Should You Move Out to Give Your Wife Space?
Should you move out to give your wife space

Should You Move Out to Give Your Wife Space?

Common sense would say that the spouse who wants to separate should be the one to leave. Yet, the husband is almost always the one to move out, even when the wife wants divorce. Why?

  • He believes giving her space may help save the marriage, because she needs space to see things differently.
  • He is chivalrous.  He believes letting her stay is “the right thing to do”. He is willing to make sacrifices for her, even as she’s leaving the marriage.
  • She promises that he will be treated fairly during the divorce, but only if he moves out ASAP.
  • She threatens him.  Common examples would be “I will make sure you never see your kids again if you don’t move out,” or “I will never come back if you stay here, but if you move out I might change my mind.”

     Do any of those sound familiar?

     If you read my last post about the 5 legal risks of moving out during separation, then you know that if your wife is trying to bribe you to leave with promises of fair treatment, or if she’s threatening you, then it is all the more important that you stay and talk to a lawyer immediately.  The risk for spousal mischief is very high.

     But what if you’ve protected yourself? What if you've talked to a lawyer and completed all the items on the pre-move out checklist... Are there any benefits to moving out?

     Yes!  There are clear benefits to moving out.  That’s why a counselor will often recommend soon-to-be-exes live separately.

     But, these benefits probably aren’t what you think they are.  To start with, moving out is not always better for your marriage.

Is Moving Out REALLY Better For Your Marriage?

I’ll tell you right now:

     Yes, I have seen lots of cases where a couple reconciles after the husband moves out of the home.

     By moving out, the husband shows his willingness to give his wife the space she’s asking for, the space allows her to think about him differently, and he gets clearly defined windows to showcase his changes.  Perhaps most importantly, he gets the space he needs to heal, re-find himself and show her that he can be happy on his own.

The truth is, it’s impossible to predict whether staying or leaving will actually be best for your marriage.

     There are also cases where I believe moving out is the morally right thing to do, if your wife asks you to.  For example, if you have made big mistakes as a husband (i.e. affair, alcoholism, etc.) that led to your wife’s loss of trust in the relationship.  In these cases, it may be that your conscience makes this decision for you, even against the advice of a lawyer.

     But!  I want you to know this too:

     I have seen at least as many marriages saved after the wife moves out as the other way around.

     Think about it for a second… In many ways, her being the one to move out naturally makes the marriage more appealing:

  • If she moves out, she immediately experiences the consequences of divorce.  Even if you try to keep things fair, she will see her kids less and her standard of living will go down in an unfamiliar place.
  • Missing all the things that come with staying in the marital home could be what makes her realize what she’s losing with the divorce, especially if she’s having an affair or going through some kind of personal crisis.
  • Moving out is either neutral or disadvantageous in a divorce case.  Many times the spouse who moves out is on the defensive.  This added pressure could be what tips her back towards the marriage.

     Obviously, it’s not guaranteed that these things will happen, but it seems like common sense… If your wife wants out and there are no major grounds for divorce, she should be the one to leave.  Plain and simple.  It’s your house as much as it is hers.

     Yes, your wife does need space right now.  Giving her space is the best way to enable her to choose the marriage.  That part is not up for debate.  However, you can probably find a way to give her the space she needs without moving out.  And, if anyone moves out, there better be a good reason for it to be you instead of her.

     The truth is that it’s impossible to predict whether staying or leaving will actually be best for your marriage.  Therefore – even though this is really hard for me to say – what’s best for your marriage should not be your top priority when making this decision.

     Now you see what I mean about the benefits of moving out being different from what you expected.  If moving out isn’t necessarily better for your marriage, what ARE the benefits of moving out?

The Benefits of Moving Out When Your Wife Wants Divorce

Remember what I said at the beginning of Part 1 about the risks of moving out?

Your lawyer will tell you to stay in the home.
Your counselor will tell you to move out.

     If we were only talking about legal strategy, moving out is almost always either neutral or bad for your divorce case.  If you’re unprepared to move out, then it is a huge risk.  If you ARE prepared, then it probably won’t affect your divorce at all one way or another, neither good or bad.

     But let’s step away from the divorce strategy talk for a moment.  Let’s assume you’ve done your due diligence, you’ve talked to a lawyer, and you’ve done the move out checklist… At the very least, you are prepared for the worst-case scenario.  You know the risk.  Now let’s talk about the rewards…

     What are the potential benefits of moving out?

Better For Your Emotional Well-Being

This is the primary reason that so many counseling and legal professionals recommend that soon-to-be-ex spouses live separately, despite the consequences it can have on your divorce.

     Your emotional well-being is the X factor in your decision to move out or stay.  Because if you find that you absolutely cannot continue living with your wife – if it’s just too hard for you – then you should move out.

