“Letting go is hard, but sometimes holding on is harder.”
That’s a quote I heard a while back. I don’t remember who said it, but I can name more than a few men Inside the Haven who would agree with that statement, tears in their eyes.
Let’s look at the facts…
Fact #1. We know that your wife wants out of the marriage.
Whether she’s having an affair, going through a midlife crisis, coping with depression, or just plain isn’t happy, the end result is she wants out of the marriage.
Fact #2. We know that you cannot control your wife.
You cannot force her to change her mind about the marriage. You can’t “convince” her to come back or have a change of heart. You can give her a good incentive to come back by being a wonderful, loving husband, but you can’t force her to want that incentive enough to change her mind. Many times, she won’t even recognize that incentive exists.
So, if your wife wants out of the marriage, and you can’t control your wife, where does that leave us? What needs to happen in order for your marriage to be saved?
Your Wife Must Choose to Come Back on Her Own
You’ve probably heard that saying…
“If you love someone, set them free… If they comes back, it was meant to be; if they don’t, they were never yours.”
This is never truer or more applicable than when your wife wants out of the marriage.
Just think about it…
- Do you want to be married to a woman who only stays with you because she feels too trapped to leave?
- Do you want a wife who only stays with you because she’s too scared to get divorced and live alone?
- Can you have a lifelong happy marriage with a woman who is only with you because it makes more financial sense to do so?
This mindset is all about focusing on what you can control and putting yourself in the best position for her to start seeing you differently.
No, no and no!
Ultimately, your marriage is only going to work if your wife wants to be with you.
In order to ever have the type of joyful, lifelong marriage that you want, eventually you need a wife who chooses to be with you, who loves you, who wants you. You want a woman who sees the man you are and WANTS to be with that man.
Want to learn more about my approach to separation?
This post is based on the first two lessons of my separation survival course for men, Peace & Control. I make the first module of this course available for free to all Husband Help Haven readers, just click the link below to learn more:
Working Backwards to Your Marriage
What we’re really doing here is working backwards. We’re saying, “What would your ideal future marriage look like?” and then we’re working back from there.
In your ideal marriage, you are the kind of man you want to be, and your wife loves and chooses that man.
So, what things MUST happen in order to get to that point? It's pretty straightforward...
In order to get that marriage for yourself, two things need to happen:
1. You must become the man that YOU want to be
2. Your wife must recognize that man and choose to love him
You can control #1 – you can identify the kind of man you want to be and you can take steps to become and remain that man every day for the rest of your life.
You cannot control #2 – the most you can do is enable your wife to make her own independent choice to come back to the marriage by putting her in the best position to do so. This is where the let her go mindset comes in.
Make no mistake… #2 is crucial. Your wife has to CHOOSE to come back to the marriage. She has to CHOOSE to love the man you want to be.
You will NOT have a long-term happy marriage if...
If the only reason your wife stays married to you is because she feels too trapped to leave, or because she’s too scared to live life alone or because it makes more financial sense to do so.
The ONLY way you will have a happy, loving marriage over the long-term is...
If your wife makes a choice that she WANTS to be with you, or at least that she's willing to try. That is the only solution to this separation. There are no other magic answers.
I know I’m repeating myself a little bit here, but this is extremely important. You have to understand this core requirement that stands between you and a happy marriage.
So, What is the Let Her Go Mindset?
How Do You Do It?
I’ve been helping men through marriage crisis for about five years now. About 10,000 men have come Inside the Haven and I’ve personally talked over 1,000 of them through their wives’ separations, affairs and midlife crises.
I’ve seen many separations end in reconciliation and many end in divorce.
Some men handle separation very poorly and some men handle it very well…
- I’ve seen men spiral out of control to the point that they attempt suicide after a few days living in a cordial in-house separation.
- I’ve seen men stay strong, confident and at peace after months of enduring their wife’s ongoing affair and emotional abuse.
What’s the difference between these men? What do you do if you find yourself in that first category?
The truth is, when most men start out, they don’t “get it”. They don’t have the optimal mindset for coping with separation… They have to learn it and work to apply it. Sometimes it’s a bit messy.
If you’ve been that guy who has completely spiraled out of control, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure – it just means you need to keep learning and keep working.
The men I’ve seen “separate well” – the guys who remained calm, confident and at peace even as their marriage was falling apart – they all did it by getting to a point where they were happy with the man they saw in the mirror.
I’m not saying every single one of these men got their marriage back. Many of them did, but many of them are now divorced.
It’s not that the men who got their marriage back did a better job than the ones that didn’t; both groups of men worked equally hard to become the type of husband they wanted to be. It’s just that some of their wives made the choice to come back and some of them didn’t.
