You’ve made real, positive changes as a man.
You're a better husband than the day your wife left.
The problem is, your wife can't see any of it because she won't see you. Maybe you live separately. She doesn't return your calls or texts. She avoids you when you drop off the kids. And if you do see her, she gives you the cold shoulder.
How do you show your wife your changes if you live apart and she won't communicate?
This post is a comprehensive strategy guide for this type of separation. We're going to start by establishing the right mindset for this kind of separation, then we’ll look at the strategic options you have to get through to your wife.
Use the table of contents below if you’d like to skip ahead, but I highly recommend reading the whole post.
Stop Being Desperate,
Clarify What's Yours to Control
If you’re desperate, you won’t be able to make the most of what you can control.
Implementing this mindset is the first step in any separation. It’s also the first step of the 3+1 Separation Strategy. Be sure to watch the 3+1 Separation Strategy video if you haven't already.
Take a deep breath and figure out what you can actually control. Right now, your wife’s distance from the marriage is not one of those things.
Desperation Kills Your Chances
Most men reading this feel desperate.
But, if you constantly feel desperate, you can’t do the most important things you need to do right now.
desperation is what happens when you try to control what is not yours to control
It’s natural and expected to struggle with desperation, especially when you KNOW that if your wife would just open up her eyes she would like what she sees in you. However, by desperately trying to show those changes to your wife, you actually make her less likely to believe them when you do get the opportunity.
Remember, desperation is what happens when you try to control what is not yours to control – in this case, your wife's choice to leave and refuse communication.
Take Time to Stabilize &
Let Go of What You Can’t Control
If your emotions are constantly spinning out of control, then you MUST take time to stabilize before you do anything else. You do that by reminding yourself what you can control, and what you can’t.
You CAN control:
You CAN'T control:
These are just sample lists. It’s important to think through this for yourself. What can you control in your separation? What is outside of your control?
Homework: On a piece of paper or in a Word document, take 10 minutes to brainstorm all the things you can control, then take 10 minutes to brainstorm the things you can’t control.
Accept That Her Distance Is Her Choice
Even if you live in a different country, it is not chance that your wife isn’t talking to you. Even though it might seem obvious, if you’re in this situation you must remind yourself that your wife’s cold shoulder is not a chance – it is a choice.
Her choice to be distant is likely a defense mechanism that prevents emotional pain or frustration for her
Accept that it is your wife’s CHOICE not to communicate with you. Even if you are exchanging kids back and forth, she may refuse to interact with you during those exchanges.
She is CHOOSING not to see you. She is CHOOSING not to talk to you.
If your wife is determined to truly refuse all contact with you for the rest of her life, then there's nothing you can do about that. If she never lets herself see you again, if she ignores your emails and texts and blocks you from as many modes of communication as possible, then that's her choice and there's very little you can do to change it.
Why is she choosing to distance herself?
Could be a variety of reasons:
- It’s easier or less painful to ignore you than to talk to you.
- She is determined not to let you change her mind about the marriage.
- She doesn’t want to be pressured into coming back.
- She’s trying to prove she’s gone for good and force you to move on with your life.
Long story short, her choice to remove you from her life is likely a defense mechanism that she is using to prevent some kind of emotional pain.
Here's the thing: there's no way you can remove this defense mechanism until SHE is ready to let it down. And until it's down, everything you do or say to her is going to be filtered through this defense mechanism… Even if you could communicate freely with her, this emotional wall would be there all the same.
With all of that being said, the reason behind her choice not to communicate doesn’t matter that much. What matters is how you react to it.
Set the Right Goals
Right Now, Your Goal is NOT "Saving the Marriage"
Accepting her choice for minimal contact means that you must set a different goal.
Your goal right now is not to save your marriage, or even to convince your wife that you’ve changed...
Instead of making every day & every week all about when you will get to *MAYBE* talk to your wife, start investing time in yourself
... Your goal is to give her an incentive to WANT to spend time with you in the first place, and to meanwhile make peace with the waiting.
In other words, you have to give her a reason to make a different CHOICE than she’s making right now.
No matter where you’re at in your separation, the end goal is the same… She must CHOOSE to give the marriage another chance to make her happy. It’s so, so important to remember that her CHOICE is what you’re trying to change, not your marriage.
