It’s fair to say that most separated couples that I know or speak with have periods of ups and downs during their separation. Most of the time, this process isn’t linear. There will be periods of time where things seem to be going well and the hopes will rise. And then there may be cooling off periods where uncertainty seems to reign.
During this time period, one of the spouses may seem interested in getting closer. And the other spouse may hope for a reconciliation, but then may find that although their spouse claims to be open to one day reconciling, he will always stop short of committing to this. A wife might say: “really, my husband’s feet dragging during our separation is maddening. I suppose that I should be grateful. Because I have to admit that we have made some progress. In the beginning of our separation, I truly thought we’d be divorced in six months’ time. Not only has that not happened, but things have improved between us. We have been dating. We have been sleeping together. There are times when my husband even stays here for a while. It seems to me that we are at a point where we can put our problems behind us. So naturally, I have asked my husband if we can declare the separation over, get some counseling, and reconcile. He will not give me his commitment to this. He is not out and out refusing. But he says that we just need to continue on where we are and ‘see how things go.’ I don’t understand this. We are married. We are doing well. What’s the big deal about saying that we will remain married? I just do not understand his thought process. What are separated men thinking when they refuse to commit to their marriage?”
Well, there are two trains of thought to this. Some people will tell you that he wants to have his cake and eat it too. Some will caution you that a man who acts like this is basically enjoying the sex, the boost to his ego, and the comfort from knowing that you are there for him while having no real intentions of saving the marriage. These naysayers will tell you that he’s only using you because it feels good to do so. But that deep in his heart, he knows that there is no real hope for your marriage and he’s just delaying the inevitable, either because he doesn’t want to hurt you or because he wants to continue on for as long as you will let him.
I don’t believe this in every instance. My husband and I had a similar situation and we never divorced. We are still married. The reluctance was there because my husband did not want to rush and, frankly, because our separation did not always go well. While he was encouraged that we were finally making progress, he truly did want to ‘wait and see’ if that progress continued. He wanted to take things slowly to make sure that we could believe in the changes. And he wanted to make sure that we had a workable plan in place for when he did come home.
Plus, waiting allowed us to see the problems that cropped up as we were gradually spending more time together. However, during this process, he never gave me a commitment that we were definitely going to reconcile. This hurt. And this gave me doubts. I’d waited so long for progress that I was frankly desperate to hear some reassurance. But I also knew that pressure almost always meant disaster in my husband’s eyes, so I did not push.
I told myself that I would trust in the progress that we were making. And intellectually, I knew that gradual was better. Yes, I would have loved a commitment. I would have loved for my husband to say: ” I will move back in on this date and we will be married forever.” But I think my husband thought if he did that, we may resort back to our old habits. By taking the wait and see approach, it ensured that we both remained on our best behavior and we continued to put in our best efforts.
I know that having the commitment would make the process easier to bear. But sometimes you have to focus on what you do have rather than what you don’t have. And if you continue on making the progress that you have, there is a very good chance that you will reconcile and save your marriage, regardless of what words he uses regarding the word “commitment.” Sometimes, it is the outcome that matters rather than the words or reassurances used to describe it. And sometimes, it makes sense to not sabotage today by focusing on tomorrow too much.