Marriage and the Husband-Wife Relationship/Mariage Separation vs Divorce


QUESTION: My marriage has deteriorated to the point where my wife and I are contemplating separation or divorce.  The question I have is what factor(s) should I consider in determining if separation is best versus outright divorce?

She favors trying separation which is surprising to me. Her rationale… absence may make the heart grow fonder and she knows couples who have reconciled after separation (though most did not).

I am skeptical. My rationale against separation is it feels to me that she left our marriage years ago so I don't see how being separated helps her evaluate the situation more clearly. We live as roommates now and she has freedom now to do just about anything she pleases and she has taken full advantage of that.

She has had a ‘relationship’ outside of our marriage. Possibly multiple ones (she seems to have no real remorse regarding that). In fact, she once told me essentially that I made her do it.  

I was a devoted, caring, considerate, affectionate husband, good provider with an excellent job but it wasn't enough for her.

As much as I would be willing to work to find common ground to help solve our problems, I am not convinced that she is willing and/or able. I don't see/feel her doing anything tangible to improve the marriage. Thus why she thinks separation could be good is beyond me.  

She hasn't worn her wedding ring in 2 years and also wears a costume jewelry on right ring finger as if she is signaling that she is available.  Also, if she is as unhappy as she has said on occasions, why stay with me for a minute longer? Just be free. While not just file for divorce and get rid of me?

I suspect some hidden agenda somehow in this desire to separate. I cannot imagine dating someone else until my relationship with her is resolved (it doesn't feel right). I want to be devoted to someone, I want basic affection. A loving hug would be great. I am not perfect and I am willing to admit my faults but I just don't see how I can be what she "needs". It feels that I would almost need to be a totally different personality type to be the man for her.

One thought I had is if she wants a separation as a pretext to active/guilt free dating while keeping me as plan B in case the grass isn't greener on the other side.

I'm Very Confused!

ANSWER: Hi Alan~

Trust in what your gut instinct is telling you about what her true motives are.  You are probably dead on in that.  Or she wants to hang on a little longer to be entitled to your retirement/pension (if you even have one), alimony and the list goes on and on.  Separation can do one of two things it shows you that you can or can't live w/o each other.  It can drive you further apart or bring you closer together (if you find you really do miss each other).  However, in this case, I'd say she's got ulterior motives in store.  Otherwise, as you said she wouldn't stay.  You have to try to figure out what her true intentions are and go from there.  Besides if she won't file for divorce, then perhaps you should so that you can begin to move on with your life w/o her in it.  Sometimes that hardest part is taking the first step and then going through with it.  Sure it's tough but you can and will get through it all.  You have to give it some time.

It's unfair to you and her both to keep hanging onto something that's not there anymore.  You need to sit down with her and have a serious heart to heart talk with her.  She needs to know how this is affecting you.  And what you're willing and unwilling to put up with in this marriage.  If she refuses to give you a divorce then go file for it yourself and move forward.  You deserve to be happy and clearly if you stay in this unhappy, unhealthy and unfulfilling marriage you will continue to be miserable and confused and it will only get worse from here on out.  The choice is yours and it's one that only you can make.  Do what's right for you and what makes you happy, this isn't about her anymore.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: A couple points and some follow ups thoughts/questions.

To clarify, she hasn’t refused divorce.  We have been having exploratory conversations about the state of our marriage and where to go from here. But none of it involves getting an independent party to examine how we can move towards each other. I could file tomorrow and she would not stop it. But she hasn’t acted.

Alimony is not a factor. Our annual salaries are within 5% of each others. Both are sufficient to live on.

We have some retirement accts. While most are in my name, I believe our state laws split assets and retirement accts 50/50 in divorce so it isn’t a factor.

On Separation, I think she is puzzled that I am not that keen on separation (unlike me to be so clearly definitive in my feelings). The topic first came up a couple years ago when I confronted her about ‘outside activities’. (I actually busted her being someplace she wasn’t supposed to be). It’s funny now because when it happened, she offered to leave our home and I foolishly stopped her from making a ‘rash’ decision. I was an idiot!!
I regret that action to this day.

The separation topic came up again last week as we contemplate downsizing our family home (kids grown now and doing well).

These have been one of the rarer times that I articulated something very clearly about what I want. When I went to my own therapy a couple years back (when she declined multiple requests to go to marital counseling), my IC pointed out my skewed desire to please others and avoid conflicts. I tend not want to express my feelings as if they are not as valid as hers or the consequences of displeasing her. I don’t like conflict over stupid things. I guess I was so happy she chose me as a mate (she is smart,  attractive, etc), I probably acted too much like someone who had more to lose if she left me.

