resolve. Working with a good counselor could help a lot.

      Hope this helps!

      Karen

      PS It wouldn’t hurt for you to start working with your own individual counselor too. You’re going through a lot right now. Having a professional to help you manage and understand your feelings and your relationship with your wife could also be very helpful.

  • I appreciate your article and how you responded to everyone’s comments. I am widowed 11 years ago and then remarried in 2016 to a ten year older man whom never had kids, divorced years ago. I have three kids, two in college and one in high school. Boy and two girls. The girls have never bonded with my husband and at times have been difficult. The pivotal problem came when he realized that my daughters both have the same Cartier love ring we used as our wedding bands. One daughter has hers before we got ours. He gave me his wedding ring and bracelet and said that they no longer mean anything to him and he no longer wants anything from me. That I’m a liar and he no longer trusts me. I first took my ring off but then I put it back on thinking that I don’t want to fall into his thinking. Your description of temp separation is what I am experiencing now without the label. We live together and I cannot afford to move out nor am I certain it’s necessary. He is cold to me with little words. I want to be romantic but all I feel is cold. My daughters are definitely part of this
    I feel it’s often his way or the highway. Should I keep the ring on? Try to have a serious conversation? It’ll be a week of this on Tuesday.
    Thank you

    • With all due respect, I think this is about way more than a ring. My guess is that there are deeper issues than whether your daughters have the same love ring you used in your wedding bands. I’m not sure what those issues are, but if you want to get to the bottom of them it may be time to look into marriage counseling.

      IT sounds like your husband is not communicating well with you. While it would be good for you to try to have a serious conversation with him, getting a good therapist involved could also help a lot. My guess is that there are a lot of things that are not being said between the two of you. Until you get to the bottom of what’s REALLY going on you will continue to have problems.

      I wish you the best,

      Karen

  • Karen,

    Been married for 25 years. Most were very happy. Ok July 2017, wife said she was unhappy and had been for a “long time”. She loves me but was no longer in love. She also admitted to an affair that was current. She has never been specific as to when affair began and refuses to say who. It is a colleague but not local (as best I can tell). She is the type that is analytical and rarely expresses emotions. She does not believe in counseling as it will simply make her defensive and therefore not help. I believe the affair has ended (she says it has and I tend to believe her). She never apologized and even once stated her only regret was telling me about it but at the time she told me she was ready to leave. Between us, all intimacy and affection has died. I believe she has tried. I believe she still loves me. Two and half years ago, several things happened that angered her and she has never forgiven me. Even though there were reasons and others would dismiss the issues as no very significant to her they are and therefore matter. Stress levels have increased to an unbearable level (for her) as I want to repair the marriage and to me for that to happen we need help. As stated above, she refuses. This morning, she mentioned a separation as the way possible to save the marriage. By this, she means if she stays and we continue to engage she is done. And I cannot not engage and I just want to fix things. I’ve forgiven the affair, even though she never apologized. I understand how and why it happened. This article helped me know with the necessity of common goals and rules. Thoughts ?

    • I don’t know if you have a realistic chance of saving your marriage or not. (Sorry!) I do know that if you do a trial separation without first agreeing on what its for, you’re not likely to achieve the outcome you want. That’s usually because you don’t want the same outcome as your spouse. In your case, it sounds like you want to stay married. Your wife, on the other hand, seems to be leaning towards divorce. (Again, sorry! I know that’s not what you want to hear!)

      Under the circumstances, you may want to try discernment counseling. It is a very specific kind of limited scope therapy that is designed to help couples just like you and your wife, where one of you is “leaning out” of the marriage and the other is “leaning in.” Because the purpose of the therapy is to help you both decide what you want to do, RATHER THAN just helping you stay together (like marriage counseling) your wife may be more open to it. Going to discernment counseling is also not a long process. It usually only takes a few sessions. Then, one way or another, you make a decision and you’re done.

      There can be 3 results of discernment counseling: 1) you and/or your wife decides to get a divorce (unfortunately, it only takes one person to decide to end a marriage); 2) you and your wife decide to work on your marriage, go to marriage counseling and take divorce off the table for at least 6 months; or 3) you make no progress and stay stuck. That, to me, is the worst outcome. But, at least then you know where you’re at.

      While doing a trial separation may seem like a good option, unless you place some structure around what will happen during your separation, the chances are that it will only be the first step toward divorce. (Sorry!) But. the truth is that, many times, people say they want a “trial separation” when what they really want is a divorce. They just don’t have the guts to tell the truth. Sometimes they can’t even tell themselves the truth.

      I have no idea if your wife really wants a divorce or not. But, if she does, as much as it will hurt you, it’s less painful to deal with the truth than it is to spend months living a lie, while hoping that that lie is really true. Deluding yourself only puts off the inevitable. In the meantime, you prolong your pain. Discernment counseling can help you get to the truth faster.

      I wish I had better things to tell you. I hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Hello,
    I am considering a trial separation and moving from our home. We have been together for 18 years and the pattern of fighting and making up without any resolution or change has been almost from the beginning. His own daughters have said I should leave because of the rude way he talks to me so often. He always says its my fault for the way he talks to me, I complain too much or ask to many questions. I mentioned that the light bulb was blinking and he took that to me he is my handy man and not good for anything else and that all I do is use him. I pay the bills but if I ask him for the money he says thats the only time I talk to him. This isn’t true but sometimes we are fighting and not speaking but I still need to pay the bills. He constantly demands sex its a constant complaint of his. If we aren’t fighting we generally have sex once a week or more but if we are fighting which can sometimes go on for weeks then sex isn’t realistic when I am hurting. We always make up with sex or a family event or party but never through communication. I bought garlic alfredo sauce by mistake and he called me a fing ahole because I am inconsiderate that I dont know he dislikes garlic. But then there are times when he is very nice and loving. So I feel like I am on a roller coaster and I need a break but I am afraid to be on my own. I am trying to find a therapist. We have been to couples counseling but he always tries to say its me or its mutual but to me he seems abusive so how is that my fault? I think if I leave he may realize what he does and finally be honest with himself and get help. When we fight he gets very nasty and will deliberately say the most hurtful things and yell and curse and I really don’t like this. He will follow me around the house and send me multiple nasty texts. I have never fought like this with anyone else and I don’t think its normal or healthy but if I yell back then he just says see you do it too. I’m afraid this relationship has made me a worse person and damaged me in some way.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised that being in that kind of a relationship has damaged you. But that doesn’t mean that you’re damaged beyond repair. There’s still hope that you can turn things around and feel like “you” again!

      Let me ask you a question. Why do you stay in a relationship where your husband treats you so badly? What kind of a marriage do you want? What kind of a life do you want? What is keeping you stuck? What do you get out of your marriage? What’s the benefit to you? There must be some benefit or you wouldn’t stay. Or, maybe it’s just that you’re afraid to leave. That’s totally understandable. But is this the way you want to live for the rest of your life?

      I know that you’ve been together for 18 years. Ending a relationship of that length is hard. While you might be able to work on your marriage to make it better, it doesn’t seem like your husband is willing to work on your marriage too. Trying to change a marriage all by yourself is really difficult. It also rarely works. (Sorry!)

