I sometimes hear from wives who are very confused by their husband’s sudden request for an unspecified separation. Sometimes, there is very little prior warning about this. And the husbands aren’t always forthcoming about why they need or want this time away.
I heard from a wife who said: “I will admit that the last year of my marriage hasn’t been our happiest time. My husband’s parents both died in a car accident earlier in the year. My husband and his siblings fought about how to settle their affairs. This year has been so painful and stressful and our marriage was strained because I am close to one of my husband’s sisters. So I knew that things weren’t ideal between us. But I was completely shocked when my husband sat me down and said that he ‘wants to separate for a while.’ I asked him what exactly he meant by this and he told me that he just feels that he needs some time to himself to sort out what he’s feeling and what he wants out of his life. I asked him if this meant he was going to see other people or leave town. He said no to both. But he wouldn’t be much more specific than that. He won’t give me any concrete reasons as to why he’s doing this other than to say he needs time. He plans to stay at his parents’ house during the separation. I don’t know how I’m supposed to respond because I just don’t understand why he’s doing this. What reasons would he have?”
There are many reasons that a man will ask for a temporary separation or some time alone. Some of the reasons are someone legitimate and innocent and others aren’t. I’ll discuss some of the more common reasons below as well as give you my take on this particular situation as well as a suggested response.
Some Men Have Less Than Admirable Reasons For Wanting A Temporary Separation: I don’t think that this case shows an example of a man who is using the separated life as a way to live as a single man. But, you should be aware that some husbands will ask to separate for a while when they have or want to pursue someone else or when they want to live more like a single person. Others use the separation as the first step to a divorce when they’ve already made up their mind about ending their marriage but they want to ease their wives into the situation.
Some Men Truly Do Want Time To Sort Out Their Feelings Alone: Some men truly don’t know what they want. They haven’t made any plans to divorce and, in their minds, the separation might be temporary. Sometimes, as in this case, this happens after a personal crisis where the husband is reeling emotionally. He wants some time on his own to process his feelings, which are often all over the place. Often, he is hurting. And while there often isn’t any sinister intention on his part, there is sometimes a risk with this. Because he can sometimes associate the stress or pain in his life with your marriage, which certainly isn’t fair.
It was certainly understandable that this husband was hurting and might need some time alone, but the wife had done nothing but try to support him during a difficult time. The death of a loved one will often make a person question what they want moving forward because they have stared morality right in the face. It’s now obvious that they won’t be on this earth forever and they often want to take some time to evaluate their future. This didn’t mean that the husband would decide he wanted a future where he was alone, but it did pose some risk for the wife and for their marriage.
How To Best Handle This Situation: Most of the time, these husbands are sure that they want or need the time away. Wives often try to talk them out of it, but the success rate of this isn’t all that high since usually by the time they share their plans with their wife, they’ve been unhappy for a while. I think that a better alternative is to offer some compromise. You could offer to be the one to leave or you could offer to live in another part of your house so that he could have his time and space.
If he’s just not receptive to this and is insistent on moving out, then I would try very hard to agree on a schedule where you regularly communicated and saw one another. Because it is possible to improve your relationship while you’re separated (especially when you realize that you miss one another badly,) but in order for this to happen, you need to spend regular time together. So however you react, you want to set it up so that you have regular access to him.
So to answer the question posed, there are many reasons a man might want a temporary separation to sort out his wishes or feelings. Some men are being honest and others aren’t. In this case, the husband was likely struggling emotionally because of the tragedy that happened with his parents. Counseling might prove incredibly beneficial both for him and for the marriage.