Your safety and sanity should be your first priority, even in a divorce.

     Even in the friendliest separations, it is always difficult to live together once the divorce is in motion.  The marital home is filled with memories, you regularly see your wife (but she’s not the same), and you’re stuck living in a situation that feels frustrating or depressing.

     In some separations, there will be extra factors that will FORCE you to leave…

     Nobody expects you to stay in the home while your wife parades around a new lover, or while she is unrelentingly and aggressively toxic, or while she starts doing drugs under your roof.  Or maybe it’s not just her making things so hard – maybe neither of you can be in the same room together without getting into a loud, disruptive fight.

     These aren’t the only examples, but you get the picture.

     Your safety and sanity should be your first priority, even in a divorce.  If either of those are threatened by remaining in the home, give yourself permission to leave, but call an attorney first if at all possible.

     Even if there aren’t any crazy circumstances in your separation… If you simply cannot function in the marital home while living with your wife even after doing all the right things to get your mindset in place, remember that at the end of the day you control your choice.  Emotional well-being IS a justified reason to move out.

Prepares You for Post-Divorce Life & Gives YOU Space to Heal

I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but the reality is that divorce is a potential outcome of your separation.  If your wife has already filed for divorce, the odds are against you, even for guys Inside the Haven.

     I’m not telling you to give up hope or to stop trying to save your marriage.  Not at all!  But, it’s like that saying… You have to hope for the best while you prepare for the worst.

Chances are you don’t yet fully realize how much healing you have left to do.

     Living separately will give you a head start building an independent life that can sustain you through the divorce and after.  Re-learning to live independently will give you confidence that this divorce will not be the end of life as you know it.  You will learn that you CAN be happy again; you CAN have a better future.

     There is life past divorce; it won’t always hurt as bad as it does in the beginning.  You might even discover new things that you could not do with your wife… Many men report discovering things that they’d long forgotten how much they enjoyed, like getting back into old hobbies or going new places or catching up with friends.

     In addition to the practical benefits of preparing for life post-divorce, living apart from your wife gives YOU space heal and grow.  Chances are you don’t yet fully realize how much healing you have to do.

     Most men who come to the Haven know the marriage has been suffering for a while, they know their wife is hurting, and they know that they’re hurting too… But they struggle to make self-care a priority.  Moving out forces you to examine your own life and character and figure out what you need to move forward as the man you want to be.

     This can end up being a benefit for your marriage too.  If you’ve struggled to cement changes in yourself while living with your wife, moving out can give you a fresh start.  Showing your wife that you can be happy independently, that you can re-find the vigor and drive of the man she fell in love with, that you can rise above life’s troubles… These are all qualities that COULD end up piquing her attraction. It goes back to the let her go mindset.

Prevents Conflict During the Divorce

This is one way that moving out can actually be good for your divorce case.  There are a lot of intangible benefits that come with a peaceful divorce:

  • Your wife has less reason to be cruel or aggressive in the divorce.
  • Shows a judge that you can work together for your kids.
  • You will generally get things done faster, because you’ll have less obstacles and the ones you do hit will be quickly resolved.
  • Being willing to work with her on the living situation can encourage her to work with you in other areas.

     Time is literally money during a divorce.  When you do see a lawyer recommending that a spouse moves out of the marital home, this is usually one of the main reasons.  A conflict-free divorce is easier, cheaper and fairer.

     This is also why moving out is sometimes better for your child custody case.  If you and your wife are constantly at each other’s throat while you’re living together, but you can respectfully co-parent when you live separately, then it’s better for your kids and ultimately better for you.

Gives Her Space to Miss You & Rebuild the Marriage

We already talked about this a bit earlier in the post, but I’m re-stating it here because it certainly counts as a benefit of moving out.

     The question we set out to answer at the start of this two-part series was, “Should I move out to give my wife space?”  The assumption is that giving her this space allows her to miss you and see you differently.

     As we already talked about, yes, your wife DOES need space right now.  That part is true.  And there’s no better way to give her space than to live separately, although who should move out is up for debate.

     I won’t go back through all of this again, rather I’ll just remind you that it’s very hard to predict whether moving out will actually be better for your marriage.  This is the reason that I listed this benefit last, even though many of you would put this as the big #1 reason to move out.

Is Moving Out the Right Choice For You?

Finally!  This is where we’re going to get a concrete answer to the question posed at the beginning of this article: Should you move out to give your wife space?

     By now, you know how moving out could affect your divorce case.  You also know the benefits of moving out.  You should have the information you need to make this decision wisely.