I’m much better now and I understand my own past motivations.

Other separation motive… possibilities

1)   she has been historically afraid of being thought of as the bad ‘guy/girl’ from the our kid’s (her own family’s) perspective. That might be why she has not filed for divorce.

2)   We both have good relationships with the kids and I have been an excellent father. But she knows that if they knew of her indiscretions, they would take my side. Maybe separation gives her cover to say.. “we” tried but ‘we’ couldn’t work it out. The answer, she hasn’t tried anything but to change me. And when I didn’t change enough or fast enough, then she emotionally disconnected from the marriage (saying that she was hurt). But I will lose some of the relationship with the kids only because she is the type who will pressure them to visit us now. If there is no “us”, she will do whatever she can to bring them to her residence, hog their holidays etc from me.

3)   Could be her simple fear of living alone. She is grown women but has never truly lived as one. Being fully responsible for herself. Went from College dorm to roommate to marriage house. She does not deal effectively with various domestic projects, doesn’t managing money ‘effectively’, sewing her own button, etc. I do all of that plus all the ‘manly’ stuff maybe it is some fear here.

My IC was baffled at all the things I do. He once said to me, “you have effectively created a being who doesn’t have enough to do”.

I have my own fears, such as not finding someone to love me (although I guess I have been alone for a few years now). But I am fully self sufficient (I don’t need another women in my life (I’d like one who loves me) but I don’t “need” one. I loved my wife and thought of spending a lifetime together. I meant my wedding vows. When I considered marrying her, I asked myself, ‘what if she became sick, deformed, etc etc. would you still stay?

I loved her and was fully committed to her so my answer was yes. That is a barrier for me today (even despite how I have been hurt).

I don’t think she thinks that way. She has no long term marriages in her extended family so she has no examples. I have multiple ones as examples. Divorces are not the norm for me, they are very common in her world.  

She also keeps referring to being ‘friends’ in the future. I’m kinda hurt right now so I don’t want to be her damn friend :-). In all seriousness, I don’t hate her and we don’t fight. We often enjoy each other company in a platonic ways with some similar interests but there is no intimacy. I know men who if denied intimacy, the love they deserve, they would not have been the charitable, patient spouse I have been.

My own fears above plus me holding out hope that she would wake up, snap into a current reality and move back toward me has kept me in this phase. But nothing has changed for us and I have trouble seeing that it ever will. Starting to wake up.. a slow process.

I will likely have to pull the rip cord on this dysfunction.

Sorry for the long post, thanks for listening and for your help.

Hi Alan~

In other words she's become "co-dependent" on you? This could be part of the on going problem and why she's not been motivated to file for a divorce.  And she probably doesn't think you will either, therefore she goes about her daily life doing what she wants to do.  When you've been with someone for an extended period of time and you don't want to be alone or live on your own situations can become like this (meaning where you're still married and live as roommates but are legally still married).  I can't tell you how many clients I've had that have written in about this particular situation that you are currently in.  With the exception of they fight, they don't get along, etc.  As I said before it's really unhealthy to live this way, with someone you can't really be partners in life with.  Everyone needs to feel loved, wanted, attractive, respected, and the list goes on.  There are some ppl that can live w/o that interaction or to settle for being married for life but doing their own things, having their own space, money, activities, etc.  I suppose it's not for everyone, but there are some ppl that can live that way.  I for one personally couldn't imagine living that way.  It's whatever works for each person and if they are in agreement with it and totally okay and/or comfortable in that type of living situation.  

You have to sit down and seriously think about what you're wanting to do from here on out.  Make a list of pros and cons.  And then go from there.  If you're used to someone being there, even if you don't have an intimate relationship (or sexually) any longer, then of course it's going to be harder to file for a divorce and decide to live separate lives.  Especially when one or both has become accustomed to this sort of living arrangement. Go with your heart and do what's right for you and what makes you happy.  I'm glad that you clarified a few things for me.  I can see why you don't really know what to do at this point.  So I'm sure she's even more confused or doesn't want to let go of the marriage b/c she's become comfortable and accustomed to you being there.  I hope this helps you some.  

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I can answer most any questions regarding a husband/wife relationship. Whatever the question may be. I would like to help you find an answer to it. If you want an honest and unbiased opinion on things then ask away. I am a divorced mother of 4 children, I have been a single mother, and I'm currently remarried and have a 4th daughter with my husband. I know what it is like to have a spouse cheat on you, to be taken advantage of, to feel like everything is hopeless (being depressed), emotions (the up`s and down`s). I will try to answer anything you have on your mind about husband-wife relationships, divorce, adultery, etc. Please don`t hesitate to ask.


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