Separation During Quarantine – Preserving Your Marriage When Life Gets (Very) Hard

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Did you hope that your wife would put the separation on the backburner during quarantine? 

When the quarantine started, most separated men I talked to really hoped that this crisis would somehow pull their wife back to the marriage and bring the family back together.

But, if you’re like most men I’ve talked to, the reality has been that things have only gotten harder with the stay home orders in place.

  • I’ve seen wives pull away and become more distant.
  • I’ve seen good fathers lose time with their kids to “limit exposure” to this virus.
  • I’ve seen many men frustrated by their wife’s ongoing refusal to put the family first when everyone else around them seems to be pulling together to survive.

Today, I will share some of what I’ve seen and learned about surviving separation during quarantine. 

God willing, we are over the hump for the worst of this pandemic, at least here in the US, but timelines are vague and there’s no guarantee normal life will resume anytime soon. Many talk about the timeline in terms of months.

So, what should you do during this time? 

How can you, at the very least, prevent what may have been a precarious separation before the pandemic tip into the realm of divorce during quarantine?

How To Keep The Separation From Getting Worse

First, Understand Why Quarantine Makes It Harder For Her To Come Back

I think that one of the keys to responding to your wife during this time is understanding just how hard things are for her (and you) right now.

The reality is, if you were separated before this pandemic hit, you were already in crisis mode. You and your wife were BOTH already stressed and emotionally turbulent. 

If you step back and look at it like that, it almost seems silly to think that either of those things would get better once you throw that existing crisis into another global one.

Your wife was already stressed, already at the end of her rope, already feeling done. I can almost guarantee that those same feelings have only been aggravated further after several weeks locked in the house, perhaps alongside financial or work troubles.

And let’s not forget that life is objectively harder now during quarantine.

  • Parenting is harder, especially if you have young kids
  • With everyone home, domestic duties are piling up
  • Financial trouble due to job loss, furlough or losses in revenue
  • Fear and anxiety are the norm… You’re either afraid of COVID, afraid of what’s happening to our country, or both.

And, let’s take this one step further...

Not only was your wife already stressed, for many of you she already established her response to stress during this time in her life. The marriage got hard, so she left. 

Perhaps she left in a way that was especially escapist in nature - such as through an affair or midlife crisis. She may have already proven that she doesn’t want to face the hard stuff, either in herself or in her marriage, so of course she’s STILL not going to face that hard stuff now that life is objectively harder than it was before.

AND! 

On top of all that, there is a decent chance that your wife came into this quarantine already assuming that you’d try to use this time together to dismiss the separation. 

Maybe she was right. 

Right or not, she may have started this quarantine with her heels dug in, extra prepared to reject your attempts at rebuilding good will.

So with all of this working against you during quarantine, what do you do?

With Understanding In Place, Let’s Lower Expectations

Have you ever heard that expectations are the root of all frustrations?

My observation has been that the men who’ve had the highest hopes for this time are also the ones who’ve felt the greatest frustration.

If you are however many weeks into this and…

  • Expecting your wife to put the separation on hold and come together with you
  • Expecting your wife to treat you with more kindness
  • Expecting your wife to change her priorities and become more selfless

… And if that STILL has not happened, then perhaps it’s time to lower your expectations.

Lower your expectations so that you have less opportunities to feel frustrated

The reality is, for most of you, things are going to be harder during this time, and you will get fewer opportunities to make a positive impact on your wife’s feelings. It doesn’t mean there’s no hope for your marriage, it just means you might not make the progress you’d hoped for right now.

Step Back & Rethink How You Respond To Your Frustration

What should you do when your expectations are not being met?

What you don’t want to do is respond to your unmet expectations for your wife by pushing harder to make things work. 

You also don’t want to let yourself get so fed up that you give yourself over to resentment.

Lowering expectations is part of that - giving yourself and your wife a bit of extra grace.

But I also encourage you to remind yourself that you are in this for the long haul. You knew this battle would take time. 

Remember, it is normal for separations to drag on for what feels like forever, even outside of quarantine. A stagnant separation during quarantine should not be a surprise.

Step back and re-focus on what you can control in this crisis.

Ask yourself, how can you be the man you want to be today?

It’s easy to focus on all the things you can’t do, all the things your wife rejects, all the things she pushes away from. It’s easy to focus on what you’ve lost during this quarantine.

But if you want any hope of this being a productive time, you have to look around and get creative. What options are available to you? 

What can you do to enrich the lives of your family or your wife or your neighbors in a way that makes you proud? In a way that re-establishes your connection with the man you want to be?

And that brings us to what should be your true goal right now:

Set Yourself Up For Future Success

Don’t judge your success by how much things improve now.

Instead, since we have accepted that things probably won’t get better right now, your goal should be that after this is all said and done, your wife looks back and is glad that you were still partnered with her during this time.

How do you do that?