      At this point, you might want to do some deep soul-searching. Getting a good therapist can help you a lot. But, no matter what you do, don’t give up on yourself. You may have been through a lot. You may feel like you’re a worse person. But, I doubt that that’s true. (Just the fact that you asked the question makes me believe it’s not true!) Inside, you are still YOU. You are worthwhile and beautiful. You just need to find that person inside of you again.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

      • I was working on a message to you when I saw this last comment. I thought I would reply to this and include some of the questions you posted to the Susan Bee. My situation is very similar to her. First, I survived the emotional abuse of a narcissistic parent as a child and I believe my parent is at the level of a personality disorder but I would never be able to confirm it with a diagnosis. I’ve since recognized it, found a way to deal and stopped blaming myself for it. After over 10 years of marriage and 3 children (all under 10), I’m now wondering if my husband is also a narcissist and emotionally abusing me because many things he does are just like what my parent did.
        I won’t give too many specifics to the issues with my husband here as it’s very similar to Susan Bee. I constantly wonder why he doesn’t just leave me because he treats me like the random strangers he curses at and despises on the street, but for some reason, I think he is actually afraid I would leave him. My biggest worry is he would become emotionally abusive to the kids eventually. My kids are still young, and my childhood abuse didn’t start until adolescence, so I fear that similar abuses would start when they get older. Right now, he does have occasional outbursts toward the kids, but he is generally a loving father and my kids adore him. This is my biggest struggle in staying or leaving this relationship.
        I don’t know if he just has a higher dose of narcissism than normal or if he actually has a personality disorder. We have been to couple counseling for a little while after he took some of my emails from over 10 years ago without my permission and used them in an argument, and also after he gave me an ultimatum saying he would not do something unless I had sex with him, chased me down aggressively when I wanted to leave the argument and called me a narcissist. I didn’t want to go to counseling anymore, because he seemed to have a way in explaining the events or our relationship that made it seemed like I was the problem and all he wanted was me. I felt like the counselor minimized my concerns to communication issues (who doesn’t have communication issues) and that all he wanted was me. I felt like I was getting nowhere.
        When I was a child, I took the abuse from my parent and rarely fought back, and continued to endure the occasional abuse from a distance as an adult. My approach with him is more or less the same, take it and get over it to keep the peace, but it is getting harder and harder to get over it. Because of my upbringing, I have difficult time with forming friendships, so I have virtually no friends, and he uses guilt to prevent me from seeing the only close friend I have who lives far away which is the hardest thing for me to get over.
        To answer some of the questions you posted to Susan Bee, I know I cannot live like this for the rest of my life. I know I was able to survive my childhood abuse because I left home and my close friend I mentioned above help me, otherwise, I really think it would have ended badly. Right now, my reason for leaving would be his treatment toward me, but I cannot leave my kids. I can’t justify taking the kids from him right now, but I’m also afraid to leave them with him. If I wait until he starts abusing them before leaving, then they have to suffer something I knew was coming. I’m somewhat afraid to be alone which could be why I stay, but my kids are THE reason I don’t know what to do right now. I’m also a person who believes I’ve made a commitment for life. My close friend who help me…she went through hell to help me and she didn’t abandon me when things got bad. I feel like I would be abandoning him if I left him. If he truly has a personality disorder, he will not accept that he is the problem, let alone changing his ways. Me and the kids are already tiptoeing around him to keep the outburst under control. Sorry this is so long…could a trial separation be a good starting point? I don’t know…I’m just afraid things will get even worse. I would really appreciate your advice.

        • A trial separation might or might not be a good idea. But it sounds like separating right now might be premature. Instead, you might want to start by getting a good therapist.

          Whether your husband has a true narcissitic personality disorder or not doesn’t really matter much right now. What’s more important is how you will deal with the way that you are being treated. That is where you probably want to focus.

          Also, just so you know, the fact that your husband displays the same kind of personality characteristics as one of your parents isn’t too surprising. (Sorry!) That actually happens a lot! If you were used to being treated badly by a parent, it’s easy to get sucked into the same kind of relationship again as an adult. On some level, it feels “normal” to you.

          But that doesn’t make it okay!

          Any type of relationship in which you are being treated badly starts to wear away at your self-esteem. It chips at your self-confidence and makes your fears seem even bigger. If you want to change that, and to get out of that kind of a relationship, you have to start with YOU. You have to build yourself up before you will be able to walk away and stay away. If you try to leave before you’re strong enough to do that, you will only go back. Even if you see your husband doing the same thing to your kids that your parent did to you, you won’t leave unless you’re strong enough to do so. That’s why starting with a therapist makes so much sense.

          You also might want to start reclaiming your life and your very self in whatever way works for you. Start by doing little things. Do things you love to do that make you happy. Take a little time for yourself. Start to re-build your sense of self. Start to reclaim your relationship with your friend. Learn how to build relationships with others. Figure out why forming friendships are so hard for you. Work on that. In other words, focus on making yourself the best you can be. When you do that, you will be able to take the next step and work on your relationship, or leave it.

          Hope this helps.

          Karen

  • Hi,
    Thanks for writing such a succinct book and for all of the very helpful comments.
    I need your sound advice. My wife and I are drained. Before moving closer to family we had a pretty decent relationship. Our son was born with club feet and had to wear braces when sleeping eventually but we were able to get past that. In 2014 we moved across the country and I took over ownership of a business. My family and my wife clashed almost immediately with me always feeling in the middle and having to dig us out of the holes they created, despite my best efforts. Soon thereafter, our dog died, our son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and my wife was diagnosed with stage 4 non hodgkin lymphoma. This understandably put us under much stress and duress. Since then it has been a constant push pull with me having to take care of working, paying the bills, coordinating childcare, going with my wife to appointments, talk to her about her fears while still trying to stay sane. It did not work. We had lots of fights. In 2016 she went through treatment again and in 2017 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a bilateral mastectomy. So the fights started again. It culminated in me after years of in my opinion running everything that I lost it and was arrested for throwing a pizza box and charging past my wife to leave the house. She had texted my dad so they were all at the house when I was arrested. I feel that for years she has backburnered everything because of cancer. I understand that and try to empathize. However, when I have been made to feel like a servant, who does most things wrong ,who can’t put clothes away right, I feel like I am in a no win situation. I want to separate but want to do it the right way. Suggestions?

    • Okay, so you DEFINITELY have a lot on your plate! I’m not surprised that your marriage is falling apart!

      First of all, let me say, kudos to you for trying to handle everything for all of these years. I know it hasn’t been easy. As for how you separate the right way, the answer to that depends on what’s going on with your legal situation.

      If you hadn’t been arrested, the answer to how to go about separating would be to talk to your wife. (Yes, I know. That probably doesn’t sound to appealing. But, read on.)
      The problem is, that your arrest complicates things.

      If your wife has an order of protection/restraining order against you, then you can’t talk to her directly right now. If you have a pending criminal case due to the arrest, talk to your lawyer before you do anything and do what your lawyer says! If none of those things are true, though, separating “the right way” starts by talking to your wife.

      Because of your history, I would have the conversation in a restaurant or other public place. The last thing you need is to lose it again, or for her to say you lost it again, and end up arrested a second time.

      But, it seems to me you need to start with an honest conversation. Actually, that conversation should probably start first with you.

      My guess is that, in spite of all the wonderful things you did over the years, you also spent a fair amount of time enabling your wife to be “taken care of” all the time. Mind you, that’s NOT a judgment. And, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you let your wife know how you really felt during all the years of struggle. Maybe you asked for her help. Or, maybe you found ways to get other people to help you so that you didn’t end up totally drained yourself. Maybe you did your best to resolve the conflict between your family and your wife. But, that’s not what it sounds like.

      So now it’s time to get honest and get real. First, you do that with yourself. When you do – be kind to yourself! I’m sure you did the best that you could under the circumstances. But now, the question you need to ask yourself is: what would have to change in order for your marriage to work out? Have you passed the point of no return? Are you willing to divorce a woman who apparently still has cancer? Can you live with people’s judgment (because they WILL judge you for that)? Can you deal with the guilt you will likely feel (at least for awhile)?

