I sometimes hear from people who are extremely upset because they are dealing with two very serious issues. The first is that they are separated but they wish that they weren’t. The second is that they had a chance to reconcile or get back together and it failed. So now, not only are they still separated, but they don’t know if they will ever get a chance to try again.
Someone might say: “my husband and I separated because I felt that he was having an inappropriate relationship with someone at work. He denied this, but his behavior toward me had changed. We’ve been married for over 15 years and I know his behavior very well. I knew that something was wrong. When I tried to discuss this with him, it honestly made things worse and not better. So I felt it best if we took a little break. I honestly did not expect for the break to last for very long. But weeks would go by without us talking. I stayed with my aunt, who said I was welcome as long as I needed to be there. Very slowly, my husband started calling again and begging me to come home. I am not the kind of person who is going to cave in immediately, but I missed him so much that after a couple of weeks of his begging, I relented and came home. Right away, things were tense and awful. I expected a happy homecoming, but what actually happened was anything but that. We bickered constantly and it felt like he didn’t want me there. I finally started asking him what was wrong. At first he denied any problem, but I kept at him. He finally admitted that he has real feelings for the other woman at work, although he continues to deny any inappropriate relationship. I became so angry about this, that I packed my bag and went right back to my aunts. He isn’t me begging anymore. When I do talk to him, he’s in a hurry to get off the phone. Now I fear I’ve made a huge mistake. By leaving the way that I did, he’s now free to pursue a relationship with the other woman. Essentially, I gave her free reign to come and take my husband away if that is what she wants to do. Should I just come home unannounced? He didn’t ask me to leave. I did that on my own. My fear is that if I come home, things will be tense again.”
This is a tricky situation. And it happens quite a bit. These type of unfortunate situations are often why I encourage couples to seek counseling during their separation and to take things slowly. It is a little more difficult to fix this then it would have been to rebuild a foundation before attempting to reconcile. However, none of this is impossible. But because you perceive that the other woman is in the picture, you feel that you don’t have the luxury of time. One way to try to get around this is to attempt to schedule regular times to get together (preferably to seek counseling or at least work on your relationship.) If you feel that your husband won’t want to do counseling, then you might try just asking him to support you in sessions for yourself. This is a roundabout way to get him involved, with the hope that gradually as he becomes more comfortable. the counselor can incorporate the issue of your marriage. You might also get together for coffee or dinner afterwards, but at least this way, you are working toward something and are laying a foundation rather than just hoping for the best while not making any real changes.
If he doesn’t agree to this right away, just try to wait without pressure. Go back to what you did before when he was calling you regularly. If you had success being patient and staying upbeat before, then consider doing that once again.
I know you fear that he’s immediately going to start a relationship with another woman, but him admitting feelings for her doesn’t mean that he’s going to immediately pursue her. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t. I’m just saying that it’s better to wait and see (while reminding him that he’s married with regular contact and hopefully counseling) than to just assume the worst. She may not even be interested. He may be the one with all of the feelings.
If you feel like it’s important to address this, you might try a conversation like: ” I want you to know that I do regret just bailing immediately like that. I really wanted for the reconciliation to work, but when you admitted feelings about someone else, I reacted to the fear rather than to logic. I regret that. But it upset me so badly that I wasn’t really thinking. I was just reacting. I don’t want you to think that I am not interested in reconciling anymore because I am. I just have some real concerns that need to be addressed and I am not sure that either of us are qualified to do that alone. I would love it if we could either go to counseling together or at least you could go with me when I attend. It may or may not work, but if it doesn’t at least we will know that we tried. I don’t want to give up on this marriage, but neither of us are mental health or marital experts so I think it’s smart to get some help. I don’t want to continue on as we are. We both know that we miss one another, but we don’t seem to know how to move toward reconciliation successfully. How do you feel about this?”
Hopefully, he will agree. If not, I think it pays to be patient and to try not to panic. If you start pushing and panicking, you almost make it easier for the other woman (and that’s assuming that she shares his interest. We don’t know that she does. She may not want to become involved with him – even if he was willing.)
The hope is that eventually, he will miss you in the same way as he did the first time. But instead of rushing, you will now have the opportunity to build a new foundation and work some things out before taking the leap to move back in immediately.