  1. Minimize additional damage to the relationship during this time. Try to avoid fights, bitter arguments, bitter thoughts. When you see that pursuing her isn’t working, adapt and give space. 
  2. Maintain excellent character with genuine motives. Remain the husband, the father, the man you want to be to the best of your ability during this family, determined to sacrificially pour into the lives of those around you however you can.

Remember, even if you do everything right, things probably won’t get better now because of the sheer weight of the stress on your wife and family. So, look to the future. Keep seeking to do right by your family and your wife, but do it with genuine motives.

If you’re trying to manipulate your wife or convince her or showcase your worth and that is the #1 reason you’re doing the “nice” things that you’re doing, well, just like outside of quarantine, that won’t work. She will sense the ulterior and it will backfire.

When your motives are true, when you really do simply want to help your wife/kids/family however you can, regardless of the rewarding feelings you may receive from your wife, THAT is when you are in a good place. THAT is when you know you’re focused on what you can control.

What If Somehow Things Are Going Well?

Briefly, let’s hit the other side of the coin. 

What if things are better with your wife?

What if recently, you’ve started having more friendly interactions? Somehow you’ve found more positive time together, or as a family… What then?

While it’s true that MOST men have reported that their separation has worsened during this crisis, a handful have reported what all of us hoped to see - somehow, some way, the marriage feels like it’s getting better. Or, at least, the separation no longer seems like her #1 priority.

If this is you, I have three pieces of advice, both very simple:

  1. First, enjoy the small wins! Enjoy the positive time together! Step up and work alongside your wife to serve your family and to be a beacon of hope and positivity to those around you, both within your family and without.
  2. Second, and equally important, don’t slam the gas. Don’t take a few small wins and push for big ones. Take the small wins as they come and let your wife set the pace. Don’t be presumptuous and only try to push things forward more than your wife is ready to.
  3. Third and finally, prepare yourself for setbacks. Things might be going well right now, great! But most separations I’ve seen go through ups and downs, even when they end in reconciliation. 

Don’t be surprised if your surprisingly positive separated wife this week goes back to negativity and distance next week. It doesn’t mean you messed up, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost, it means that she’s conflicted and still figuring out what she wants, and she’s trying to do that while balancing everything else hitting her in life right now.

No Matter What, Be The Rock Resolved To Serve

That brings us to the final thing here. And this final point applies to all of you reading this.

At the end of the day, COVID is a crisis of a different kind than the one you’ve already been facing in your marriage, but it is still a crisis nonetheless. 

I hope that here on Husband Help Haven I have helped equip you to maintain your manhood and face ANY crisis with a stalwart resolve to be the man YOU want to be, no matter what. Nothing about quarantine should change that.

  • Be the husband you want to be, as best you can given the circumstances.
  • Be the father you want to be, as best you can given the circumstances.
  • Be the man you want to be, as best you can despite the circumstances.

Make a commitment to find ways to pour into those who want and benefit from your love during this time. We hope that will be your wife at least some of the time

Refuse to let circumstances that have become a little (or a lot) harder be the thing that breaks you or drags you back to the ways you’ve left behind. Don’t let a stay home order or a furlough define your identity any more than you let a separation. Don’t let anything steal your source of strength.

You are still you, and you still have a goal, and you are still determined to do everything you can to reach that goal. Keep moving forward. And determine to serve those who will accept service all along the way, whether that means your wife, your kids, your parents, your neighbors, or anyone else. Don’t do it because you’re trying to get your wife back, do it because that’s simply the man you want to be.

Hope this helps you as you face the weeks ahead. Hopefully it will only be weeks, and not months, but either way, your job is the same - make the most of what you can control, make peace with the rest.

Much manly love,
 - Stephen

With much manly love,
 - Stephen

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

6 thoughts on “Separation During Quarantine – Preserving Your Marriage When Life Gets (Very) Hard”

  1. Stephen,
    I want to thank you for what you’re doing on here. It’s comforting to know that there are men just like me who are going through the same issues. My wife told me on April 24 that she did not want to be with me anymore. She said she didn’t feel loved and is unhappy and has been unhappy for a while. Our situation is a bit different, she moved about 100 miles away to attend school to further her career. I stayed home because my career is advancing and I’m being groomed to take over a position that I have been eyeing for the last year. We talked about us both moving down there together with our daughter while she was in school, but that would mean I would have to change jobs, take a paycut, and be completely miserable with work for at least 3 years, which to me didn’t make sense from something short term and she agreed. Along with her feeling of unhappiness, she believes I abandoned her and stole her child away from her – mind you I visit her and stay with her whenever I had free time, just so we could spend time with each other and she could be with our daughter.
    So when her request came it came as a total shock to me. She told me that I shouldn’t be surprised and that if I paid attention I would have seen this coming. She said I was a great husband and father but she didn’t feel loved. She asked how have I shown her love, so when I listed the things I have done and the MANY sacrifices I made they were all dismissed as husbandly duties. Many hurtful things were said and then I just started looking for help and I came across your site.
    I have read many of your post and they are so practical and have given me tips on how to approach this situation. Your blog posts have helped tremendously, 9 traits of a good husband as well as 10 Steps to Gain Husbandly Leadership have been great resources and I recommend that anyone looking for help, it’s an excellent resource. Even though she has done many hurtful things to me, I love this woman dearly. She is supposed to come home today for her summer break for the next week and a half to spend time with our daughter, I hope she is receptive to the changes that have started to take place.

