Should I Write A Letter To My Husband Before The Separation?

Many women are quite understandably very reluctant about their trial separation. I find that, at least when I consider the people who reach out to me, most of the time it is the husbands who want to separate and the wives who want to save their marriage. There are exceptions, of course. And this is probably because I write articles about saving marriages.  But I find that it is typically the wives who are motivated to try to keep things together, at least by my unscientific observations. The wives are often looking to position themselves as effectively as possible before the separation takes place. Some will attempt to have several conversations with their husband, but will unfortunately find that these conversations have not been effective. So, it makes sense to want to be able to communicate in some other way, which is why many wives will attempt to craft a letter that they desperately hope will make some kind of difference during the separation.

A wife might ask, “What should a letter say before my husband leaves for a trial separation?” There are so many things that I want to say to him and so many questions that I want to ask. But he often shuts me down when I try to get specifics out of him. He basically just wants to play things by ear. For example, I’ve tried to get him to commit to going to church with me, so at least I will be able to see him every week. But he won’t make that commitment. He just says we have to wait and see. I have tried to stress to him that I’m not going to date other people and that I want to stay together. He will stare at me as if he is listening, but he won’t give me any real response. It makes me feel as if I haven’t really had my say. So I want to write him a letter. I feel like everything is riding on this letter. So what should it say?”

I understand why you feel like so much is riding on the letter, but I have to tell you that I rarely see a letter being the deciding factor before a separation. I am not telling you not to write it. If it is going to give you some relief and allow you to have your say, then by all means, write it. But I am just sharing the information that I have rarely seen a letter change a husband’s mind. Often, by the time things have reached this point, the husband is looking to see real change through actions and this action is not likely to come from a letter. So, in my observation and experience, the best that you are going to be able to do in a letter is to set the stage for the actions and the change that your husband can expect to see. Yes, you can stress that you are still invested in the marriage and wish to see your husband regularly. There is nothing wrong with repeating your wishes. But, your husband already knows these things. You may not have gotten the desired reaction when you told him these things, but he heard you. So repeating yourself in a letter is unlikely to make him suddenly say, “well now that I see this in writing, everything changes.” I just say this because I don’t want you to put so much pressure on yourself about the letter. Certainly be honest and release your feelings if you think that it will give you some relief, but don’t think that the fate of your marriage rests on some written words. It usually doesn’t. Instead, it rests on what happens between you and your spouse during the actual separation and/or on what changes take place. It also rests on what reactions your husband and yourself have to being apart. Sometimes, this space allows for husbands to see that they aren’t necessarily happier living alone. It allows them to miss you and to have a perspective that they didn’t have before. No letter is going to accomplish this because only time can.

I understand the wish to write a letter. I had the same wish before my separation. I was desperate to do anything to change the situation. And that was part of the problem. My desperation. That’s why I caution you about putting pressure on this so that your desperation shows in the letter. Once I became desperate, my behavior actually hurt my chances to reconcile. I eventually found that it was better to focus on ensuring that our communications and meetings were low key, non stressful events where we could enjoy ourselves. I also found that things didn’t really improve all that much until my husband could see tangible changes that allowed him to think that our marriage might one day be satisfying again.

I am not trying to discourage in any way. If it makes you feel better, you should write the letter. But, from a strategic point of view, a letter isn’t often the thing that is going to save your marriage, so you have to be careful to not weaken your position by coming off as desperate. Instead, you can stress your commitment to your marriage and tell your husband about the changes that you intend to make in order to save it. Usually, actions in real life are much more effective than words in a letter.

Again, I don’t mean to discourage you.  But from my own experience, there needed to be real change before there were real improvements.  I eventually learned how to show these changes rather than tell my husband about them.  This made a difference and we eventually reconciled.  You can read more about that on my blog at

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