My husband of 18+ years and myself have separated at his request. He says he is not happy. He says he is frustrated with our relationship. He says I am the problem and I already know what his frustrations are. We have trouble talking without me getting emotional. I am committed to this marriage and I have told him so. He says he is “testing” me to see if I will change, but he sees little hope for me. He’s not willing to work on the problems – but he has gone to counseling with our pastor, mostly just to satisfy me. He is currently living with a brother and has not moved the majority of his things from the family home – he comes over once or twice a week to see the kids (15 & 17) briefly and to check on the house. What is my role here? He is making no moves toward any legal separation or divorce, yet he is making no moves toward reconciliation. I am seeking therapy myself. Should I just let him go his own way or let him know I am willing to work on this relationship? We have been together for 24 years – more than half our lives.
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It sounds to me as if your husband is going through a tough time right now. It is really unfortunate that he chooses to take out his pain and frustration on you. Although he says he wants you to change, there is absolutely no change you could make that would cure his unhappiness–so don’t even consider it. He may try to blame his unhappiness on you, but it is undeniably his unhappiness, and he is the only one who can do anything about it. It seems like your husband is pushing you away, but halfheartedly. Although he asked for a separation he is obviously not serious about it, since he hasn’t even taken his things with him. You and your children must mean more to him than he is willing to admit–maybe even to himself. If you are seriously willing to work on your relationship, despite the pain that he has caused you, then I think you have a good chance of making it work. Let him know that you have not given up on him or your marriage. It may do your husband a lot of good, however, to have some time and space away from you to get his head on straight. Once he, too, is willing to work on your relationship, try returning to your pastor or some other therapist. Best of luck to you, – Anne