Will Giving My Husband Space Make Things Worse?

By: Leslie Cane: “Giving a husband space” is a regular topic in the emails that I receive.  Many wives are on the receiving end of such a request from a husband who says he needs to “work out his feelings” or “time to sort things out.”  And I would have to say that many of the wives who hear this request have an overwhelmingly negative response.  Very few feel that this is a great idea or something that they want to do.  Most see “giving him space” as one of the more risky and painful options possible because there’s a real fear that the space is just the first step toward a divorce or break up.  And many worry that if they give him a taste of his freedom, he may decide that he really likes it and doesn’t want to come back.  So, in that way, the space would have actually made things worse.

I recently heard from a wife on my “save my marriage” blog who said, in part: ” my husband of five years told me last night that he’s not sure if he wants to be married anymore.  He said he wants some ‘space and time apart’ to decide what he wants to do.  But I know what he’s going to do when I give him this ‘space.’  He’s going to go out with his drunken friends, think that single life is so much fun, and want to leave me or get a divorce without a second glance.   My mother says I should give him the space because if I don’t, he’s probably going to divorce me anyway.  But I think that the second one of us moves out, the marriage is going to be over because he’s going to have an opportunity to experience single life and he’s going to like it.  I just keep thinking that giving him space is going to make things worse because it’s going to speed up the process.  Who is right?”

There’s no definitive answer here because any answer is really just a guess.  Without letting the scenario play out, there was really no way to know what the husband was going to think or do once the wife made a decision that set things into motion.  So, while I could not see into the future, I have gone through “giving space” in my own marriage and I’ve dialogued with many men and women over this very topic.  In the following article, I’ll offer some things to consider if your marriage is entering the “giving a husband space” phase and you’re afraid that it might make things worse.

A Husband’s Request For Space Doesn’t Always Mean He Will Eventually Pursue A Separation Or Divorce: It’s very understandable that this is going to be a wife’s greatest fear. After all, not many people would see a husband wanted to live or be away from his wife for a while as a good sign regarding the health or outcome of the marriage.  But, while this can and certainly often does mean that the marriage is having some struggles, it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s going to end.

I’ve seen countless couples (including myself) turn the situation around after one spouse wanted (and was given) space.  And I also firmly believe that not all men have divorce or splitting up on their mind when they do ask for space.  But, of those that do, some end up realizing that they miss their wife or that the single life or the loneliness that space brought about was not as great as they thought.  Sure, this doesn’t happen in every case.  And yes, sometimes you will have to encourage the process to play out exactly as you want it to, but it can be a real mistake to just assume that a husband who wants space really wants (and eventually is going to seek) a separation or divorce.  This just isn’t always the case.  And, even if it was, many wives are able to use this situation to their advantage to turn the marriage around.

Refusing To Give A Husband Space Can Be Just As Risky As Allowing It: I asked the wife in this situation how she intended to refuse her husband’s request.  She said she was just going to tell him that his idea was an awful one and that she refused the participate.  I didn’t know her husband personally, but I suspected that her husband wasn’t going to like that response all that much.  At least in my experience, very few men just accept this with a shrug of their shoulders.

Most will be very frustrated and may even feel as if you’re trying to thwart their happiness or the most basic of their wishes.  And, some will even associate this frustration with you.  Some husbands will think that in order to remove the frustration from their lives, they have to remove you also.  So what happens is the very thing that you’ve been trying to avoid all along – your husband pursues a separation or divorce in order to force the space that he’s requested.  Only this time, things are not so open ended anymore.

How To Avoid Making Things Worse When Your Husband Asks You To Give Him Space: I do understand the wife’s reluctance to agree to the time apart.  There’s always a risk involved either way.  I felt that risk in my own situation. No one who wants to save their marriage wants to willingly walk away.  But, I would argue that you don’t necessarily have to walk away.

Your first course of action could be trying to push for a compromise.  Perhaps you could give him a lot more leeway (at least for a little while) without him needing to move out.)  Or maybe you could be the one to leave since you could easily control when you came back.  Alternatively, you could push for an agreement as to when he might come back or when you might check in with and see one another.  In my experience, the worst thing that you can do is to leave things open ended.  You want to have as clear of an understanding as possible as to how things are going to work.  And, you want to make regular interaction a priority.

Finally, once (and if) your husband is taking his space, you can play it correctly so that you look more attractive rather than less attractive.  You don’t want to appear clingy, desperate, or needy.  Although it should be clear that you value your marriage and ultimately want to save it, there’s nothing wrong with taking full advantage of the space on your end.   Even if it’s not actually the case, you want for your husband to think that you are busy, that you are interacting with friends and family, and that you are handling things in a positive way because you’re confident that he will eventually learn what you already know – that you belong together and that you can work things out.

I absolutely understand where you are right now. A couple of years ago, my husband told me he wanted space.  It eventually became very obvious that I either had to give him that space or give him a divorce.  Unfortunately, I acted very badly during that time and my actions make our situation worse.  Eventually, it dawned on me that the tactics I was using to get him to want and love me again were not working. Luckily, I was able to change course and return the intimacy and affection. If it helps, you can read more about that on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com/.

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