I sometimes hear from wives who tell me that their husband is giving them some vague excuse for why he wants to separate. Sometimes, he will tell you that he doesn’t like the man who he has become while being married or that he feels that marriage hasn’t been good for him. He will sometimes allude to the fact that he feels that being married has held him back in some way.
I heard from a wife who said: “last week, my husband started saying strange things about how he feels that life is passing him by and how he’s disappointed in himself because he’s lost sight of his dreams. This bothered me, but I tried to offer him some encouragement. And then I let it go and tried to move on. Then, a couple of days later, he came back to me and said that he was considering a separation. I was devastated and asked him why on earth he would do this. His response was that he didn’t like who had become as the result of our marriage. He said that before he got married he was adventurous and not afraid of pursuing his dreams. He said that he feels responsible for me so he takes the safe route now and this hasn’t been good for him. He said he would like to pursue his dream of moving to a big city and working as an actor. He says he doesn’t feel like he can do that while he’s living here and is married. My heart is broken. I don’t care if he wants to be an actor. I will support him no matter what he wants to do. But when I tell him this, it just doesn’t seem to be enough. He said he’s leaving this weekend to look at apartments. How can I convince him that he can still like who he is while we are married?”
This situation had multiple issues and not all of them were directly related to the marriage. Often, people wake up one day and realize that life is passing them by. Rather than taking personal responsibility for this, they will place the blame on who and what is most convenient and closest to them. And this isn’t at all fair but it happens all of the time. Frankly, who and what a man becomes is up to the man himself and his marriage shouldn’t solely dictate his course or his path. But, the key is making him see or understand this, which I will discuss below.
Don’t Argue That Who He Has Become Is All His Fault. And Know That It Can Be A Mistake To Tell Him That You Like Who He Has Become: It can be very tempting to want to defend yourself and your marriage and to argue that if he’s not happy with himself, then he has no one to blame but himself. Although this might well be accurate, putting it into words isn’t likely to endear him to you or talk any sense into him. He has to come to understand this on his own.
As tempting as it might be to tell him that there is nothing wrong with who he has become because you love that person, resist the urge. The reason for this is that if you tell him that you really like the changes he believes have occurred, he will think that you will be perfectly content to continue to hold him back. You don’t want him to believe that he can not stay married and also pursue his dreams at the same time. So, he should not come to believe that you have any incentive to want to keep him from what he believes will be changes for the better.
Many people will very understandably try to convince him that he is being silly. They’ll tell him that he needs to face reality because he is a middle aged man who is going to head out with no real experience chasing a dream that, statistically, has a very small chance of coming true. Please don’t make this mistake. Men like to feel as if their wives support them no matter what. He needs to know that you have his back in every circumstance. Because once he believes that you don’t, he will further pull away from you.
How To Best Respond In This Situation: This is a tough scenario to decipher. First, you want to appear that you are very supportive of him. But you don’t want to make it look like that you are going to be accepting of him just up and leaving you to go and do whatever he wants. So an appropriate response might be something like: “it hurts me that you feel this way. But more than anything, I want for you to be happy with your life and with who you have become. You know that I would support any thing that you wanted to pursue. You don’t need to separate from me in order to be the man who you want to be. You don’t need to be apart from me to pursue your dreams. You can have the dreams and the marriage simultaneously. But I will support you in whatever you decide to do. I just hope that you won’t discard our marriage because of this. I will help you make any changes that you want to make.”
I worded things this way because it’s important that he understands that he doesn’t have to choose between his wife and his dreams or who he wants to become. Hopefully, he will understand this and not pursue the separation. But, if he does, stay the course. Remain confident that he will eventually understand that he can pursue exactly who he wants to become while being married to you. Be upbeat when he checks in. Try not to pressure him as to when he’s coming back or coming to his senses. Because if he feels as if you are being judgmental or that he is just going to have to deal with pressure when he interacts with you, then he is going to continue to pull away.