Use This Time To Yourself
Instead of structuring every day, every week, around when you will get to MAYBE talk to your wife, start investing time in yourself.
Although it may seem impossible, do your best to look on the bright side. I’m willing to bet that there are things that you could not do with your wife… Perhaps old hobbies or friends that fell by the wayside throughout your marriage. Now is the time to pick those things back up.
Remember the saying:
"Hope for the best, prepare for the worst."
Continue to work on yourself. Become a better man in all areas of your life. And ironically, the way that you make these changes genuine and permanent is by making them with the acceptance that divorce is a real possibility.
She (Probably) Needs to Fix Her Own Issues
We talk a lot about your role in the separation on Husband Help Haven, but for most of you, your wife has her own internal issues she needs to work through too.
Again, we go back to the role that her choice plays in this separation...
Remember, She probably isn’t getting the same help that you are
If your wife chooses not to look at herself in the mirror, if she chooses not to improve herself, if she instead throws herself headlong into bad habits, destructive choices or toxic relationships, or if she has simply made up her mind to cut you out of her life, you may not be able to change her choice.
Even in the best case scenario, your wife will probably work through her own issues slower than you are working through yours. She probably isn’t getting the help that you are. Be patient and give her time to figure things out.
Finally! Let’s talk about your strategic options if you find yourself in a low/no contact separation.
Your separation is unique, with unique people and unique circumstances. So, instead of telling you the "right" answer, I'm going to outline your choices and provide the pros and cons of each.
These strategies are listed in order of how much space you give your wife. The strategy that gives her the most space is listed first, the least space listed last.
Quick Note About Kids:
No matter which strategy you choose, you should not give up communication with your kids. The strategies below refer to communication with your wife, about the marriage. If you want to talk to your kids or spend time with them, obviously you will need some communication with your wife. Do not neglect your kids no matter how much space your wife wants.
Do not try to communicate with her.
Only let her come to you, period.
What you do:
Pretty self-explanatory. With this strategy you NEVER initiate communication with your wife, and you keep your communication short and to the point when it does happen. You accept that she doesn’t want to talk to you, and so you do not make any effort to communicate with her until she gives you some indication that she wants to hear you.
If you have kids and therefore you have to communicate with your wife at least a little bit, keep your communication exclusively centered on coordinating kid-related plans.
This strategy gives you a sense of closure because it allows you to let go of the burden of changing your wife’s choice, and it allows you to NOT think about the marriage.
With this strategy, you never have to wonder, “Should I text my wife today? Has it been long enough?” Instead, you accept that no communication will happen unless she reaches out to you.
Obviously, there is a chance your wife will simply never reach out to you. Your separation may simply fade into divorce. However, if you believe that forcing communication your wife doesn’t want has about the same effect as no communication at all, then this option lets you focus on yourself and your kids (if applicable) and looking toward the future.
When to Use It:
This strategy is best if your wife is making destructive or out-of-character choices in her life. For example, if your wife is having an ongoing affair or if she has fallen into a drug or drinking habit.
Generally with this strategy, even if she reaches out to you, YOU will choose to keep the communication short and to-the-point. The only way this changes is if she basically comes out and says, “Let’s give things another chance.” The reason for this is because this strategy is all about allowing yourself to heal… You recognize that the marriage is only going to be saved if your wife makes drastic changes.
This strategy also has a lot of benefit if you really feel that you’ve already done everything that you can, and you’re confident that nothing you do or say will change your wife’s mind… All that’s left for you to do is heal; her choice is between her and God now.
One last hurrah, then match her distance.*
*This is the strategy I would recommend to most men reading this.
What You Do:
Make one final plea to your wife. This could be in person, via email, via handwritten letter. Perhaps you wait for an opportune moment, one of those moments where it seems like your wife is opening up to you.
However you do this last hurrah effort to get through to her, make sure your tone is empathetic and calm, NOT desperate. You want to show her:
- That you recognize and respect why she’s chosen to leave the marriage.
- That you understand how your actions affected her.
- You respect her decision, but you also believe that the marriage could make you both happy again, and that you’re willing to work to make it that way.
- (Optional) You understand that she wants space, but you have to get this off your chest before giving her the space she wants.