      Once you’ve worked through those questions for yourself, it’s time to talk to your wife. Go through them with her. Start talking about your marriage. If it can be saved, work on it. Get a good marriage counselor. Separate if you need to for awhile, but make sure you set clear rules and boundaries for the separation.

      If you KNOW you’re getting a divorce at this point, then be honest about that. Don’t tell yourself and your wife that you’re doing a “trial separation” when what you’re really doing is trying to get a divorce but you just don’t have the courage to admit it yet.

      No matter what you do, know that you will get through this. I can tell from what you’ve written, you’re a strong man. You wouldn’t have gotten this far if you were weak. One way or another, things will work out.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hi, I stumbled on to your article and it was very helpful. I was hoping you could advise me on my situation as you have so eloquently helped others. I have been married for 15yrs. I love my husband as my best friend but don’t think I’m in love with him anymore. We married young (I was 23 he was 26). I have never lived on my own. We couldn’t afford a place when we married and he moved in with me and my parents. Once we were financially stable enough to get a small apartment, my mother fell very ill. Being an only child it was up to me to care for her. Life just happened and we ended up with this living arrangement permanently. Neither one of us have ever had a problem with it. Because of this I feel that if our marriage ends it will not only impact us but my parents as well. (My husband and I recently bought a house and my parents moved in with us because of their health.) Over the years my husband has had at least 4 (that I know of) “attachments” to other women. He will only admit to having feelings for one of them. The others were just “friends.” However these friends all developed feelings for him. He claims that’s not his fault even though he would talk to non-stop, meet for coffee or lunch, and give rides to when needed. I have never been able to prove any physical cheating and he adamantly denies it. I just can’t shake a feeling that it HAS happened. I have always hated conflict so I would forgive and move on, but it always broke me. Now I know it also slowly pulled me away from him. He is a good man who loves me and treats me well. He has also helped me immensely with my parents. For that alone I will always be grateful and love him. But is that enough of a reason to stay? Three months ago by sheer coincidence an old friend from college and I got back in touch. To me this person was always “the one that got away” We never actually dated we were just very good friends. Anyway we started chatting and he told me I was always his “one that got away.” I was shocked as I hadn’t confessed my feelings yet. Long story short (too late I know), very slowly, we began getting closer and closer. I feel I’ve fallen in love with him and he has fallen for me as well. He is in a long term committed relationship which according to him hadn’t been going well for a while. We want to give “us” the chance we never had. We both feel we can be happy together for the rest of our lives but neither one of us want to hurt the people around us now. I’m so torn and confused. I feel like I’ve found happiness for a second time in my life but it’s just out of my reach. Please help me.

    • Oh my! How does life get so complicated!

      First of all, whether or not your husband’s “attachments” with other women ever got physical or not doesn’t change the fact that they hurt you. It sounds like they were “emotional affairs.”

      The betrayal of an emotional affair is just as real, and often hurts just as much, as any kind of physical affair. So don’t discount the fact that they happened.

      At the same time, your current relationship with someone else is also an issue. Like it or not, that’s what you need to think about now. (Please understand, I’m not judging you here. I understand how all this happened. But, since you asked for my opinion, I’m also going to be honest with you. Sugar coating this isn’t going to help you.)

      First of all, I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but you’ve got to know that if you get a divorce right now, your husband’s past “attachments” won’t even be part of the story that gets told. Everyone will say that you had an affair and that ended your marriage. (Sorry!) That’s not a reason to do or not do anything. I’m just telling you what I’ve seen happen to others time and time again.

      Second, I know that your affair makes you feel like you’re alive again. I know it seems wonderful. (Okay, fair warning here. you’re about to get a little “tough love.” If you don’t want to read it, click the back button on your browser now.) The truth is, at this point, your relationship with this other guy isn’t real. I know it feels more real than anything else in your life. But, right now, it’s just a beautiful fantasy. Maybe, in time, after you have both gotten out of your current relationships and have been committed solely to each other for awhile, it will be real. But you can’t be sure if or when that will happen. (Again, sorry. But you have no idea how many people think they’ve met the person of their dreams while they are married, only to discover after they start to get a divorce, that the person they are in love with isn’t who they thought. Or, the other person won’t leave their committed relationship.)

      I know that you’ve pulled away from your husband for reasons that had nothing to do with this guy. But until you deal with your relationship with your husband, and the problems that are hanging out there, you won’t truly be in a position to move on.

      Of course, in order to deal with those problems, you now have to admit to your own relationship. And, yes, your parents are a complicating factor. Your divorce will change their lives too. That sucks, but it’s unfortunately a reality you’re going to have to deal with, one way or another. As awful as dealing with it will be (and I don’t discount how much drama that will be!) it will be a lot easier if you can deal with it honestly and openly than it will be to have your husband discover your affair, paint you as the bad guy, and talk about THAT to your parents before you even get a chance to say a word.

      As for whether you should stay with your husband or not, that’s a question only you can answer. But whether you stay or go, you’ve got to figure out what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how you contributed to what went wrong (because in some way we all contribute to our own drama). Until you do all that, you’re going to end up repeating the same mistakes in some way again. (Again, sorry. I’m not trying to be the bearer of doom and gloom. I’m just telling you how I see it based on what’s happened to so many others.)

      Getting honest and getting real is scary. You can’t know what can of worms it will open. But until you open the can, the worms just keep eating at you inside.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Hello,
    I am considering a Trial separation with my husband. We have been married going on three years and together for 6 years. I love him with all my heart and I know he loves me but our problems always begin and end with his drinking. He lies about his drinking which is one of the biggest problems. He does not get drunk consistently but when he does its a trainwreck. He will always make the wrong decision when drinking and becomes this entirely different person who is not the man I married. I will not go to bars with him anymore as he is incapable of having a casual beer and leave the bar without getting cut off first. Its embarrassing. We are also tight on cash as he wracked up quite a bit of credit card debt (which he lied about and hid from me for quite a while), he has picked up extra hours at work to pay this off but sometimes he lies about being at work and is actually at a bar with his friends. I know the second I see him when hes been drinking and he will always deny it, eventually he will tell me that he had “three beers” which is always another lie. The last time this happened I said to him if he lied about his drinking again I will leave, and for 3 weeks he was fine and then the other night it happened again and this time was worse as his “friend” put Opioides in his beer which caused him to hallucinate and basically go insane during which he denied drinking, going out and insisted he was in work the whole time. He will not admit he has a drinking problem but at the same time he does not drink all the time. But he will chose alcohol over me as apparently my last ultimatum meant nothing to him. He see’s how upset I am and is very regretful of his actions but he always is regretful of his actions. I am thinking of a trial separation as I don’t want to leave him but I want him to feel what life would be like without me in it and hoping that this would be enough for him to change his ways. His behavior has resulted me in not being able to trust him at all, with money, his drinking, his whereabouts, who he is with (his friends who are usually always a bad influence). I am not worried about him cheating on me or anything of that nature. I am at a loss of what to do but feel a trial separation is our best option.

    • Oh my! I can understand that you’re at a loss about what to do.

      Before you read any farther, I want you to know that I’m going to give you a little “tough love” here. If you don’t want to read it, hit the back button on your browser now.

      From what you’ve written it sounds like your husband is an alcoholic. (Sorry!) The fact that he doesn’t drink every day (yet) doesn’t change the fact that he has a drinking problem. So, that’s the first thing you need to deal with.

      Secondly, you need to understand that your husband’s behavior isn’t about you. It’s about him. You can give him ultimatums until the cows come home and they’re not going to change a thing. Ultimatums don’t work.

      What will work is getting the right help. Here’s a link to Al-Anon. That’s a support group for spouses and families of people with drinking problems. Check them out. They can provide you with a wealth of information and support.

