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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.
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?
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
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