You CAN or SHOULD move out if…

  • You expect an amicable divorce.  Your wife is genuinely committed to keeping things fair.
  • You have a good reason to leave.  For example, it is emotionally unbearable to stay in the home, or you’re suffering abuse inside the marital home.
  • You’ve done your due diligence.  You’ve talked to a divorce attorney and they’ve approved your decision to leave the marital home, and you’ve taken all the steps necessary to minimize the risks that come with moving out.
  • You have no kids – OR – you do have kids, but staying is causing disruption for their lives.
The Answer: 

     Moving out isn’t the end of the world.  In an amicable and fair divorce, moving out is often better than staying.  If you do move out, do it right; do your due diligence and talk to a lawyer.  Ultimately, it is up to you where you prioritize divorce strategy… If you think moving out is worse for your divorce case, but increases your odds of reconciliation, that is your choice to make.  As long as you know what you’re doing, make your decision with confidence.

You should NOT move out if…

  • You can find a way to live reasonably peacefully in the home, even if that means an in-house separation.
  • You don’t have a really good reason to leave.
  • You’re making an emotional or impulsive decision to move out, instead of a rational and well-thought one.
  • You have kids, and staying in the home will not disrupt their everyday life.
  • You anticipate spousal mischief.  The further your wife is from the woman you married, the more likely she is to do something crazy to screw you over in the divorce. 
  • You plan to sell the house and know that your wife can’t take care of it.
The Answer: 

     There’s a reason just about every divorce attorney will urge you to stay in the marital home.  By far, the safest thing to do is to stay in the home until your lawyer gives you the go-ahead.  This is especially true if you anticipate spousal mischief, if your wife is already trying to get more than her fair share, or if you have kids.  Unless you must leave for extreme or emotional reasons, or you have a really good reason to leave, stay put.

What If You’ve Already Moved Out?

Wondering if you made a mistake by moving out?

     Before you start wallowing in regret, remember that there ARE benefits to having your own private space.  Remind yourself why you moved out in the first place.  There are times where moving out is the best thing for your marriage, even if it’s not best for your divorce.

     We will talk about your options if you’ve moved out and now want to move back.  Just remember, it’s not the end of the world, and you don’t have to move back home even if in hindsight you didn’t do the right things before moving out.

     Before we get into any of that though, whether you move back or not, your #1 goal right now should be to complete the pre-move out checklist from the last post, and consulting a divorce attorney if you haven’t already.

Can You Move Back Into the Marital Home?

Author's Note: We’re talking about some very technical legal issues here with a whole lot of variables, even more so than the rest of this post.  Only an experienced attorney can fully answer this question for you.

     Here’s what my research tells me:

     In most cases, your wife cannot legally stop you from moving back home without temporary orders, a restraining order or a Court Order granting her exclusive use of the marital home.  These things are typically only granted after divorce is filed.

     This means…

     If divorce has NOT been filed, you can move back home without your wife’s permission, pretty much no matter what.  Your wife simply doesn’t have legal grounds to keep you out, and she certainly can’t change the locks.  If this is your situation, skip down to the next section about how to return home.

     If divorce HAS been filed, moving back home gets a lot more difficult.  Most states will maintain the status quo throughout an ongoing divorce case, with the status quo being set the moment divorce is filed.  In other words, if you were living outside the marital home when divorce was filed, that’s likely where you’ll stay until the divorce is final. 

     An attorney may be able to offer a workaround, but it will depend heavily on your specific circumstances and the general policy of your local court.

     One option may be to seek a court order revoking your wife’s exclusive use of the marital home.  You’ll need a good reason why you should be permitted to stay in the marital home, or why it was unjust for you to move out in the first place.

     A judge may order your wife to let you back in the home if...

  • Your wife can’t pay for the home on her own, or it is financially impossible to live separately.
  • That you only moved out to survive the spousal misconduct of your wife (e.g. your wife was emotionally abusive).
  • You’ve discovered spousal misconduct after moving out that would have changed your decision to leave (e.g. you discovered an affair, and if you’d known about it you would’ve made her leave instead).
  • You can prove that your presence in the home is best for the kids.

     It’s also possible that your divorce attorney will counsel you to take a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach by recommending you move back into the home immediately, without a court order.  Maybe they’re betting that your wife doesn’t do anything in court and simply lets you back in.  More likely, their plan is to let your wife request the court order to kick you out instead of you getting her ordered to let you back in.

     Either way, let’s assume that for whatever reason, you are moving back into the marital home.  How do you do it?

How to Return to the Marital Home

Returning to the marital home after you’ve already moved out is inevitably be tricky and awkward.  But, it's worth it if it prevents a divorce-related problem down the road that could potentially have lifelong consequences – like only ever seeing your kids on your wife’s terms, or paying an unfair amount of spousal support for the next 10 years, or losing that family heirloom that’s been in your family for five generations.

Do It Quickly & Quietly

     If you decide to move back home, do it ASAP, and do it quietly.

