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First Steps When Your Wife Wants to Separate

Your marriage is not over when your wife wants to separate. Handled correctly, this can be a good opportunity for your marriage to become better than ever.

wife wants to separate
How do you mend the connection when your wife wants to separate?

If you are like most of the men I work with and your wife wants to separate, that came as a complete surprise to you. Even if your relationship has been bad for years, you probably thought that she would never want to leave you.

Unhelpful responses to her desire to separate

Many men go into fix it mode. Begging for another chance, arguing, trying to convince her to go to counseling, and telling her they will change everything she ever complained about. That goes over like a mosquito in a room full of nudists.

Some men do even worse by accusing their wives of affairs, blaming their wives for causing financial harm or harming the children, shaming them with Bible passages, threatening their wives, or rejecting them with divorce.

We will never accuse, blame, shame, threaten, or reject our way to an improved relationship.

What all of these reactions have is common is trying to control and convince. They invalidate and do not make her feel like she is a priority. You are, or the children are, or the finances are, or something. Showing her one more time that she is not a priority is not going to make her have second thoughts about separating.

The lack of empathy in these responses does not foster emotional connection. With lack of emotional connection being the number one reason women separate in the first place, you can see how giving these selfish and oppositional responses makes things worse.

In life, we only keep what we prioritize.

Focus on the relationship, not the separation

Men can use their wife’s desire to separate as an opportunity to reconnect in a secure and attractive way. Many times this prevents separation, but when it doesn’t, it sets the stage for reconciling even after separation. Empathy and agreement are the tools of connection. Logic is not.

The goal should not be getting her to change her mind, but helping her to feel connected to you.

To prevent separation or divorce, the focus has to be on the relationship and NOT on preventing separation or divorce. Only by rebuilding her feelings can you hope to change her desire to separate to a desire to stay together.

You can radically improve your marriage if you stop asking yourself how you can get your wife to do what you want and instead focus on helping her to enjoy you and desire you.

We can’t convince people to enjoy us or desire us. We must become the kind of person they enjoy and desire to be with.

Four reasons wives commonly want to separate

Reason #1: Some wives use separation as an intervention

Do you remember your wife trying to get you to interact with her in a different way? Did she talk to you multiple times about how she was concerned about your relationship? Was she asking you to go to marriage counseling? Did you have any bad behaviors that she often tried to get you to change? Did she read books on improving marriages? And, most importantly, did she fail to get you to take the need for these changes seriously?

If so, your wife may be asking to separate now as an intervention. That is, she still wants to improve your relationship, but realizes that you won’t do anything just by her complaining. She has to do something serious in order to get you to take her seriously or to change permanently.

Responding to this motive for separation

If your wife is separating as an intervention, you do need to take her very seriously, Because if her intervention does not work, she will soon be divorcing you. Then it won’t be an intervention–but a result of her hopelessness about your marriage. Immediately start fixing what she has complained about, but don’t try to talk her out of separating.

Empathize with her healthy desire to get out of a situation which has continued to be bad for her in which her husband has not been responsive. Swallow your pride and admit it. She already knows it. You must validate–not invalidate–her desire to separate.

You will have a delay of up to two years while she plans her exit, though it could be much less depending on her level of frustration and hopelessness. If you don’t maintain improvements during that time, then she will divorce you. This separation intervention may be her last ditch effort to save your marriage.

Women don’t want to lose a good thing, but they don’t want to keep a bad one either.

Reason #2: Some wives separate to help husbands transition to a divorce

Are you on the edge of falling apart because your wife wants to separate? You know, really tearful and an emotional basket-case? If so, your wife has to give you reassurances while she works to get out of a marriage with her undesirable husband. She doesn’t want you to completely become dysfunctional or overly reactive. She has to emotionally take care of you by giving you some hope, at the same time helping you to adjust to living without her.

Women are not attracted to men they have to take care of.