      As for the trial separation, maybe it will work. But if you’re expecting your husband to stop drinking just because you leave, you may be very disappointed. (Sorry!) Again, you need to realize that this isn’t about you or about how much your husband does or doesn’t love you. Its’ about his addiction.

      I know you love him. So, if you can, get him help. But, if he won’t accept the help, and he won’t stop drinking, you can’t force him to do so. (Again, sorry.) At that point, your only decision will be whether you want to be married to someone you can’t trust with money, his drinking or his whereabouts — or not.

      Good luck.

      Karen

  • I love my husband so much and I think we have a wonderful marriage…two beautiful kids. He says he loves me but is not in love with me…doesn’t feel the spark. He wants to move out and get separated. I am so sad and don’t know what to do. Please help.

    • Oh my! I’m so sorry!

      If you can get your husband to go to marriage counseling with you, that would be a great start. I also suggest that you get a counselor for yourself as well. NO matter what happens, having someone you can talk with about your marriage will be very helpful.

      I’m afraid that’s all I can suggest right now. I don’t know enough about your situation to say anything more.

      Best,
      Karen

  • Hi Karen. Thank you for all your wonderful advice. I’m at a point where I think I need discernment counselling….. My husband and I are about to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and we been together for 30 years. We have 2 amazing sons aged 23 and 22. They are both pretty much self sufficient, don’t really need financial assistance. In July of 2018 I confronted my husband about deleting messages to/from my friend. He admitted they had been flirting. I asked him to stop. But you know a woman’s intuition is an amazing thing….. On the 2nd Sep I walked in on them having a good cuddle in our family room (I tip-toed so they couldn’t hear me) I then confronted both of them and told her to f*** off out my house and to leave my husband alone. I was debated! She was my best friend and business partner. She’s married to a great guy and… Here’s the kicker… She lives right next door!!! I wanted to know everything! He admitted that he was having a affair. For about 2 years – I was later to discover it was more like 4 years! They had been for coffee and lunches. She would pop into his office and bring him snacks. He told me that there was nothing physical but yet it was sexual??? I don’t get that, neither do I believe it. He told me the he’s kissed her and touched her and then he refused to tell me anything more coz it would ‘kill me’ – his words, not mine. I was shattered. You have no idea how much it hurt and still hurts???? Since then we have been to a marriage councillor and have been to an Imargo weekend workshop. I’ve been to therapists, doctors and a life coach. My husband says he has no contact with her any more but I don’t believe him. 3 years ago when I suspected that there was something weird going on, he looked at me with a very calm look and said that there’s nothing going on, that I have got nothing to worry about and that I’m paranoid. So there’s good reason I don’t believe he’s lies! We’ve now sold our house and are moving at the end of this month. I’m hoping it will be a new start but at the same time I would love to make a new start on my own. If we got divorced there’s not really too much of a financial issue because he will be fair. The problem is that I do still love him and he makes me laugh. He’s the father of my kids…. But I will never be able to trust him again. I can’t allow him to hurt me like he did. NEVER again!!!!! And I am super excited to be on my own and do my own thing but I’m also scared of being on my own….. Does that make any sense? Btw, I’m from South Africa, so my English spelling could be slightly different to yours☺

    • Oh my! I can understand completely why you wouldn’t want to trust your husband again. Of course you’re hurt! Unfortunately, I have some bad news for you. (Sorry!)

      Unless you are open to trusting your husband again, and unless the two of you work to rebuild that trust in your relationship, you will never have the marriage you want. It will be marriage in name, but your relationship will never recover.

      That’s okay if that’s all you want. But if you want something more – something deeper, a real relationship – you’re either going to have to work on building trust with your husband or get a divorce and start all over again. (Sorry!)

      The truth is that no deep, intimate relationship can last without trust. It’s also true that LOTS of marriages survive infidelity. But, lots don’t. The ones that do take total committment and a lot of work. He has to commit to being totally honest and not cheating again. And you have to commit to starting to build trust in him again. (Yes, It’s hard!).

      If you do decide to work on your marriage, getting a good therapist to help you through this can mean the difference between success and failure.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hi I’m really lost and have very little hope at the moment and so am trying to find an answer from someone with more knowledge on the subject and with an outside perspective. I have had issues with anxiety for most of my life and had to go back on medication about three years ago now, I have recently found out that my husband of just over a year has been lying to me since that point as a way of trying to protect me from stress as I try and get myself sorted(not easy with my country’s mental health system and the lack of knowledge by most doctors on medications). My husband has only recently started to be honest with me as lying to me and the stress this has caused him has pushed him back into depression that he was dealing with years ago. Because we both need help we have agreed to live separately while we do that as a way to focus on ourselves and truly get the help we need. Here’s where my worries start, my husband originally want to end things for good as he felt that he had done irreparable damage during this time of untruth however I have told him that from my point of view there is still hope. He has told me he honestly doesn’t know if we can make this work though. My question is ‘is there hope to save my marriage if we take time apart to get the help we need individually and the looking at couples counseling later or am I just holding him back now by hoping that we can make this work. Am I just being a burden by hoping for a future with him in a year or so’. Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your opinion regarding this complicated matter

    • Is there hope? That’s a HUGE question, and perhaps not the right one to ask.

      Personally, I believe there’s ALWAYS hope. But then, I believe in miracles, so that tells you something.

      But the right question to ask is not: “Is there hope?” The right questions to ask are: 1) What do you want? and 2) What are you willing to do to get it?

      Given what you’ve written, taking time apart from each other seems wise. But, at the same time, unless you stay connected with each other and work on your relationship too, there’s no guarantee that you just won’t end up as strangers a year from now.

      If BOTH of you really want to stay married and are willing to work on yourselves AND on your marriage, then by all means give it a go. But if not, then staying married just for the sake of staying married, makes little sense. The fact that there is always hope doesn’t mean much. Unless both of you WANT to be married to each other and both of you are willing to WORK at making that happen, all the hope in the world won’t make things better. (Sorry!) And, working on your marriage won’t be easy. That’s why you’ve got to both want it AND be willing to work at it.

      So, in the end, it all comes back to the two of you.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    My wife and I have been married for 3 and 1/2 years, have 3 kids (all under 3). She is a lot younger than I and since we started dating we were inseperable and at the beginning of the relationship I was confident and upbeat, so much so that I took her for granted and behaved in an unappreciated manner within the 2nd year. She got fed up and threatened with divorce. We eventually worked things out after 2 months of her going out and “being herself”. Once we got back we were back to being inseparable for the next 6 months. Withing theses 6 month jealousy, neediness and clinginess were all coming out of me. To a point were she then said she needed her space. Tried working at it, but ended up fighting beacuse of my insecurities. After a month of fighting constantly we decided to do a trial seperation. She really wanted it, but I didnt. Its been a short while but I have noticed that whenever I am not after her, she is first to text or call me. I did mention to her that I had seen my mistakes and was ready to change. She says that up to this point the seperation has helped her miss me a little more. We have our first date where she invited me out this week. I just dont know if she is really planning to divorce and just wants to let me down easy or she is really working at it as she constantly goes out because all of her you ger friends are doing the same. Sometimes I feel like she thinks I stole her from her youth.

    • I’m sorry I couldn’t get to this sooner. I have so many comments to answer, that sometimes it takes awhile! By now you must have gone on your date. I hope it went well.

      It sounds like you and your wife love each other, but you’ve both got some work to do. If you haven’t tried going to a marriage counselor, I strongly suggest it. I also suggest you start working on yourself. Here’s why.

      You said your relationship has gone through a few ups and downs already. You admitted that you’ve sometimes taken your wife for granted, or were jealous and clingy. All of those behaviors will drive a woman away. It’s great that you see what happened and you’re willing to own your own “stuff!” But owning it and changing it are two different things.

