When your husband tells you that he is leaving and moving out for a while, there is a real tendency to assume that because of this, your relationship is going to deteriorate. We worry that things will be awkward or chilly between us. We worry that we will fight more and connect less.
This doesn’t always happen, though. Some couples find that they actually get along much better during the separation. Some get along so well that they attempt to reconcile – assuming that they will continue to mesh seamlessly once they move back in together. But the magic isn’t always there when you live together again. And it can be hard to figure out why.
Someone might ask: “why is it that my husband and I actually get along and seem to like one another much better when we are not living together? My husband was the one who decided that he wanted to move out. Honestly, I fought him very hard on this. My parents are divorced and ‘living apart for a while’ is totally how their divorce started. My dad said that he was only going to move out for a little while and then come back. Of course, he never came back. My parents divorced a short while later. So I panicked when my husband wanted to leave. I assumed it would mean a sure divorce. I was absolutely shocked when he was actually more affectionate and loving toward me while we were separated. He was absolutely open to getting together regularly and when we did, it was almost like we were dating again. We enjoyed each other’s company. We laughed like we hadn’t in years. So of course after a little while, I pushed for him to move back in. And it was a disaster. It was like turning back the clock and revisiting our fights. So eventually he moved out again and the transformation took place all over again. We get along wonderfully only when we are not living together. But when we attempt to move back in, it all falls apart once again. Why?”
I can only give you what are essentially opinions and theories. And this only comes from me hearing from other people who have gone through this and seeing reoccurring themes. My husband and I actually struggled to get a long during our separation – especially in the beginning. But I think that some couples find improvement for a couple of reasons.
A Separation Is Often The First Real Pause That You’ve Had: Sometimes, people are on their best behavior during a separation because they don’t want to lose their spouse and they want for the separation to go well. Also, there is often less tension as both people are no longer living under the stressful situation that caused the separation to begin with.
But Things Don’t Always Change: Because of this pause in the tension, it’s easier to get along and to connect without the weight of living together with issues that cause stress. And while it is wonderful that there is an improvement after moving out, this improvement sometimes leads people to think that they don’t need to address or change anything. They are having such a good time that they reason that if they were to move back in now, the good times would continue on.
Of course, they soon realize that nothing has really changed. Once they move back in together, they follow along the same life, the same marriage, the same script, the same course of conflict, and the same lack of resolution.
It’s no wonder that it’s the same as it ever was. When you were no longer living together, you were no longer facing the conflict regularly. And of course, if you put people under the same roof, there is no avoiding the conflict. And it’s not always easy to live with another person. Anyone who has ever had a room mate of any kind can tell you that.
None of this means that you can’t fix this. (Incidentally, there are some couples who live apart full time and who are very happy with this arrangement. There are marriages that thrive this way. But it only works if both people want it.)
Things That You May Want To Try: There are a couple of things that you may want to attempt before you begin to believe that you and your husband will never successfully live together. Wait for a longer period of time before you attempt to move back in together. Identify the triggers that make living together difficult and work tirelessly to address and then fix them. Sometimes, you can’t fix this yourself, which is where counseling comes in if you need it. This is your marriage we are talking about, which means it is worth it to give yourself permission to do whatever is necessary to save it.
Once you believe that you have worked through your issues, don’t move back in suddenly or out of the blue. Start with just a few days at a time or the weekends. When you have success with that, lengthen the time your spouse stays until it feels like you’re living together again and you have the confidence that it is truly going to work this time.
If you’re doing this gradual method and conflict comes up, don’t get discouraged. Be glad you saw these roadblocks and now have the opportunity to fix them before he moves back in full time. Each time something comes up, fix it, until there are long periods of time staying together where you are successful.
Do this for long enough and the process becomes easier and more seamless – so that when he does move back in, you can both be confident that it is going to truly work in the long term.