By: Leslie Cane: I sometimes hear from wives who are beyond hurt that their husbands have been hinting about separating in order to explore relationships with other people. In other words, their husband wants to date other women while still being married.
I heard from a wife who said: “last week, my husband approached me and said he wanted a separation. He was very specific and said he would like for us both to date other people. I immediately assumed that he was doing this because he has a particular woman in mind. But he denies this. He says that he feels that dating other people would make our best course of action clear. His theory is that if we enjoy seeing other people, then it will be clear that we are not meant to be together. However, if the experience of dating others is a bad one and we miss one another, then we will know that we should fight for our marriage. I don’t buy this theory at all. And I asked if he really feels this way, why he wouldn’t just divorce me? He says that divorcing right now is not what he wants. He claims that dating other people will show us if we are meant to be married. I have no desire to see or date anyone else. But when I tell my husband this, he seems to get frustrated with me. What can I do?”
This is not an uncommon situation, although it can be a very trying one for the reluctant spouse. I had to agree with this wife. I have never seen anything positive come out of married people dating others. I do believe that sometimes a separation can actually save your marriage, but this often happens when the spouses stay in contact and remain faithful. That said, this husband didn’t seem to want to budge on his proposal. So I offered the wife what I could in the way of suggestions. I will share them below.
Try To Get Him To Agree To A Set Time Period Before You Consider Seeing Other People: I firmly believe that seeing other people should be the last resort. Going through a separation is hard enough. This time period can be filled with self doubt, worry, and insecurity and all of these issues become magnified when you are also having to worry about what your spouse feels for (and is doing with) the people who he is dating. In short, it just adds too many troublesome issues to a situation that is already quite difficult.
So I believe that you should try to change his mind about this, even though changing a mind that is seemingly already made up can be quite difficult. I would suggest agreeing to the separation if it is clear that he is intent on pursuing it. However, then you offer a compromise. You tell him that a separation is difficult enough as a first step. And you ask him to give you a set amount of time, (say 2 weeks,) before you turn your attention back to dating other people.
That way, you are buying yourself some time. And he may find that having some time and space apart will give him the clarity that he needs without him needing to see other women.
If You Don’t Want To See Other People, You Shouldn’t Feel Forced To Do So: If something deep inside of you is telling you that seeing other people is wrong and is something that you very much object to, then there is nothing wrong with standing your ground. Besides, he may be hoping that he can get you to see other people so that he will feel more justified in doing this himself.
If seeing other men doesn’t feel right to you, then you can say something like: ”I know that you want us both to date other people, but I am just not comfortable with that. To me, it is the same as cheating. I understand that you want to separate. But to me, if we are married, we should remain faithful even if we are separated. I don’t intend to see other people. I know that you disagree with me, but I want to make this clear to you.”
Notice that you never condoned or agreed with him seeing other women and you made it clear that you weren’t going to participate. This leaves the ball in his court. And whatever he decides at least you will know that you conducted yourself with integrity.
You Must Decide How Much Access You Are Going To Give Him If He Does Decide To Date Others: Some wives will decide that they can’t be intimate with their separated husband while he is dating other women. So they will make it clear that, should he chose this path, there will be no intimacy between them. This will often give him an incentive to either stop pursuing this or to get this out of his system very quickly. A suggested script would be something like: “I’m pretty sure I’ve made it clear that I consider this to be in line with infidelity. To that end, I can’t be intimate with or pursue a romantic relationship with you when you aren’t being faithful to me. I do want to save our marriage. I hope that you will decide that you want to fight for our marriage and want to be faithful to me. I hope that when you make that decision, I am the first to know. Until then, I will wait to hear from you.”
This lets him know that there is going to be consequences if he choses the unfaithful route. And it does leave things open in case he changes his mind later. But, you are also leaving no doubt that there is no room in your relationship for more than 2 people.
There were a lot of issues that I had to deal with during my own separation with my husband. I am not sure that our marriage would have survived if we had added seeing other people to the mix. There are so many things to work through without adding infidelity to an already difficult situation. If it helps, you can read my story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com
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