      What you might want to explore is WHY you have behaved in the past in the way that you did. When you get to the bottom of that, you can start to change it. You will become more in control of yourself. When you do, then you will be able to give your relationship the space it needs to breathe, without having to physically separate again.

      As for whether your wife is planning to divorce you or not, I can’t say. But if you have 3 kids together you have a lot to think about. Make sure that, no matter what happens between you and your wife, you always put the kids first.

      Karen

  • Karen,
    Thank you for the post, it was extremely insightful. I wanted to run my situation by you and see if you had some pointers or some advice for me. My husband and I have been together for 8 years and married for 4. Starting last April, my husband admitted that he has not been happy and feeling disconnected from the life we have built together. There are no extra marital issues, no anger or trust issues, and we get along extremely well -he just somehow feels disconnected and unhappy. We thought about separating then, but after 12 hours or separation, we decided it was too emotionally draining to be apart and that we indeed needed to be with one another. Cut to last week, the same conversation came up. This time I was more prepared and told him I was anticipating this might come up again. We have an impending date to start a separation which was not going to be a trial, but now he’s thinking it should be a trial because he just does not know how to let me go. To the point where he said he would want to see me at least 2x a week during the separation. We are best friends and love each other very much. But this back and forth is causing me a lot of pain. Do you think this might not have anything to do with our marriage, and more with his internal issues? He’s the type of person who will get antsy very quickly if things are stagnant -i.e. with a job, activity and even outings/parties with friends. I’m thinking he may feel unfulfilled in other areas and is projecting that on our relationship -but I can’t be sure. I have asked him repeatedly what it is he wants, but he just keeps saying he does not know. Another tidbit to add is that we are sexually open, but emotionally closed. So the “wondering eye” is not an issue. Sorry for typing a novel, hope you can shed some light on what you think is happening.

    • Even with the “novel” I can’t say I know nearly enough about you or your situation to know what is really happening. But, my guess is that, when you allow yourself to admit it, you do!

      Your suspicion that your trial separation may have as much to do with your husband’s personal issues as it does with your marriage could well be correct. The bigger question though it: so what? Even if part of the problem (maybe a big part of the problem) is his “antsiness” what does that change? While it might make you feel better (which is good!) it still doesn’t change the fact that your relationship is in trouble.

      I can totally understand how going back and forth would be painful. If your husband truly has a problem being happy when things in your relationship are, in his eyes, “stagnant,” then the trial separation itself may be enough to make him feel connected and happy again … for now. The bigger question, though, is: “How long will that last?”

      This may be a situation where a good marriage counselor can help immensely. S/he can help you get to the bottom of whatever is really going on in your relationship. Once you do that, you will be in the best position to start fixing that thing so that your relationship becomes stronger and deeper long term.

      Hope that helps.

      Karen

  • Hello,
    About a month ago, my wife told me that she had 2 feet out the door and wanted a divorce. About a week after her announcement to me, she text me from work asking me how I felt about the divorce. I asked her if she was asking about how I actually felt (emotionally) or my thoughts…she responded by saying both. I then proceeded to let her know that I did not want a divorce and wanted to work towards a stronger marriage because I loved her. I let her know that I understood the things that needed to be focused on from myself as a husband to rebuild the trust that was lost and was willing to do whatever it needs to make things right. She then responded by saying that she believed we have grown too far apart and our relationship was irreparable, to move forward with the divorce. The next few weeks were a rollercoaster, some days were better than others in regards to communication and connection. Some days she was engaging with me and then others very silent and cold. She still spends with the kids and I at my parent’s events, etc. Just recently she told me that she is thinking and reading up on trial separations, wanting my thoughts. Give us 6 months to see how it feels and not date anyone during this time. I would have to move out of our home and split time with our kids. I tried to talk to her more in depth on her motivation behind the swing between divorce and trial separation and she really didn’t express any real honest answer. Just was real quiet and stated that she didn’t know why. During the conversation, I expressed how I felt, how much I loved her and was committed to making our marriage stronger, growing our connection and friendship again. During my entire heartfelt speech, she was just quiet, really couldn’t look me in the eye and didn’t really have a response. Your thoughts?

    • If you’re asking me what your wife was thinking, I can’t tell you. What I can tell you is that if you want to try to save your marriage at this point you’re probably going to need help. If you haven’t been to marriage counseling before I would strongly suggest that you give it a try now. A good marriage counselor can help you improve your communication with your wife and deepen your connection.

      As for whether you should go for a trial separation or a divorce, that’s a question only you can answer. If you do a trial separation, though, it’s important to set out the ground rules from the start. What do you want to accomplish while you are apart? What’s your plan for making that happen? (Again, marriage counseling can help here.)

      Finally, instead of making a speech, you might want to try having a conversation with your wife – a real, honest (and probably awkward and uncomfortable) conversation about what each of you wants and why you want it. Talk with your wife. Listen to what she says. (Listening is even more important than talking!) This kind of conversation can tell you a lot, and can be one of the biggest steps you make in either putting your marriage back together, or in separating from each other with dignity and respsect.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    My wife and I have been married for 24 years. We have 3 sons, only one of which is still in the home. He is 16. She recently asked for a separation, asking that we live independently in the same house while raising our son together. I love her dearly and this was a total shock to me. She said she doesn’t want counseling and she’s unsure of what she wants right now, but feels that she may be able to be happier with someone else down the road. She is very hesitant to tell our boys what we are going through. She also does not want me to make any changes in behavior during this period. We have been living this way for a couple weeks and it is literally killing me. She continues to do the motherly duties as she always has, but avoids me when she can and we have no couples intimacy. We work different shift often and I feel that she should stay outside the home on my days off so we can both start the healing/deciding aspects for our future. To have my wife act like everything is the same, while she won’t have any physical contact with me is extremely hard. I feel she should leave at least part-time for us to figure out ourselves because she is the one making this decision and I have expressed willingness to make the marriage work but she’s not interested at this time. Am I being played here? Do I have the right to request she leave because she is the one making this decision?

    • You have the right to request anything you want. So does she. The more important question is: Will she honor your request?

      Here’s the thing. She may want to “separate” while living in the same house, but that doesn’t mean that you have to want that too. And it certainly doesn’t mean you have to do it.

      Living together with a spouse who wants to divorce you is extremely difficult! It’s awkward and uncomfortable. Living separately is much easier. So it makes sense that you should want your wife to move out. But, if she doesn’t, then you have a choice. Either you can be the one to leave, or you can continue living the way you are living, even though it sucks. (Sorry!)

      I also encourage you to think about all of your sons. Even though the oldest two are gone, your divorce (if that’s what you end up doing) will affect all of them. Whether you and your wife are going to get a divorce, or try a trial separation, at some point you’re going to have to tell your kids what is going on. When you do that, you need to be careful of their feelings. When and how you tell them matters.

      I understand that your wife doesn’t want to go to marriage counseling. But you may want to try discernment counseling. Discernment counseling is a special type of counseling geared toward helping couples decide whether to stay married or get a divorce. It helps you and your wife communicate with each other so that, no matter what you do, you do it better. CLICK HERE to check it out.

      I wish I had better things to say. I know what you’re going through is hard. Hang in there!