     Why is it important to move back quickly? Two reasons:

  • Reason 1 -- you want to minimize your time away from the home.  The longer you’ve been away, the more ground she has to claim that you gave up your place in the residence.
  • Reason 2 -- you need to get back before your wife files divorce.  Once divorce is filed, it’s much harder to move back, especially if temporary orders are drawn up detailing who will live where while the divorce is ongoing.

     You should also try to minimize conflict or disruption when you move back in, both in the moment and afterwards.  Especially if you have kids, your top priority is to avoid disrupting their lives.

     There are essentially two ways you can make your actual return to the marital home that don’t include getting a court order.

The Nice Way

Notify your wife that you plan to return home and when you plan to do it.  Even if you don't outright ask her permission, you still give her some notice for your return.

     Of course, you can ask her permission, but you need to be prepared to do it anyway if she says no.  You’ll also need to be prepared to defend why you should move back home.

     The up side of this approach is that it is the polite and considerate thing to do.  Although, even with the nice way, your wife may still be offended at the mere thought of you moving back.  This approach may not actually earn you any brownie points.

     The down side is that she can say no, and the extra heads up can allow her to prevent you from moving back, or at least make it more difficult.  For example, let’s say you plan to move back this weekend; what happens if your wife files a divorce petition in that time?  Things get complicated.

     It’s up to you whether you prioritize what’s best for your divorce or what is most considerate of your wife.  If you want to prioritize what's best for your divorce case, then you'll move back the safe way...

The Safe Way

Move back into the home without giving your wife any notice.  The safest way to do this is to move back when you know she is out of the house, so that there is no chance for her to prevent you from moving back.

     This can be as simple as packing a duffel bag with a few days’ worth of clothes and moving back into the guest room or basement while your wife is at work or dropping off the kids at school; you don’t have to move all your stuff back in at once.

     Yes, this is inconsiderate of your wife.  Yes, she will probably protest and make a fuss.  Yes, you will probably get an extra cold shoulder for at least a few days.

     … But remember that an awkward but non-disruptive return is infinitely better than any other option when it comes to your divorce case, both with and without kids.  Using a ‘move first, ask questions later’ approach guarantees that you physically get back in the home without conflict.

     As long as you can get back in the home peacefully, you should be good to stay.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

No matter what, if you do move back, you need to be prepared for the worst.

     If she calls the cops or goes to court, you can claim that you are perfectly happy living separately inside the home, that you’ve been nothing but peaceful, that it’s better for the kids to have you home.  You can point out that it is HER that has the problem living with you, not the other way around. 

     If divorce hasn’t been filed, the likely response from a judge or cop will be “Sorry ma’am, but it’s still his house too.”

You must be sure of your decision to return home so that you can stand your ground if she tries to unlawfully kick you back out.

     The worst case scenario is usually that she makes up accusations of domestic abuse.  I’ve seen plenty of desperate wives allege abuse to keep their husband out of the home.

     Even in the best case scenario, she will probably try to convince you to move back out.  This is why you must be sure of your decision to return home, so that you can stand your ground and tell her that it’s still your house too, even if you were away for a bit.

     Obviously, as I already said like 800 times, get legal counsel if at all possible before doing anything.

     If you really want to play it safe, talk to your local law enforcement too.  Call the police station, explain your situation and ask what your options are.

     You may think it’s strange to consult law enforcement before anything has happened, but you’ll be thankful to know how these things are handled in your area if your wife does end up calling the cops.  Trust me, you won’t be the first guy they’ve seen in this situation.

What To Do From Here?

Okay, this has been a very thorough, very long two-part series about the decision to move out.  What should you do with all this information?

     Chances are, you are in one of these three situations:

You plan to stay in the marital home.

     You need to figure out how to tell your wife that you’re not moving out. You could try suggesting an alternative to you moving out, such as living separately inside the home, or her moving out if she’s really desperate for space.

You plan to move out of the marital home. 

     First, take a moment to think through the reasons that you're moving out. Have you reviewed the risks of moving out? Complete the pre-move out checklist, and of course I recommend you talk to a lawyer before you actually move out.

You have already moved out.

     If you decide you want to move back into the marital home, plan the best way to do so. If you don’t want to move back, you should still complete the move out checklist to make sure you're protected. Either way, accept that you can’t change the past, your job now is to make the most of your current situation.

     We came into this post with a simple question – should you move out to give your wife space?

     Unfortunately, simple questions don’t always have simple answers, and this one lies inside a gray area.

     If you’ve made it this far, thank you!  I did not expect to write 7,000 words on this topic, but my hope is that this resource will help you clarify your options and make the most of what choices you have.

     For more strategic separation advice, check out Manly Separation Survival.

     Whatever you do from here, best of luck.

     Much manly love,
         -- Stephen

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