Your husband has told you that he needs time to figure out what he wants and is moving out so he can do that. What you need to know is that by the time your husband says this to you, he has already done his thinking. He already knows what he wants to do.
What he is really saying
By the time a man wants to move out, he has already decided what he wants to do. His thinking has already been done. When he says that he needs “time to figure out what he wants,” it actually means, “I want to move out and I don’t want to tell you the real reasons. I’m not sure my plan will actually work, so I am not ready to cut all ties with you.” If he is not moving out, but say he needs time to figure out what he wants, it means, “I am planning to move out, but I am not ready yet. I am going to keep emotionally distant until I do, because I don’t want to mess up my plans.”
Why his statement works
Because women often do need space to think, they consistently believe men when they say this, not understanding that there is a gender difference here. Men decide what they want and then take action. They do not take action and then decide what they want. If your husband was really unsure about what he wanted, he would not be moving out. Indeed, he may have been thinking about what he wants (or doesn’t want) for a long time. Now that he is ready to move out, or working on it, he has decided.
More gender differences in decision making
Men are hunters. They decide what they want to hunt and then they hunt for it. When a man dates a woman for the first time, he has already decided he is interested in her, while the woman may not know whether she is interested in the man until after she dates him. Women use their emotional reactions to guide their decision making. Men use their decision making to guide their emotional reactions.
When wives move out of their relationships, their husbands try to convince them to change their minds. For them, moving out is a rational process based on rationalizations and decision making. They fail in this approach because it does not change the way that the women feel about them. My work with men is always in helping them to stop working on their wives’ thinking and instead to help their wives to feel in love with them again. It is a difficult transition for men because it is not the way that men think.
When men decide to leave a relationship, women try to connect with them so that the men will feel more attraction and want to stay. The women usually find, to their dismay, that the men enjoy the changes that the women make, but still are insistent on leaving. No matter how good they make the men feel, they still wants out. Women have to learn to deal with the rational man and resist the temptation to just emotionally throw themselves at their husbands. This is not the way that women think, and it is a difficult transition for them.
Reconciling with a man involves boundaries, respect building, and strategy, while reconciling with a woman involves loving without pursuing.
What do you do when your husband says he needs to figure out what he wants?
So, what do you do when your husband says that he wants to move out in order to have time to think about whether he wants to stay in your relationship or not? Or, what do you do when he is staying in your home, staying emotionally distant, but saying that he is trying to figure out whether he wants to continue his relationship with you? You need to throw a monkey wrench into his plan to keep you as a backup in case his other plans don’t work out. He does not get an option to have a month or two off from your marriage so he can experience what it is like to be single again and decide if he likes it. You can tell him something like this:
You can leave, if you want to, but first understand that once you leave, you will not be coming back unless and until our marriage is rebuilt. And, I will not wait long for you to do that. I love you and I want to make this a good marriage for both of us, but you will lose me, your home, and your family if you are unfaithful to me.
This message allows him time to go “think,” but it greatly increases the risk to him. Most men will be angry about your saying this. They want to have their cake and eat it too. But, basically you are saying that you can have your freedom or me, but not both. Do not argue with him. Just stick to this boundary.
One of the worst things to say to a man
In my opinion, one of the worst things that you can tell a man is:
I love you and always will, no matter what you do. I will always be here for you and I will never give up on our marriage.
While that sounds romantic, it sends the wrong message to your spouse. Your spouse should know that you love him and will be by his side and support him as long as he remains a faithful, loving husband, but that that will all come to a crashing end if he mistreats you or is unfaithful to you. Fear is the emotion that helps us not to do dangerous and stupid things. Many more men are faithful out of fear of losing their wives than they are out of a loving concern for their wives’ feelings.
Affairs happen when men lose their fear of losing their wives
It is really important to be a valuable woman for your man. If you have many critical behaviors, your husband will stop fearing losing you and a divorce or affair is not far behind. The same is true for women, although most men are very slow in figuring this out. Most men still believe that their wives would never leave them no matter how much they neglect their wives. In this age, this is simply not true. The double standard for affairs and divorce in marriage has mostly disappeared. We have to be worthy of our spouses for them to want to keep us, whether we are a man or a woman. Personally, I think that is a good thing.
Having good boundaries is part of being a loving spouse
Be loving, but have good boundaries. The same is true for your kids, by the way. Your kids should know that you love them and are on their side. But, they should also fear that if they really mess up and do stupid things, that there are going to be serious consequences. Children should never think that they can do whatever they like because you will just tolerate it. Parents who tolerate anything from their children raise kids who will not be good partners for anyone. Having boundaries–lines that cannot be crossed, not only protects ourselves, it protects those we love.
You are not to blame even when he says you are
Although he will blame you for his moving out or being distant, that is just his way to avoid responsibility for his selfish desires. There are several reasons why men blame and it’s important not to take what he says at face value. No man says “I’m tired of being married and just want to go fool around for a while.” Instead they give reasons why it is too emotionally difficult for them to stay with such awful wives. That is why your changing those things he doesn’t like about you won’t make a dent in his decisions. They are not the real reasons. If you change something, he will just come up with other reasons to justify his behavior.
Also, don’t torture yourself night after night, wondering if he is going to decide to stay with you or not. He has already decided not to. The biggest factor in whether he has renewed interest in you is whether his plan works out or not. With many men, their plans don’t actually work out. The grass that they thought was greener was an optical illusion or they find out that it’s not actually so fun to be alone six days a week because that is all the time your girlfriend has for you. Single people want to be married, and married people want to be single. There are reasons for this. Most men who separate have lost touch with why they got married in the first place.
“But, my husband really is undecided”
A man who really can’t decide needs to work with his wife and a counselor to make a decision. If your husband refuses to do these things, then he has already decided. Ask your husband if he is willing to go to counseling and then watch to see if he follows through. If he says he will, but then makes little or no effort, he is clearly following his plan to get out of your relationship to pursue other interests that he cannot pursue if he stays at home.
“What do I do to get him back if he does leave?”
First, you keep your boundaries so that he can’t have his cake and eat it too. This means not spending the night with you, having sex with you, or being able to come and go as he pleases from your home. You must avoid doing damage at the same time that you help him to begin to feel like the grass may be greener at home after all. This goes on at the same time he is discovering how well his plan is actually working. You may need a coach to help you with these re-connection skills. You may also need a counselor if you find that you are so emotional you can’t stop yourself from being needy or argumentative with your husband. Being needy or argumentative will not attract any man.
“Is this method guaranteed to make him want to come back to me?”
Not at all. It just works much more often than begging him to come back, arguing with him to come back, or just giving him as much time and space as he wants to experiment on his own. Love is never an opportunity with a guarantee. But, it is a risk worth taking.