  • Hello, my wife and I have separated after almost 17 years of marriage (19 years together). We have three children together, our oldest has some ongoing medical issues. We have been apart for about 10 days. I am living in our new house which we closed 6 weeks ago. Buying the home was her idea because we didn’t have enough space/bedrooms/bathrooms for our children in the old house. She is staying in the old house which has not been sold yet. The kids are staying with her in the next town over so that they can finish out the school year there. The plans that I thought we had in place are now all up in the air. We got married young, I lived at home with my parents during my first year of college and we moved in together when we got engaged. She lived on her own for about 6 months before marriage while she started college. Neither of us ever really were on our own. After all of these years of marriage, she said that she needs to discover herself / complete the final part of her journey. While I don’t really understand what means completely, I agreed to leave. The kids have been staying with me on the weekends and I’ve been running them to all of their appointments. So I’m seeing the kids about 80% of the frequency I was seeing them before but I still miss them greatly. We are still sharing finances and bills, I make considerably more than she does and I would never leave her in financial distress. After being apart for 10 days, living in an empty large home, I’m starting to realize that I don’t really know who I am without the marriage. She somehow figured out that she needed to be apart to find her self, but it took this shock to my system to realize that I think I need to do the same thing. I don’t know where to go from here. I truly do love her still, but I don’t know where she stands and she doesn’t want to talk about anything but the logistics of the kids. I feel that the stress of our oldest child’s problems, having to move, switch school districts, her having to go from a 5-minute commute to 35 minutes, etc. have all added to relationship stress.

    • My heart goes out to you! I can tell that everything that you have going on right now is a shock to your system!

      First of all, kudos to you for realizing that you need to find yourself too! That’s an important realization. How you do it and where you go from here remain to be seen. But just knowing that this is something you need to do too will help you handle the whole situation.

      As for where you go from here, I suggest starting with some introspection and a lot of soul searching. A good therapist may help you explore what’s going on, both inside of you, and outside of you. S/he can be a sounding board and hlep you deal with the stress that you are undoubtedly experiencing.

      You also need to think about your physical logistics soon. I understand that your wife may not want to talk about a lot, but you’ve got to figure out if you’re still selling the old house, as well as what happens when you do. Will you all continue to live together? What will happen with the kids?

      Finally, if your wife will agree to go to marriage counseling with you, that may be a good option for you as well. At least in the counseling sessions you can start to dig to find out what’s at teh bottom of your troubles here. While you and your wife could certainly do that on your own, if she won’t talk with you about it, that won’t work. That’s why working through a marriage counselor can help.

      This isn’t going to be an easy time for you. It will be full of uncertainty and all kinds of uncomfortable feelings. But hang in there. You WILL get through this!

      Best,

      Karen

  • Hello,
    My wife and I have been married for only slightly under 8 months. We’ve been together almost 4 years. In my eyes, we’ve always been a very happy and fun couple. We’ve only had one or two big arguments in all this time. We laughed together, we have so much fun together. We got married in our 30’s, and lived together (happily) for 2 years prior to getting married, which by everything you read, put us in a great position for a happy life together. However, 2 weeks ago I arrived home from work to see that my wife was not at work, and had lied to me about going to work, and instead took the day off to pack a lot of her things and leave our apartment for her parents house. She said she hasn’t been happy for a while. I was completely crushed and blindsided, because I didn’t know anything was wrong, and definitely didn’t know it was anything I was doing. I did know she was different recently, but I thought that it was from not being happy at work, which has been going on for a long time now. I’ve tried to help her with her work troubles, but she never wanted to follow through with anything. We’d been saving for a house, and were talking about kids, which she was on board with when we got married. All of the sudden she didn’t want a house, or kids, and she said I watch too much television and sports, and I don’t go to church with her enough. All things I can change easily. She left that day after I offered to change anything and everything to get her to stay, saying she needs to think, but before she left said “it’s going to be ok.” I texted her in the following days, and she seemed to be receptive one day and not the next. She agreed to marriage counseling, which I set up, but we only went for two visits, because when we were there, she didn’t talk much about anything, and kept saying “I’m sorry” and “I’m not happy” to every question the counselor asked. She didn’t wear her rings the 2nd visit to counseling, which destroyed me, and she said she didn’t want to work on our marriage, and doesn’t want to give me a chance to improve on the issues she brought up. I don’t think any of the reasons she mentioned are worth destroying our marriage over, and they are easily fixed if given the opportunity. She said there was a 1/10 chance to save our marriage, but isn’t offering up any explanation as to why she doesn’t want to even try to work anything out. I’m crushed. I love this woman with all my heart, and being left in the dark about everything makes it hurt even more. I can’t trust her anymore. We went to bed in the nights leading up to her leaving, with her telling me she loved me like she always had. Now she isn’t telling anyone anything, her parents, her friends. I do have to mention I know she suffers from undiagnosed severe anxiety, and has been worried about finances since I’ve met her. She told me she is going to see a psychiatrist to try and get some professional help, and she’s currently seeing a counselor, and she knows she isn’t herself, as she told me through texting, along with her constant apologies for causing me so much pain. I’m just lost. My entire world has fallen apart in the span of two weeks, for reasons I don’t even know. Do I give her space and not speak with her? Do I try and continue to get her to come around? This new person is not my wife, and it hurts too much to put into words. I know her anxiety is causing a lot of this, but a lack of communication is a big culprit as well. I don’t know what to do. I love my wife. Any advice would be helpful.

    • Oh my! I am so so sorry to hear your story! Your pain just leaps out from the screen at me!

      First of all, let me say that a lot of what I’m about to write you probably don’t want to hear. So if you’re not prepared for a little “tough love” hit the back button on your browser now!

      I have no idea what’s going on with your wife. It sounds like even she doesn’t know what’s going on with her! What I do know is this: it takes two people to make a marriage, but only one to cause a divorce. I know that sucks. But it is the unfortunate truth.

      Does your wife really want a divorce? I don’t know that either. What I do know is that there are clearly issues in your marriage and your wife doesn’t appear to want to work on them. THAT’S a problem.

      I know it might seem to you that you had everything you needed to be happy together. But she wasn’t happy. (Or at least that’s what she is saying … and she should know!) So something was off. Could you fix whatever that was? Sure … if you both want to fix it! If she doesn’t want to fix it, then whether you COULD fix it or not doesn’t matter. (Sorry!)

      So, what do you do? Where do you go from here? I suggest focusing on yourself for a while and dealing with your own pain. It wouldn’t be the worst idea to get a counselor yourself, just to help you through this rough time. Try to figure out where you went wrong in the marriage so that you can learn from that. Also, work on dealing with your own pain. You’re in a lot of it right now. The more you can start to deal with that pain, and heal from it, the better and stronger you will ultimately be.

      As for whether you give your wife her space or keep trying to get her to come around, I can’t answer that. I don’t know your wife. But I do know that if you work on your own behavior, and your own healing, you will put yourself in the best position to help the two of you get back together, if that’s what you ultimately do. Doing that will also put you in the best position to move on with your life if that’s what you ultimately do.

      Meanwhile, I know this all sucks! Hang in there. Things will get better in time.

      Karen

      PS I know this isn’t what you want to hear right now, but be happy you don’t have kids. Putting them through this would make it a thousand times worse!

  • Hi,

    My husband and I have been married almost two years. We both have very good careers. I am 29, he is 31. We have no children. We are still living in our first apartment. I thought we were ready to start looking at homes. I’ve been bringing up buying a home for the past year and constantly get shut down. Fortunately, we have little debt and are financially able to buy a house, why I get shut down is beyond me. It’s to the point it’s a constant argument and our marriage is suffering. Starting a family is also a huge argument (me for, him against) and thus our sex life is now next to nothing.
    We haven’t been talking and the nights someone sleeps on the couch is increasing rapidly.
    I made an appt with a couples therapist. He agreed to go. We go in about 3 weeks.
    I’m not sure if separating and giving each other some space is the best thing for us our not?

    Thanks for any advice.

    • I don’t know if a trial separation is your best option right now. But, working with a couples therapist is definitely a great idea.

      It sounds like you two have some very fundamental disagreements about what you want from your marriage. A good couples counselor can help you work on those. Maybe, ultimately, separating for a while may also help. But if you can work through your disagreements without having to separate, so much the better.

