When you find yourself in the middle of a separation that you never wanted in the first place, it can be tempting to want to remind your spouse that you are still married to someone who still loves you very much. I know firsthand that there may be a real concern that if they are out of your presence, they will begin to forget what they loved about you. Or they will discover that the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is actually true.
Therefore, it may be your normal inclination to tell your estranged spouse that you love him every time you talk to or see him. And this is absolutely fine, as long as you get an enthusiastic response. Unfortunately this is not always the case.
A wife might say, “I know he sounds desperate and needy. But I can’t help it. Every time I talk to my estranged husband, I tell him I love him right before I hang up. I’ve done it for everyone.” the years I’ve known him and the old habits are hard. At the beginning of our separation, this seemed fine. But the last two times, I have noticed that you have hesitated before giving an answer. Last night, he didn’t. I’m not saying anything in response. I don’t want to be a fool. Obviously, he probably thinks I’m doing something wrong or doesn’t want to hear me tell him that I love him during the breakup. But not saying it feels like a lie. It feels like playing or holding back. Am I supposed to pretend I don’t love him? Because I find it ridiculous. I love him. And it seems silly to me that I shouldn’t say it every day in the same way that I have for many years. Do I have to stop? “
That really depends on you. You would never tell anyone what to do during your marriage or during your separation. I can tell you what my opinion became as a result of a similar situation I was in. But I know that all situations are different. So I can’t say that what worked for me will work for you.
But, during my own separation, it finally became very clear that my husband was not receptive to my acting the same way I did when we were still happily married. When I tried to act like we were any other married couple or nothing was wrong, he would act distant or start avoiding me. If I pressed, things would get even worse and I would have to work really hard even for him to answer my calls. Frankly, there were times when she could almost literally feel her flinch when she told him she loved him.
Despite how difficult it was to accept, I began to realize that if I did not change some things, I could be making the situation worse. So I made a conscious decision to back down. Did this mean that I did not love my husband? No, in any case, she loved him as much or more. But I knew that if I was going to have a chance to keep that love, I would have to find a strategy that would bring him closer to me rather than further away.
And when I tried to push my love towards him, this definitely made him pull away further. So, I toned down my demonstrations and declarations of love. I told myself this was only temporary, but it was difficult. Still, I knew that the most important thing was my long-term goal and not my declarations of love in the moment.
My setback finally made things better because it finally made my husband more receptive to me. And her receptivity to me meant that we could spend more time together, which would never have happened if she had continued to push.
I can’t tell you what will work in your own situation. I can only suggest that if you notice something not working, it sometimes makes sense to try something else, even if only once. Maybe the next time you talk to your husband and it’s time to say goodbye, you could try something like, “Tonight, I’m not going to insist that I love you, although I do. I feel like it makes you uncomfortable. But I didn’t want you to think I was angry. or anything. I’m just trying to respect your wishes and not push. “
At this point, your husband could assure you that love phrases are okay. Or he may say nothing, in which case his silence says it all. If you decide to back off and find that the next time you speak, he seems more comfortable, then you can speculate that backing up a bit has helped.
I know it can seem strange and almost dishonest to hold back on your own spouse. But a separation can be a very fragile time in a relationship, especially when one of the spouses has asked for space or is not sure what he wants. It became my opinion that if stepping back a bit was what it took for my husband to finally be available to me, I was willing to pay that price at that point. Because I knew it was part of a long-term strategy that was going to mean that I wouldn’t have to hold back once we reconciled.
Today, I tell him that I love him all the time, so it was worth the wait. And I think it helped. But every situation is different. In some situations, both spouses are perfectly comfortable with continuing to say they love each other. And that is wonderful. But it was not my reality. Still, if everyone is happy, then I don’t see any reason to hold back.