I’m in a really scary situation. My husband is saying he’s done with our marriage and wants a separation. He has been under a lot stress and I wonder if he is having a midlife crisis. I know our marriage has suffered because we both work long hours, have moved several times, have children together, and have experienced financial pressures. What can I do to save our marriage if he won’t try?
Researchers have long known that stress is a killer – of our physical well-being and our marriage and family lives. Stress, from whatever source, drains us of vital energy and can lead to us feeling fatigued and restless.
Stress also leads to irritability, frustration, and even anger. These feelings, in turn, lead to conflict between two people. While you don’t specifically mention it, I wonder if you and your husband have had decreased pleasure and increased conflict. Is that why he’s thinking of ending your marriage? If so, you must do your part to manage your stress so you can cope with the enormous challenge at hand.
Scripture offers clear wisdom when we hit a rough patch in life: “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Scripture also makes it clear that you will be stronger with support and friendship; this is certainly a time to reach out for help.
Let’s consider what you can do to save your marriage. Trust me, it CAN be saved!
Don’t panic. This is easier said than done. But when facing a crisis, many overreact and do more harm than good by pleading, begging, and trying to coerce their mate into staying. Don’t do that. While your situation is critical, you have time to save your marriage.
Step back and gain perspective. Your problems didn’t develop overnight; subsequently, you need to step back and reflect on why your husband is saying he’s done. Why does he feel so discouraged about your marriage?
Tell yourself the truth. When a mate shatters our dreams by talking about leaving, it’s tempting to place all the blame on him. Out of hurt we often react with anger. This won’t help. Blaming your husband won’t help your cause. Put your ego aside so you can hear all the truth, which will lead you to a prudent course of action. Fully understanding your husband’s pain and why he wants to step away will help you determine what to do.
Salve his wounds. As you listen to your husband’s concerns and complaints, consider what you can do to meet his needs. Reassure him that he has your attention. While there are problems you cannot solve, there are some you can. If your mate asks for space, give it to him. If he suggests you’ve been overly critical, make it your goal to change that aspect of your personality. Gently let him know you’re listening and will work on every issue he brings up. Even small changes are likely to have a big impact.
Invite him to engage in a therapeutic healing process. Even if your husband feels he must step away from your marriage for a time, ask him if he’d be willing to work on healing the wounds your marriage has created – no strings attached. Find a marriage specialist with whom you can focus solely on these wounds. Agree to listen to his wounds, take responsibility for them, and determine to do all you can to heal them.
Talk to each other about your dream marriage. Is your husband willing to share not only what he doesn’t like about your marriage, but also his concept of what comprises “the perfect marriage”? If so, listen carefully, take notes, and determine to make the necessary changes to revitalize your marriage. Go easy here – don’t push him to go faster or deeper than he’s willing to go.
Make specific plans to keep your marriage vital. Regaining your husband’s trust will be a long-term process. It’s unlikely you’ll win his heart back overnight. You’ll need to make your marriage – and specifically your relationship to him – a priority. Cut back on work if possible. Create space for cultivating the dream marriage you both deeply want.
In summary, you’re facing one of the biggest challenge of your life. However, if you do things correctly and avoid significant mistakes, you can win back your husband’s heart. Most likely he pushed away from conflict and discouragement in your marriage, rather than you. So when you renew encouragement and implement positive change, most likely he’ll step back into your marriage.