You may think that if you are depressed enough, she will stay to rescue you. But at this point your wife no longer wants to continue to be your mother. To her, your difficulty functioning–your neediness, is very unattractive. It only convinces her all the more that she is not going to be happy staying with you.

Women are attracted to secure men. That means you need to behave like one.

What will a woman say in this situation? She might tell you that she needs to separate just to think, that she has no interest in ever having a relationship with another man again. Or she may say she needs to time to see if she misses you. However she will not indicate any desire to work on your marriage because she is not planning to continue it.

Responding to this motive for separation

Your wife will not admit to you that she is actually thinking about divorcing, even if you ask her. She knows that is beyond your ability to handle. You are going to have to stop feeling so sorry for yourself, and start behaving like a secure man. If you can be secure and desirable at this time, you may be able to re-interest her in your marriage.

To be secure, you must continually ask yourself what a secure man would do and then do it. If you don’t know, you can start with my book on overcoming neediness. Being desirable means being the kind of man your wife would want to meet if she didn’t know you.

Reason #3: Some women want to separate due to an affair

Most people who are having affairs do not admit their affairs for a number of reasons. They may not want to look bad to the rest of the family. They may not want you to focus on the affair as the cause of the problems in your relationship. Or, one of the most common reasons–she may not consider it to be an affair, even if it is.

While many men are only concerned if their wives have a physical affair, an emotional affair can be even more damaging. (See my article on physical and emotional affairs for more information). Separating due to an affair indicates a serious degree of interest in another man. It allows her to explore her relationship with the other man and signals her commitment to him.

Responding to this reason for separation

If you know your wife is having an affair and she wants to separate, agree with her that your marriage would not work anyhow with another man in the picture–regardless of her stated reasons for separating.

Empathize with her desire to have a relationship with a man she feels connected to and to get out of out of a marriage that she doesn’t enjoy. Even though her behavior is a betrayal, you must still empathize to start to create connection.

Reconciling always begins with empathy, even when we need to use boundaries.

You will need to use good separation boundaries so that your wife can’t have her cake and eat it, too. Use the separation to work on becoming a more desirable man and realize you are competing with her other man. It is your ability to be a better deal than him, while putting her in a position to have only one of you, that will determine whether you reconcile or not.

Reason #4: Some women want to separate due to social brainwashing that divorcing and staying friends will create a happier situation

There is a very strong anti-Christian, anti-marriage, anti-conservative movement in many parts of the world. Women who are in bad marriages will indeed have a better life if they divorce, however women in good marriages will not. The ones who escape a bad marriage provide evidence that divorcing is better than staying married.

No one will ever find happiness by doing the opposite of what God teaches. They will only have moments of pleasure in a life of meaninglessness.

As with all reconciling, arguing and logic will only make things worse.

Responding to her plan to divorce and be friends

If you have a basically good marriage with your wife and she wants to divorce and be friends, you can derail her efforts by refusing to follow her plan while remaining desirable. You will need to have good separation boundaries and to make your wife feel that divorce will be the end of your relationship entirely.

Otherwise, she will continue to divorce you. Separation is the time to use the boundaries so that she will get to experience what divorce will actually be like. I recommend you see the article I have specifically on this situation if you want to prevent divorce.

If your marriage is bad, then who can blame her for getting out? Start working immediately to improve your relationship without concern for boundaries. They are only going to be beneficial in a relationship she actually cares about. You may want to get marriage coaching right away (coaching does not involve your spouse) because your time is limited and you have been unable to improve your marriage on your own.

Men who say they don’t believe in divorce, but who don’t do a good job of loving their wives are hypocrites. Husbands are first and foremost to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25).

If you are only concerned with what the Bible says because your wife is doing something, then your main concern is not doing what God wants–it is preventing your wife from doing what you don’t want.

Selfishness is the enemy of reconciling

Many men are so fearful of separating, that they do a lot of damage in the process of trying to prevent their wives from separating. Needy behavior such as crying, begging, arguing, and so forth, only does more damage to the relationship by showing your wife that your priority remains yourself rather than her. You are in essence telling her that she should continue to sacrifice her happiness to do what you want.