It's About Accepting What You Can & Can’t Control
At its core, the “let her go” mindset is based on the fact that you cannot go into this situation trying to control your wife or change her mind because those things are out of your control.
In fact, the outcome of this separation is out of your control. There is no way to guarantee that your separation will end in reconciliation.
If your plan to get your wife back is to “convince her” to change her mind or to “earn” her love with changes in yourself, there is a frustrating and futile road ahead of you.
To be clear…
- ?I’m not saying you should give up on your marriage.
- I’m definitely not saying you should give up on being the best husband you can be.
- I am saying that you must stop trying to control what you can’t.
NO MATTER WHERE YOU'RE AT IN YOUR SEPARATION, YOU NOW HAVE TWO SIMPLE GOALS:
No matter what kind of separation you’re going through, no matter what you or your wife has done to get you to this point in your marriage, you have two simple goals:
Goal #1. Figure out what kind of man YOU want to be and work hard to become that man
Goal #2. Develop clarity in what you can and can’t control to be at peace with your decisions
And in order to do either of those things, you have to be focused on what you can control. Read this carefully:
Once you have peace over yourself and clarity over your circumstances, you will be able to make optimal decisions throughout your separation.?
Ultimately, everything you will learn in this book about separation will go back to one of these two points.
Let Her Come to You
I want you to pay very close attention to this:
If the love of your life wants out of the marriage, there inevitably comes a point where the best way to prove that you love her more than yourself is by NOT trying to get her back.
We’ll talk more about when exactly that point comes and how to handle it later in the book. For now, start preparing yourself for when that day comes.
Right now, your wife is probably asking for space. Even if she hasn’t come out and asked, her actions are telling you she doesn’t feel close to you and doesn’t particularly want to either.
If you spend too long trying to “get her back” without seeing any results… If you keep trying to convince her to go to counseling, or to work on the marriage, or that you’ve changed, but she never agrees to any of it… Eventually she’s going to feel trapped.
For the overwhelming majority of wives who have come to the point where they want out of their marriage, even if you make immediate changes in your behavior to step up as a husband, they still need time and space to see those changes or believe they’re real.
So, give your wife time. Give her space.
What’s the opposite of trying to get your wife to come back?
Let her come to you.
And that’s exactly what you should be doing right now.
Some guys will take to this more than others, and it's more important in some separations than others. Again, we’ll talk more about what things you can and should be doing in this area later in the book. For now, just know that this is what you’re working towards… Let her go so that she can come to you on her own.
Don’t Deny the Worst Case Scenario is Possible
I have seen many, many men over the years who have gone through their entire separation refusing to acknowledge that it could end in divorce.
Most of the time, these men end up extremely frustrated because they put so much work into the marriage and see nothing in return. In their mind, even when they admit they need to give her space, even when they say they are abandoning ulterior motives, secretly they are still doing everything they do because they hope and expect that it will make their wife come back.
Don’t get me wrong – you should hold onto your hope and your faith in your marriage. After all, hope is all that any husband in your shoes has to work with right now. Keep hoping and hoping and hoping for her to change her mind.
... However, you also need to recognize this:?
One of the best ways to set yourself up for an extremely painful and difficult separation is to refuse to admit that divorce is a possibility.
Expectations are just pre-determined resentments.
Most of the time, you will tell yourself you are maintaining this stubborn expectation because you “refuse to give up on the marriage”.
Conversely, many times the men who refuse to give up on their marriage are secretly using this determination as a mask for their fear or self-interest.
Get this into your head now:?
Acknowledging the possibility of divorce does NOT mean you're giving up on the marriage. It just means that you're aware that the outcome of divorce is not entirely yours to stop. It is physically possible that the outcome of this separation will be divorce.
Look - this is not a rule book!
If you have an immense problem with accepting that divorce could happen, if you cannot bring yourself to think in any way that comes even remotely close to “giving up” on a moral basis, then I respect that and I encourage you to maintain that mindset with confidence. Like I said, if hope is all you’ve got, do whatever you need to do to maintain that hope.
I’m just telling you what I’ve seen happen with other men who maintain this forced expectation of reconciliation in their marriage – they end up frustrated.
In the end, the best approach I’ve found is to adopt the age-old adage:
Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.
Again, I am NOT telling you to give up on your marriage. This mindset is all about focusing on what you can control and putting yourself in the best position to remain as the man you want to be no matter what happens in your marriage.
No matter what mindset you adopt, continue to hope that your marriage will be restored! Don’t let yourself become bitter or resentful in order to make it easier to accept; you don't need that crutch.
The fact is, if you’re reading this book, your marriage may end in divorce. Some of you are already divorced.
You don’t have to sugarcoat it... You don’t have to try and find a way around it... You don’t have to pretend that you are 100% confident your marriage will succeed...
