I often hear from separated wives who feel as if their husband has all of the control during their marital or trial separation. They feel as if they are held hostage somewhat by his moods and his wishes. They want to take back some sense of control because they feel helpless. But they also do not want to do anything that might jeopardize their chances of an eventual reconciliation.
A wife might explain: “I will admit that in the beginning of my separation, I pestered my husband too much. I knew that I was making a mistake when I was doing this, but I was only reacting to the stress of the situation. Now that being on my own is a little less weird, I’ve calmed down a little bit and I have stopped pestering him. My brother came to visit me and he has a new baby. I was very thrilled to meet my niece and so I ended up not calling my husband for a couple of weeks. I was worried about what would happen when we did talk, but honestly it was the best talk we’d had in months. He told me that he liked it better when there was enough time between our conversations to miss each other and he suggested that I call him again in a couple of weeks. I hated that so much time had to go by, but I had to admit that I haven’t heard my husband laugh like that and flirt with me for a long time. So I was willing to pay that price. I counted down the days until our next conversation but then when that two week mark came, my husband did not pick up the phone when I called. I tried again several times and no luck. So I asked his brother to go by and check on him because I was worried. His brother called me back and said that my husband was fine, but he asked his bother to tell me that he wanted to change our talk times to once a month. Well, now I am furious. It was hard enough to agree to speak every couple of weeks. Now he’s asking me to call him only once a month. And it appears that if I try to call him more than this, then he’s simply not going to pick up. I feel like he is holding all of the cards and calling all of the shots. I feel like I just have to sit around and wait for him to think that he feels like talking to me.”
Boy, do I know this feeling. It makes you feel sad, angry, and desperate all at one time. It’s easy to give into these feelings. I felt this way for quite a while until I decided that I was tired of feeling so out of control and I didn’t want for it to become a cycle. I knew that my continuing on in the way that I had been wasn’t going to save my marriage. And I was resentful at my husband for being so resistant to me. Sometimes, I wondered who he thought he was – acting as if I was someone to be ignored or avoided.
Then I realized that my anger wasn’t really getting me anywhere, but in order to escape it, I had to – at least for a little while – get away from all of it. A lot of people have offered me a place in their homes and lots of support and hospitality. But for the longest time, I had resisted this because I was afraid to turn my attention away from my husband or my marriage. But, do you know what? It dawned on me that what I was doing – waiting and fretting – wasn’t helping my marriage either.
So I did eventually take those kind people up on their hospitality. And so I was no longer in close proximity to my husband – at least for a little while. And that is when something unexpected happened. When I took control, he wondered why. For the first time in a very long, he took the initiative to see what I was doing and to show an interest in me.
You might be wondering how this relates to you. The answer is this. I probably didn’t even realize at that point that I was taking control. Honestly, I just wanted an escape or break at that point. But I was restoring a sense of choices in my life. I was breaking a cycle. And this ended up making a huge difference.
How do you take back control? That’s going to vary depending upon your circumstances. You might decide that you aren’t going to call right on the dot at the month mark and see what happens. Or maybe you will decide that you are going to go out with your girlfriends or female coworkers at a time and place where you know your husband is going to be at the same place. Or maybe you’ll be seen out and enjoying yourself by one of your husband’s friends who will mention it to him.
However, you do it, it might make sense to suspect that waiting around and counting days off the calendar aren’t doing much good. And don’t misunderstand me. I’m not telling you to stop hoping or to ignore the good things that happened the last time you talked. I’m just suggesting that there is no point in continuing to wait around when you can keep busy and interact with people who love and support you.
Some of the time, when your husband sees that you have made this change, it will help to initiate a little interest because something has changed. That shouldn’t be your motivation though. It really is about no longer feeling helpless and restoring a sense that you can and should control your own life. Of course you still want your marriage and of course you will still pursue it. But there other ways to do that than just waiting and feeling a lack of control.