      I also encourage you to stick with the counseling. Marriage counseling isn’t easy. It forces you to deal with issues you would much rather sweep under the rug. It compels you to have conversations with your spouse that are emotional and hard. But, the outcome can be a much stronger, healthier marriage. (And, if you end up discovering that you and your spouse are so different that your marriage may not work, that sucks! But, it’s still better to find that out now than it is to find it out 20 years from now when you’ve got the house and the kids, and decades of history together!)

      I wish you the best.

  • I have wanted out of my marriage for years. We have 2 elementary-aged kids. I had an emotional affair and that triggered our discussions of divorce – I wavered and he did not want one. My husband has suggested a trial separation, which I thought I wanted, but now after thinking about the day-to-day of it all, I am sick to my stomach. I don’t know if I am just over-whelmed by it all or if I’m having second thoughts. I don’t want to be away from the children, that’s why I stayed so long in the first place. I am at the point where staying in the marriage is too much to bear. It also seems like he is determined to make this separation hurt me as bad as it can so “I can see the light” and reconcile. We are having trouble agreeing on some key rules for the separation. I know separating and divorce is hard on everyone…is that what I’m feeling?

    • Separating is hard. Divorcing is hard. All of this is hard! So wahwt you’re feeling is (unfortunately) totally normal!

      Another hard reality to face is that if you separate or divorce you’re NOT going to see your kids as much as you do when you’re married. And, yes, that sucks! But, so does staying in a marriage that you don’t want to be in.

      Maybe the question you should be asking is not whether you “should” be feeling what you’re feeling, but what you really want for your life? Do you want to be married to this man? If not, then doing a trial separation is kind of useless. (Sorry!)

      You may also want to ask yourself why you feel sick to your stomach about leaving? Is it because you love your husband and want to be married to him? Is it because you don’t want to see yourself as “a failure?” Is it because you’re overwhelmed by the thought of getting a divorce? What is your real fear? Once you identify it, you can start to deal with it.

      Being honest with yourself is hard. But living a lie is harder. It also lasts longer!

      Hope this helps.

  • Hello recently, with the help of this and several other articles, my partner and I decided a separation is in order. We are not married, however have been together for 10 years. Living together for 9. We live with my 2 children (15,13) and his 1 child (12) They are with us full-time. Over the past 18 months or so, we have created a terrible pattern of fighting. Breaking up in an angry blow-up. And after a couple of days of torture and torment, we eventually call a truce. This went from once per month, and has escalated to 1-2 times per week. It is exhausting in every way. We both have a great deal of love for one another, however this just isn’t working, and we need to do something different. He is leaning away from the idea of separation, but he does admit that things cannot continue like they are, and is willing to separate since that is what I say I need. Of course, as luck would have it, we have an 8 day family vacation in Mexico planned in 3.5 weeks. Paid in advance. I feel like we need a 60 day separation, NOW, or it will be more of the same, and i cannot do any more of that. I feel like there is equal chance on both sides as to where we land at the end of it. What would you suggest we do with our vacation? I take my kids, he take his, and we avoid each other? I don’t want to take the trip away from the kids, however, our relationship is not in a good enough place right now that I would feel like we could even risk going together. Any advise would be appreciated.

    • Wow! That’s a tough question!

      While one of you could stay home, neither one of you will probably want to do that. But, it’s an option.

      You can also both take your kids and avoid each other. Doing that will definitely be awkward, but that’s the only way that all of you will get to go on the vacation you already paid for.

      You could also try to make a “vacation truce.” So each one of you would agree NOT to argue JUST during your vacation. If anything irritated either of you, you would both agree to look beyond that issue and hold your arguments until you got back. That may or may not work. But at least it wouldn’t be as awkward as going on a vacation together but still being separate.

      Alternatively, you could cancel the vacation and then no one would get to go. While your kids would be disappointed, at least you wouldn’t have to be together on a vacation that makes you both crazy.

      Or (I know this sounds wierd) you could both stay home and send the kids to Mexico with a relative or friend who would then get a “free” vacation. Then you and your partner would be home alone together and maybe then you could start working on your issues without having the kids around. (Getting a therapist to help you would be a good idea if you do that.)

      Another option is to try to get in to work with a therapist asap, even BEFORE you go so that you could start to understand how you can break your pattern of fighting. I don’t know how much headway you could make in a week or two, but that might be worth a shot.

      The bottom line is that, if you’re willing to be creative, you have a lot of options. As for what you decide, that part is up to you.

      Karen

  • Hi,
    I was reading through the comments and was happy to see that you are still responding to recent ones. I hope that is still the case. Here goes:
    My wife and I have been married for nearly 14 years. We have two children: OUR son is 18 and a freshman in college (I realize the math doesn’t work, he was young when we met and I am his father as far as we are all concerned) and our daughter is 12. Our relationship has been like so many that I read about: a series of falling in and out of love over the years with a lot of disappointments, frustrations, resentments, and ‘doing it for the kids.’ There have been times over the years where she has expressed frustration or even stated that she would exit the marriage ‘if she could’ but in all of those instances our relationship bounced back. A few months ago she made these statements again and something was different about it to me. Rather than let it go in one ear and out the other while waiting for the recovery I took it as a wake up call and made SERIOUS changes in myself. However, I did not do a very good job of avoiding being emotional (begging, pleading, etc) some of the time and have certainly over-talked the subject on many occasions. To add to it, her longtime boss and his wife are going through a separation and my wife has been caught in the midst of that. Her boss consistently leans on her for support and has reached the point where he is constantly texting, emailing, making work calls last longer than they need to, etc. I have addressed what I consider an emotional affair with her and at one point she cried, apologized, and acknowledged that she was hurting us. Still, it has continued. I took the first step and began going to counseling solo and she eventually did the same. We had our first joint session last week and, since this is Imago therapy, it was pretty emotional. We left with a pact to just ‘be’ for the following week and not discuss things. That lasted just under 4 days, but this time SHE brought it up. She said she didn’t want to go to any further sessions and that she wanted to proceed with a separation and eventual divorce. I feel paralyzed by all of this. I can’t stop feeling emotional and displaying that. It has been less than 48 hours since she said this and with each conversation or exchange I feel like she is further out the door than before. I don’t think that she has physical feelings for her boss (though I’m sure that he would jump at the chance) but it’s clear that there is an emotional crutch there. I have not been able to drop that subject and it comes across like I’m blaming it for all of the old resentments, etc. that she seems to be holding onto. She acknowledges that a separation will hurt our children and impact generations and knows that the lifestyle we have all enjoyed will be impacted. Still, she seems as though she would rather go down that path than make any attempt to restore our marriage. We have yet to discuss in detail the logistics of this and when/how we would tell the kids, or who else we would tell. I have made it clear that I have no intention of leaving our home: I’m not the one looking to exit. At the same time, I feel overwhelmed and don’t trust myself to not become overly emotional when around her. Is it a bad idea for me to consider leaving if only for a couple of days? I’ve thought about just checking into a hotel for a few nights to get a little space and clarity. But, in your opinion, would this just make things worse? I don’t know if taking a step to not only give space but also to establish a little control would be beneficial or detrimental right now. With things hanging on by a string like this the last thing that I want to do is make anything worse. Your insight would be greatly appreciated.

    • What you’ve asked (should you go for awhile and give everyone some space) has two sides: an emotional one and a legal one. “Just leaving for a few days” without having an agreement about that you’re doing and what it means, could have legal implications in your divorce. I can’t speak to those since I can’t give legal advice online or outside of the state of Illinois. But you might want to talk to a divorce attorney in your area before you do anything.