This selfish message shows a lack of concern for her happiness and only further convinces her that she is doing the right thing by separating from you. If you continue such behavior, it will only speed up the separation, as your behavior will make her feel pressured.

You can know you are pressuring your wife if she needs space from you.

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On the other hand

You may not be upset about separating, but merely see it as unrealistic and impractical. Some men are much more concerned about their finances than they are about their relationship. If you think of your marriage primarily as a business partnership, I have written an article to help you stop your wife from separating for practical reasons.

Separation does not mean the end of your relationship

It is a myth that your relationship is over once you have separated. This myth does a lot of damage to relationships because it makes men put all of their effort into preventing separation when they should be focused on creating a relaxed, positive connection with their wives.

The fact is, if you can help your wife to relax with you and start to enjoy talking with you again, the separation may give your marriage a chance it otherwise would not have had.

Some marriages can only be improved by separating which can stop the hostility that would lead to divorce. Continuing to live together while pretending to be separated is much more damaging than actual separation and much more likely to lead to divorce.

With good interaction established, a separation is not going to prevent your relationship from continuing to build. On the other hand, if you pursue and pressure your wife prior to separation, she will have very little contact with you after separating–which will make it difficult to reconnect.

Separation is no more of a problem for reconciling than a girlfriend living in her own home is for getting married.

Many men ask how can they can build their relationship if they are not living together. They seem to forget that was how they originally built their relationship with their wives. People fall in love and commit much more readily when they are not living together.

Going no contact or giving space does not rebuild relationships

A really lousy piece of advice is to just give her space and wait until she misses you. A woman who is relaxed never needs space. Space is only helpful advice for men who are stressing women out. Even then, it does nothing to build the relationship. It only reduces the stress and makes her feel relieved not to have you contact her. This no contact period is when she is likely to connect with someone else if she hasn’t already.

Part of my work with men is to help men lower the stress level and resistance of their wives prior to separation. This either prevents separation or is a good transition to relationship building after separation. My clients and I practice good relationship connection skills that they will use:

  1. Prior to separation to create a positive connection and possibly prevent separation, and
  2. during separation, if it occurs, to continue to build the relationship.

Although many men I work with initially feared separation, they often tell me that the separation resulted in improvement that otherwise would not have happened.

A separation, like any other thing that happens in marriage, is an opportunity for connection if handled well. (Read more on giving space and building relationships).

Related Podcast: Is Going No Contact a Good Way to Get My Spouse to Come Back?

Her feelings are what determine her actions, not her decisions

Women’s (and men’s) emotions do not respond to rational arguments, no matter how good your explanations are. No matter how good your reasons (finances, children), you are not going to reconcile with your wife until you can help her to feel in love with you again.

You need to be secure enough to go at her pace without doing more damage to your relationship. I have given you four reasons women separate. Your wife may have more than one of them going on at the same time.

Re-Connections relationship coaching
Re-Connections Marriage Coaching

To reconcile, you will need to help her to feel relaxed, comfortable, attracted, and connected with you again. If you do, you have the potential to re-build your relationship. It won’t matter whether she is having an affair, doing an intervention, or outright rejecting you.

Attraction, connection, and boundaries work together to create reconciling. You must have all three to reconcile.

When a woman says, “it is over,” it only means that’s the way she feels now, she cannot imagine ever being with you again. However, if you can use good connection and attraction skills your relationship will take on a new life, much better than before.

Stop focusing on what she is doing and start being the kind of man she wouldn’t want to lose. That is how you prevent or end a separation. See my Re-Connections Coaching Package if you would like to work with me on these skills.

Related Posts:


wife affair reconciling
Is My Wife Cheating on Me? Finding Out, Reconciling, Forgiving



Get Your Wife Back After Separation
How to Get Your Wife Back After Separation



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How to Respond when Your Wife Just Wants to be Friends


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