And yes, accepting that divorce might happen is painful. But just because it’s painful doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. And that brings us to our next point…
Letting Her Go is the Only Win-Win You’ve Got Left
“You mean accepting that my wife might choose to leave the marriage is a win-win? How the heck do you figure that, Stephen?!”
Well, just think about it…
It’s a win because letting her go is your best chance at getting your wife to CHOOSE to come back to the marriage.
Most of the time, the more your distant wife feels that you are trying to change her mind, the more stubbornly she will tell herself she’s made the right decision.
On the other hand, when you give her space… When you show her that your love is genuine to the point that you want her to be happy even if it’s not with you… That’s when you allow her to see you through unbiased eyes. When the pressure is really off, that’s when she can start to see all these changes you’re making as genuine and permanent.
It’s also a win because if she never makes the choice to come back, you have a head start on coping with the worst-case scenario. This will make transitioning into the next part of your life MUCH easier.
If you’ve already accepted that she might choose to get a divorce weeks or months before the divorce is finalized… If you’ve been living your life independently as the man you want to be… It’s going to be much easier to transition into the next chapter of your life.
Letting Go of Your Wife is Rooted in Love
On some level, most of the men who will struggle with the Let Her Go mindset believe that accepting she might not come back is too much like giving up.
Maybe this is what you’re thinking right now…
“Stephen, if I give up at all, then there’s no hope for the marriage because I’m the only one trying to make it work. In other words, if I’m not trying to fix the marriage and my wife isn’t trying to fix the marriage, then the marriage is over, right?”
It's certainly understandable to have that objection. It's easy to see how "letting her go" feels like giving up hope.
But know this: the Let Her Go mindset is NOT hopeless.
Just the opposite – this mindset is deeply rooted in love for your wife. In fact, your love for your wife is what motivates you to take this mindset in the first place! Just think about it:
- You KNOW that you can make your wife happy and keep her happy for the rest of her life.
- You are determined to continue working to be the best husband, father and man that you can be – the type of man you want to be.
- You love her with all your heart, and your deepest, deepest hope is that she will see what it is that can make her happiest (you & the marriage) so that you can give yourself to her 100%.
But, you cannot force her to make that decision.
Because love forced isn't love at all.
Right now, you are afraid to accept the loss of your wife’s love for you.
This is the natural reaction when the woman you love tells you she no longer feels the same way.
But, as you let this fear of losing her love rule your life, what you don’t realize is that the love you’re afraid of losing is already gone and it’s been gone for a while.
At this point, you’re not trying to prevent her from losing her love for you; you’re trying to get it back. You are courting her, but in a much different way than you did before your marriage. However, just like the day that you proposed to your wife, you can ask the question, you can hope she joins you, but ultimately you can’t control the answer and you wouldn’t want to even if you could. Because again...
Love forced isn't love at all.
In the end, letting go of your wife isn't about "being realistic"…
It's about coming to an understanding of what you really want and what love really means.
If you’re reading this, if you’re Inside the Haven, you have done and will do everything you possibly can to be the best husband and father and man you can be.
You KNOW that.
I know that.
That part isn’t up for debate.
Right now, you are waiting with open arms for your wife because that is under your control. And you WANT your wife to love you and to come back to a relationship with you, not just for your own and your family's happiness, but for hers too.
But, you also know that it must be her choice, because otherwise it won't stick.
By accepting that the future of your marriage rests on your wife’s choice to come back to it, you recognize that yes, there is a chance she might make the choice to divorce, and that will be heartbreaking. All the more so because you KNOW how happy you could make her. You don't have to pretend that, "Yeah, my wife might not come back, but it's okay, I won't be sad. Instead I’ll just be happy and life will be roses and this whole thing will just be awesome!!"
You don't have to pretend it doesn't hurt. That's not healthy or realistic.
You can allow yourself to be afraid of your wife making the choice to divorce and still relinquish control. Because after all that, the upside is worth it... If she DOES choose to come back, oh how joyful that will be! Oh how much love the two of you will be able to share!
The only way to the marriage of your dreams lies in letting your wife choose to join you in it.
… And that’s where the “let her go to get her back” mindset comes from.
Want free video lessons about navigating separation?
This post is based on the first two lessons of my separation survival course for men, Peace & Control. I make the first 7 lessons of this course available for free to all Husband Help Haven readers, just click the link below and scroll down to where it says 'Module 1 | Get Your Self Control Back... And Keep It'.
With much manly love,
I'm Stephen, the guy behind Husband Help Haven. I'm not a marriage counselor or a lawyer, I'm just a guy on the Internet who has talked to a loooooot of men going through separation... Over 2,000 in the past 5 years. My goal is to give men the tools they need to save their marriage from separation. Read more here