      As for the emotional implications of giving everyone a little breathing space, without knowing a whole lot more about you, her and your situations (details you definitely do NOT want to put on the internet!) I can’t say what effect that would have on your relationship.

      The unfortunate truth about marriage is that it takes two people to make a marriage, but only one to end it. If she is truly done, then all the begging and pleading in the world won’t keep you from getting a divorce. If anything (as you probably know) it will only drive her further away faster.

      So, what to do? I know it sounds lame, but the truth is that the best thing that you can do is to work on yourself. Whether you end up getting divorced or not, you’ve got to get a handle on your own emotions. You can’t save your marriage if you’re an emotional wreck. And you can’t make good decisions in your divorce if you’re an emotional wreck. So getting through whatever you’re facing depends on you first getting yourself together. Focus on that.

      While you’re doing that, you also want to focus on your kids. Make sure they’re okay while you and your wife are figuring all this out. Even though your son may be in college, your divorce will still affect him in a big way. So make sure your kids are not getting lost in the shuffle right now.

      Finally, I know none of this is easy. None of it is what you want. But life happens.

      Do your best. Be kind to yourself. Take care of your kids. You will get through this!

      Karen

  • Good morning Karen,
    Me and my husband have been separated for almost 6 years ? ( I know) lol. But I’m ready to file for divorce . But I want to buy some property and I wanted to know if I should just legally separate for now then buy the property or just divorce and buy my property ? Not sure how that works? Please help if u can

  • I’m not sure I followed your rules properly last night I made a spur of the moment decision to have a trial separation with my husband of 6 years because I am tired I feel emotionally abused most of the time I am miserable then yesterday in the heat of an argument he threw a razor at me that he was using to cut himself(one of the heavy ones with the handle not just the blade) and it hut my elbow really hard I can’t even move it today without it hurting deeply. I don’t want our marriage to be like this and I want to fix it. He is bipolar and he claims he has ptsd from past bad relationships. We have also been fighting for our babies for four years (the oldest is 4 and the second is 3) they were taken by cps for his marijuana use and he did quit for a while but he did it again and smokes every day now. But I chose to hold on to my faith and belief that divorce is not an option and I don’t want one but I need a break and time to breathe. He doesn’t work and I pay all of the bills with my job as a server and he gets mad when I work doubles even though that’s where our bill money comes from. He won’t help around the house with anything because he has sciatica in his back and complains of too much pain all the time but he can get up and mow the yard if it needs to be done. He doesn’t even feed our four dogs that he loves so much I end up taking care of them all but when I’m gone he rarely takes them outside. I know he is bipolar and depressed all the time because of our situation with our kids but he still doesn’t see it is his fault but blames me for everything and has really high expectations of me as his wife. I decided last night that it’s time that my feelings matter and that maybe if we spent the night apart he would open his eyes and see that he needs to change while I work on changing myself at the same time. I don’t know what to do anymore I’m a broken mother with a broken home. My husband wants me to come back today but I’m afraid he might throw something else at me and hurt me again (He doesn’t believe he hurts me or is abusing me) I just don’t want things to be the way they have been I want our kids back and to not be miserable anymore. Should I go back home and try to work it out with him. Of course he said all the right things last night when I didn’t come home from work to try to get me back home but I stood firm on my decision to stay with my friend that I work with at least overnight. She said I’m welcome as long as I need to stay but I don’t want to push him over the edge with being gone because he could choose to do something drastic. Also he always tells me when he gets mad that he is leaving but makes every excuse to procrastinate so that I cry and beg him not to and try to change again and again but he makes me feel like I’m not good enough and I feel like I’ll never live up to his expectations any advise?

    • It’s been several days since you wrote this, and I’m not sure how things turned out. Unfortunately, I’m just one person, and I work all day. Sometimes it takes me a while to respond to these comments.

      However things turned out for you, I think you could benefit from working with a good therapist, hopefully one with experience working with domestic violence.

      I know that you may not feel like you’re the victim of domestic violence. But your husband threw a razor at you, and it hit you and hurt you. That was not an accident. You were also afraid to go home because you thought he’d thwo something at you again. My guess is that he has thrown things at you, hit your or hurt you before. You could really use some help.

      It sounds like you’re making excuses for your husband and his behavior on many levels. You may have tried a trial separation for one night, but my guess is you went back after that. If you want to make real progress and you really want to fix your relationship, it will take help – more help than what I can give you in a website comment.

      I strongly recommend that you start working with a good therapist sooner rather than later. The cost is often covered by medical insurance. If not, many therapists work on a sliding scale. There is also a lot of free help available for domestic violence victims.

      I wish you the best,

      Karen

  • Good morning Karen,
    I have recently been given an amazing business opportunity that will require relocation for my family 2 hours away from where we are now. We currently live within 5 miles of both of my wife’s parents (both divorced and remarried) and she insists that she is not moving anywhere and if I want to do it I have to do it on my own. I love my wife and kids very much and am trying to make the best life possible for them. Since our marriage in June of 2015, I have never felt like my wife is part of “our” family and is still part of “her” family. She seems to care more if her family is happy rather than myself. I am very unhappy living so close because her family is very overbearing and try to raise my children in a different way then me.
    This opportunity will drastically improve our financial and emotion state in our family but my wife insists I have to do it alone.

    • It sounds like you’re facing a really tough decision! The hardest part is that, if you take this opportunity, you will not only be leaving your wife, but you will also be leaving your kids. If you end up getting a divorce, that may be a factor in how things ultimately work out.

      On the other hand, if you stay, you’ll evidently be passing up a great business opportunity. If you do that, you will probably start resenting your wife for having kept you down financially.

      It also sounds like there’s a lot more going on with your marriage than a disagreement over whether to take this business opportunity.

      Whether you take the opportunity or you don’t, you need to sort out the issues in your marriage. You need to get to the bottom of WHY your wife doesn’t want to move and why you do. You also need to work on the extended family issues that you are experiencing. The best way to do that (especially if you DO move away and aren’t with your wife all the time any more) will be with a marriage counselor. I strongly recommend that you do so.

      I also encourage you to be honest with yourself. Why do you want to take this opportunity? Is it JUST that it will improve your finances? Or are you also wanting to get away from your wife’s family? Mind you, I’m not judging you either way. What I am hoping you will do is be honest with yourself. If the real issue is her family, then admit that! Why? … because you can only deal with issues that you acknowledge exist! So getting to the root of what’s really bothering you will help you bring that issue out into the open so that you have a chance to work it out.

      Can you still work it out? While I obviously can’t say because I don’t know you, from what you’ve written, it sounds like you can. But I know this much: if you let things go, and you move without ever resolving this issue, your marriage will NOT improve. Things will NOT magically get better. In fact, they will get worse.

      So, figure out what’s really going on, and work on that.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Hello Karen,
    I’m not married, but I consider it all the same. I have been with the same woman for 6 years, we have a 3 year old daughter. My partner and I had a very good relationship, she has problems with anxiety at times (medicated). Our problems started around a year ago when she started a new job. The people there were all single and seemed to have changed her. A few months into this I proposed to her. I didn’t think I was doing it to save our relationship in any way, I was just shruggig off little worrys thinking she was just going through what people in their mid 20’s do. She cried, said yes and couldn’t wait to tell everyone we knew. A month later we gotbin a fight and she broke off the engagement, but really wanted to stay together. Now we are a year after that, and she wants to seperate. My partner keeps insisting I am doing nothing wrong, she loves me, but isn’t so much “in love” with me. She cites never being single or on her own as her reasons for leaving. As we talk she insists this has no effect on our daughter and it’s only going to effect the both of us. She doesn’t want to date other people right now. She agreed to go to couples counsiling with me. I’m so lost. I’m not sure she’s not totally gone. Literally every step I take is towards building my family and seeing my daughter/he