By Leslie Cane: I often hear from women who are struggling while they are in a martial separation. Sometimes, things aren’t going as they had hoped and, since they are separated and don’t have unlimited access to their husband, they aren’t sure about how to handle these issues. One very common issue is that of phone calls or communication. Reaching out while you are separated can be hard enough. But when your husband doesn’t respond as you had expected (or doesn’t respond at all) this can leave you wondering about your next step.
I recently heard from a wife who felt like her husband was ignoring her phone calls during a martial separation. She said, in part: “for the first couple of days after we were separated, we talked on the phone regularly. He even called me a couple of times. But for the last few weeks, my husband has completely ignored my phone calls. I leave messages. I call during times that I know that he should be home. But no matter when I call or what I say, he won’t pick up. How am I supposed to respond to this? Does this mean that things have changed and that he’s distancing himself from me? I was very worried that this was going to happen. When my husband first asked for a separation, I was very reluctant because I suspected that his plan all along was to divorce me because he wasn’t really interested in saving the marriage. His behavior and his ignoring my calls seems to be confirming that. How can I find out why he’s ignoring me? What’s the best way to handle this?”
There are many tricky issues such as this one that can come up during your separation. Contact is a very common one. Many wives in this situation intuitively know that how they handle this may well affect the outcome of the separation. You can have some tough choices to make when you don’t want to keep calling and coming on too strongly, but you don’t want to just let your husband go. And if you wait on him to call you, then you can really worry that the call is never going to come. In the following article, I’ll offer some suggestions and considerations on how to handle it when your husband is ignoring your calls while you’re separated.
There Are Various Reasons That Husbands Ignore Your Calls During The Separation. Not All Of These Reasons Are Negative: Many wives will assume that their husband ignoring their phone calls mean that he doesn’t want to hear from them, that he’s sending a negative message, or that this is the first step of him completely distancing himself from his wife and from his marriage. Sometimes, these assumptions may be at least somewhat accurate. But, every husband who doesn’t immediately call his wife back during the separation has negative motivations.
Sometimes, the husband is just trying to take some time for himself and he wants some distance in order to be able to fully explore his feelings and thoughts. (In fact, this is one reason that many husbands will give you for wanting a separation.) And often, when they feel that they aren’t getting this, they will do things to assert themselves or to make it more likely that they will get what they have asked for. So, this is just one of many possibilities.
It can be a mistake to assume the worst or to allow your mind to immediately jump to the worst case scenario. And usually when this happens, there’s a real risk that you will over reach, keep calling, and make things even worse. I’ve had husbands in this situation tell me that that their wife’s insistence that he finally pay attention to her rose to an alarming level. (I’ve even heard the word stalking used a time or two. This happened to me in my own situation when I was trying to save my marriage.)
This is an easy trap to fall into, but I’d recommend making every effort to avoid this if it’s at all possible. I’ll discuss how right now.
How To Handle It When You’re Husband Is Ignoring Your Calls During The Separation: As I see it (and from my own experience,) you have two options. You can continue to reach out in the hopes that he will eventually respond(at a risk, of course.) Or, you can back off a little bit as a strategic decision. It’s my experience that although backing off can feel just wrong, risky, and vulnerable, it actually has a much higher success rate.
The reason for this is that often backing off will give him more of that time and space that he was after. And it will create some mystery and suspense, which should place you in a more favorable light. (In contrast, often continuing on with a strategy that hasn’t worked and continuing to call will put you in a more negative light.)
I know that even thinking about backing off can be difficult, but try to focus on the long term objective instead of the short term one. The wife in this situation wanted to make one more call. I got her to agree to this so long as in the next call, she alluded to the fact that she was going to be taking some time for herself and wouldn’t be in touch so much. As such, she’d just wait to hear from him.
Many wives are very uncomfortable with backing off. They feel that they need to know why their husband is avoiding them and ignoring their calls. So many will ratchet up their calls, follow him, or arrange to demand answers face to face. But I have to tell you that rarely do I see these methods work. Instead, it usually makes the husband want to retreat even more.
Many wives tell me that, although they understand why I’m asking them to back off, they just aren’t sure that they can do it. It goes against every instinct that they have because they worry that they can feel him slipping away. If this rings true for you, see if taking some time away would help. In my own case, I forced myself to leave town and this helped tremendously. Or, if that’s not an option ask yourself what is the least that you can do and still feel like you’re in touch. For example, maybe you can send only one quick text or email instead of continuing to call. Maybe you will promise yourself that you’ll give it one more day. Whatever you can do to keep yourself from coming on too strong or panicking will usually give you a better result, at least in my opinion.
How do I know this? Because I lived it. I had to use this same strategy when I was separated from my own husband. And looking back, I have to tell you that this was probably the only thing that would have worked. If it helps, you can read more of that story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com