This uncomfortable conversation can go both ways.
In this example I will use “Barb” as the initiator and “Pete” as the reluctant partner.
Barb: I can’t do this anymore. I think we need to separate for a while. I need some space to sort things out.
Pete: Sort what out? Why can’t we do it together?
Barb: You don’t get it. I feel smothered and need time and space to figure myself out. I’m going to move in with my sister for a while.
Pete: What do you expect to get out this? What do you want from me?
Barb: I don’t know what I want exactly and it’s not all about you.
Pete: How long do you need?
Barb: I don’t know…I just don’t know.
Pete: What are we supposed to do while you’re gone? Shouldn’t we go to counseling?
Barb: I don’t know. I’m not interested in counseling. Maybe you need space too.
Pete: I don’t think so. I want you to stay here and work things out.
Barb: That’s not working and I can’t do that any longer.
Pete: (angry, hurt, confused silence)
This is the beginning of one of the most painful and confusing times in a relationship.
Separation can be a slow, murky and dark time of frustration and uncertainty. There is no plan. Time passes like molasses. Three days feels like 3 months. It sucks horribly and has no end in sight.
Separation can also be a time to create a clearer path toward something new, healthy and promising. It can have purpose, structure and intention. It can be conscious, compassionate and hopeful.
Which one will you choose?
Are those the only two choices?
Or do you think you don’t actually have a choice?
The 3 Choices of a Troubled Relationship
I provide this handout by Noeticus Counseling Center in Denver, Colorado to help clients understand the truth about separation and the choices in front of them. It’s an excellent resource if you’re facing the possibility of separation. According to this document there are three choices a couple can make when their relationship hits the rocks:
1. Continue as is
2. End the relationship
3. Carve out a new relationship
The Healing Separation document explains: “If a relationship is already crumbling, not many couples want to continue it as is. That leaves choices two and three.”
“Chances are they hadn’t thought much about the third choice – it probably seemed impossible. What’s more, they don’t know how to go about it. So their choice, almost by default, is to end the relationship.”
“There is another alternative: partners can work out a new relationship with themselves and with each other. The Healing Separation offers a process within which to do just that.”
Yes! This makes perfect sense!
And if both partners are committed, this can be the most powerful, transformational time your marriage will ever experience.
But what if one of you is not on board? What if there is no “partnership” to work out a new relationship?
What if you feel like there is no “relationship” anymore – just two troubled people?
What if you feel like you’re in this murky, dark place all by yourself because she isn’t interested in talking about or committing to a purpose, structure or plan for the separation?
Pete’s Big Mistake
Pete does not want to continue as is and he doesn’t want to end the relationship.
And carving out a “new relationship” looks impossible to him since Barb doesn’t seem interested in even discussing it.
At this point Pete feels he is indefinitely stuck in limbo and waiting for Barb to tell him how the rest of his life will go. This feels like his only option. If he says or does anything else besides accepting her decision, he might make matters worse.
He might pressure her too much – piss her off and push her away. She won’t want to talk to him. He doesn’t want to risk the ultimate rejection – divorce.
For Pete the uncertainty of staying in “separation limbo” feels far preferable to the uncertainty of divorce.
That’s Pete’s “Big Mistake”.
He is allowing his fear of divorce to make him play safe, play small and to wait for further instructions from Barb.
This has been an old pattern in his relationship and Pete knows it. As long he can remember Pete’s only mission was to not make Barb mad and defer to her judgment in all matters to keep the peace. And it pisses him off as he realizes he’s doing it again. Once again he is willing to keep quiet and go along with a wishy-washy plan he doesn’t like.
He is starting to believe this pattern is part of the reason he wound up where he is right now.
Pete wants a 4th choice.
Pete’s 4th Choice
One part of the Healing Separation process is about “working out a new relationship with yourself”.
This is Pete’s 4th choice.
But I’m not talking about the namby pamby cliché urging a guy to “just work on yourself”. This isn’t about reading a book or two and listening to yet another podcast.
This is the most pivotal time in Pete’s life. He needs to do more than just “work on himself” – he needs a serious mojo transformation. And this is the just type of intense pain, guilt and anger a guy sometimes needs to finally take that leap.
Pete’s agony and frustration isn’t just about Barb’s choice to separate. It’s about his feelings of hopelessness about a future without her. It’s about not trusting himself. It’s about his plummeting sense of self-worth at the thought of her not wanting him.
It’s the fear of feeling like a failure as a husband and a man.
Pete’s 4th choice is to respond to his new reality from a place of strength, love and personal value. Anger and resentment toward Barb will only tear him down further. He must let go of the desire to blame her, control her or manipulate the outcome.
When Pete internalizes the mindset and mojo of the “Happily Divorced Guy” I described in a previous article, he starts to feel better – clearer, stronger and more focused. He doesn’t get this from superficial “self help” – he gets it from a deep, non-negotiable determination to change his own operating system.
When Pete chooses to do this without peeking over his shoulder to see if Barb is noticing, everything changes for him. He doesn’t wait for instructions anymore and he makes clear decisions without fear.
And he knows his 4th choice was the first thing he should have been working on all along.
My new book Straight Talk Tools for the Desperate Husband will help you to lead yourself and your relationship back to good health. Understand why your partner acts the way she does toward you and learn how to lead your life in the direction you want it to go. You CAN have the relationship you want, fulfilling all your desires while maintaining love and respect.
I wrote a free e-book to help men learn how to lose their fear and be more bold in their marriage to create the love and connection they want. Get The Hard to Swallow Truth About Saving Your Marriage HERE
If you want to learn more about how to take a bigger step toward being a clear-headed, confident man of action, then find out more here. I would be thrilled to help you get there – our first discovery call is always free and always gives you a BIG boost of confidence.
You WILL become a clearer, stronger, more confident man only through other men. Your woman cannot take you there – and she doesn’t WANT to…trust me on that.
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