    Thank you again.
    Much manly love…
    Anthony

  2. Scott McDaid-Morgan

    I appreciate this. I’m in a weird place. I think things are better in my relationship in many ways and that has my wife really confused. At the start of quarantine and early in our discussions of separation I think she was pretty sure she wanted to leave me and now because I have put in so much work into myself, I have her second guessing. She also has feelings for another guy and is really interesting in dating him during separation, which kind of brings out a jealous possessive side of me that is not healthy. This guy texts her regularly and is basically waiting around to see what happens. I am trying to be the sort of person that my wife has fun around and feels relaxed around and when things to do with the separation come up she can get pretty stressed out about it and so I’m just trying to get through the days incident free. I’ve been taking really good care of her and the kids and making sure that she can just focus on her work when she needs to and kind of letting her come to me a bit. I don’t want to come across as desperate, although I pretty much am. I love my wife so much and facing this separation is kind of agonizing for me on the one hand and it also makes me want to shut down emotionally and give up on the other hand. I’m not going tom and although she may want to date, I want to not do that out of spite and just continue to work on myself so that she might come back to me, or at least so that the next relationship can be a healthier less codependent one.

  3. So about a month ago my wife tells me she wants a divorce. A week later she moved in with a friend. I bought the revival guide which got me through some long days. (The blogs and stuff also help a lot).

    Few days after she moved out, I found some beer in one of our cars. She doesn’t drink beer so long story short she was planning on meeting up with a guy from Bumble but it fell through. She bought him beer.. I dunno.. anyways I forgave her and we moved on with life.

    My biggest issue is although I’m reading the book everyday I manage to do something that pushes her further away.

    Now yesterday i did make a suggestion that we still have sex together but when we’re done she goes back to her friends place.

    Tonight was the first night we did it and it was fantastic. Then she left. Space has been good. Here’s my question though.. how do I Segway this friends with benefits relationship into having her back as my wife ?

    1. Enjoy the good moment, don’t push her to go faster than she wants, just be content with where things are at. Your goal is to be consistent on the work you’re doing for yourself, and at the same time remain flexible in your expectations with her. Enjoy the good moments, shake off the bad, keep moving forward.

  4. Hi Stephen,

    I wish I found your site before the pandemic when my wife dropped the bomb she wanted to separate (by not even bothering to run a Google search, I guess it shows the lack of seriousness I approached this with). We had been in marriage counseling, but I tended to think most things were fine, just some minor marriage problems that everyone had. Instead, I took the “backburner” route you describe- thinking the crisis would improve the marriage, while basically acting the same and not improving myself. I didn’t realize that during this time of need I had to be there for my wife in a different capacity. I’m fortunate that I have a good job, and so I buried myself in my work, thinking this was the most important thing I can do for my family, while literally ignoring all the warning signs that continued to mount and almost forgetting what she told me when the pandemic began. This led to the “move out”request 6 weeks ago. In retrospect, I should have found a middle ground and slept in the guestroom to give her space; instead, it was more explosive, as I went for all or nothing, than reasoned I would get “credit” for listening to her by leaving, but after reading your material, that was clearly a mistake. We have our home (which we fled during the pandemic), which I am currently back at, and our summer home where she is staying with the kids that I left. This complicates the situation of “move out,” because we are both technically in our homes and haven’t had to physically move out or find a place. As such, I reasoned this was more of a fight than a separation, but your material on nesting changed my mind on that. Literally, I miss my family so much and COVID makes it very hard to travel and I’m also dealing with my side of the family’s COVID problems; this seems to magnify the whole situation, as I wish she could be here with me in this time of need. I’m not sure when I will see them next, as she has not provided an end date to reassess, nor have we made any plans.

    While I have done a few things right since the “move out,” I have made a ton of mistakes during the intervening 6 weeks, particularly taking a yard when she gives me an inch (bold romantic gestures). For instance, I will string a few days together with her (facetime; phone; text), but then bungle it by overreaching. While she sends me mixed signals, I now know I can’t double down- your part about the small wins is critical; now I have to internalize it.

    It should also be noted I have begun to take a lot of the issues she mentioned seriously and have shown real improvement; I get that it’s for me, but it’s also for my family because I want to be the husband and father they deserve (I just couldn’t see my mistakes). The days are very long and full of the most pain I have ever felt, and that job I cared so much about in the early days of the pandemic seems so much less important (my wife also has a great job, our family could live off one of our salaries, which makes all the work I was doing seem ridiculous in retrospect)- your site has been a beacon of light during the darkest time of my life.

    I’m glad I found your site and can begin to course correct. I’m fairly pessimistic about the outcome based on the things she has said, but I have to hope. Thank you so much for this valuable resource.

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