Unfortunately, the women who visit my blog have one thing in common – there is serious trouble brewing in their marriages. Either their husbands have just initiated a divorce, requested space, or indicated that they just aren’t happy and need “a break.” This is a difficult position to be in if you want to save your marriage. You’re often at a disadvantage because often, the husband has made up his mind and won’t or can’t be forthcoming about what needs to happen to change this. He’ll often give you vague statements like “I’m just not happy,” “I just need time on my own,” “I’m just not sure I want to be married anymore,” or “it’s not you, it’s me.”
These things don’t really tell you anything or offer any road map. So, you’ll often have to do a little detective work on your own and try different tactics to turn this thing around. In this article, I’ll explain the best way to handle a situation wherein a husband is thinking about or wants to leave, but you want him to stay.
Deciphering His Saying He’s “Just Not Happy”: Men are notoriously bad communicators. Often, this lies with the fact that they aren’t very good at first, interpreting what they are feeling and second, communicating that to you. So, when your husband tells you he’s “just not happy,” he’s not necessarily lying or trying to be evasive. Often, he can’t put his finger on exactly what it is this is causing his so called angst.
Sometimes, his unhappiness has less to do with you and more to do with external factors like his job, his responsibilities, and the fact that he is getting older and that life as he envisioned it has not been what he has expected. You can’t control any of these things, of course. But, feeling loved, understood, supported, appreciated, and desired goes a long way toward helping a man weather these storms. When his marriage is losing a sense of intimacy and closeness, these external things become magnified and he often feels he’s all alone and adrift in a sea of disappointment.
It’s very important that you are able to understand this. You don’t want to come off as someone who thinks he’s being “selfish,” “self centered,” or “wrong.” You want to instead come off as the loving wife who wants her husband to be happy and fulfilled and who wants to help him achieve this. If you can see him as someone who is scared, emotionally vulnerable, and frustrated rather than someone who is doing something unpleasant to you, your job is going to be easier, because you’ll be able to approach this problem with empathy and your interactions with your husband will reflect this.
Deciphering His “Wanting Space”: Often when a husband says he’s just needs space or wants some time to his self, what he is really saying is that he wants time to think without the distraction or having you debate with him, trying to gage where his head and heart is, or trying to make him feel guilty. He thinks the quiet and distance will help him see the situation more rationally and without the distraction of having to look at and interact with you. Often, he’s hoping that the answers become clear or that he misses you and this will indicate to him that some feelings are still there. All of these things can be a very good thing, (whether it feels this way right now or not.)
However, I would suggest to try, if you can, to get your husband to agree to take “this space” without actually leaving. But, this requires you to commit to actually giving him the space without meddling or bugging him. Sometimes, you can offer to spend a few days with a friend. This will allow him to stay in your home, but will still give him the distance he is requesting.
By all means, don’t continue to ask him what he is thinking or what he intends. Your job right now is to assure him that you want him to be happy, agree that the marriage needs work, and tell him that you hope this space allows him to see that you are very willing to work with him to ensure his happiness, but that you are going to use this “break” and “space” yourself.
The Best Case Scenario To Turn This Situation Around And Save The Marriage: Ultimately, what you want to happen is this. You want to come off as the wife who respects herself and her husband enough to not degrade herself or disrespect him enough to act in such a way that is unbecoming. Give him the space he’s asked for, stress that you want him to be happy, but also reiterate that you think the two of you could still be very happy together.
At the end of the day, what most men really want in this situation is this: They are going through a hard time right now, they feel a sense of loss because the marriage is not as intimate and fulfilling as it once was and they feel disappointed and alone. Once upon a time, your love, attention, affection, and understanding was a shield against the disappointments of life. But, as you both have more and more responsibilities, and time crunches, these things lessen. There’s no blame to place here. It’s very common and understandable.
However, to turn this thing around, you need to show your husband that, despite what he thinks, the vibrant, loving, understanding, and open hearted he once loved is still here, wants him to be happy, and wants to work with him to return the marriage to what it was.
You have to play this very convincingly and it often helps to make sure he knows that you are going to take full advantage of this “space.” Go out with your friends. Do things you’ve been putting off. Take it in stride and put a smile on your face and make sure he knows about it. Because eventually, he’s going to get glimpses of the woman he first fell in love with, and your calm understanding and new reactions are going to go a long way toward communicating to him that things can change and that you’re on his side.