This changes a little bit if she’s having an affair or having a destructive midlife crisis. In those cases, your tone may be more along the lines of, “I understand that I made mistakes and hurt you, but I also know that the marriage cannot be saved as long as you continue making the choices you’re making now. I would love to have a future with you, but I cannot continue reaching out to you as long as you continue [insert behavior].”
However you do your last hurrah, have low expectations. You are doing this just as much for yourself (so that you can have peace knowing that she’s heard you) as for her.
The reason I favor this strategy is for the peace of mind it gives you as a man trying to save his marriage. With this option, you DO end up getting the space you need to heal, just like in Strategy #1, but you’ll also have peace of mind knowing that your wife definitely knows how you feel.
Same as Strategy #1. The only additional downside is that you risk pushing her further away with your last hurrah, but if you give her as much space as you can after that, then not really much different.
When to Use It:
This strategy is very flexible and fits well with any separation where there’s long-distance or low communication. The reason I recommend this is because it offers a nice balance ?between taking risks to get her back and ??giving ??her the space she wants.
Continue to reach out to her, but not often
What to do:
Every couple weeks, reach out to your wife (text, email, in person, whichever she’s most likely to hear) and let her know that you’re still thinking about her. This could be as simple as saying, “Hey, hope you’re having a good day.” Aside from these times, you keep the lines silent and do not reach out to her.
Your mindset is very important with this strategy. You need to have the same acceptance of the distance as you do in the previous two strategies.
The only difference is that you make a strategic decision to reach out more frequently, seeing if something will stick. And, you may choose to also interact with her more when she reaches out to you, even if it’s just for technical stuff.
This strategy allows you to feel like you’re still doing *something* to keep the hope alive, even if your wife never changes her tune. You may gain peace of mind knowing that your wife really can’t doubt your commitment to the marriage, while also giving her a good amount of space.
This strategy can easily come off as inconsistent to your wife, so you need to tread carefully. Inconsistency is not a trait you want your wife associating with you. After all, you’re trying to show her that your changes ARE consistent, you want to minimize her chances of thinking, “I knew he hadn’t changed.”
Even communicating every couple weeks could feel smothering to her.
Most dangerous of all, this strategy can make it easy to lose focus of what you can control and prevent you from healing and making the most of your circumstances.
When It’s Best:
This strategy works best when your wife has made some indication that she’s on the fence. Perhaps she’s even told you something along the lines of, “I just need time to think things through.” Ideally there are no other factors at play such as an affair or midlife crisis... Just a plain ol' loss of love separation. Could also work during a MLC where periodically checking in on your wife may make sense.
Continue to reach out frequently
Chances are, this is how most of you started your separation, and for most of you it hasn’t yielded results.
I’ve included this strategy because technically it IS an option, and my goal here is to outline all of your options (within reason). However, it is not recommended in a separation where your wife is pushing for low/no communication… Which is the topic of this article.
What to do:
Reach out to her every day, every 3 days, every week, whenever you feel like it… Basically, do whatever you want. Pretty straightforward. However, I recommend keeping your messages short and simple. Don’t expect your wife to read a new lengthy email or letter every week. Not gonna happen for most of you to whom this article applies.
This strategy is easy and doesn’t require much discipline, although you’ll need strong resolve to prevent discouragement if she is mostly unresponsive. With this strategy, she really can’t doubt that you still love her.
If your wife asks you for space, if her actions and attitude tell you she wants space, then frequently reaching out to her will feel smothering. If she feels smothered, it’s unlikely for her to believe that you’ve changed into a man who is capable of prioritizing her and making her happy. Even if you’re being nothing but kind and sweet, it may still seem selfish to her because in her mind you’re just trying to get what you want.
When it’s best:
If you have a very mild separation, and your wife usually responds to your communication, this could be a good strategy. This doesn’t apply to most men reading this, since this article is about low/no contact separations.
If this is what you’ve been doing so far and it’s been working for you, by all means continue… As long as you can stay focused on what you can control.
What Do These Strategies Have In Common?
Having seen hundreds and hundreds of men in separations like this, I have noticed a few common threads among men who seem to do well in this kind of separation.
You Care About Quality Over Quantity
Saving your marriage is about high quality interactions, not high quantity.
I have seen many marriages turn around after just one incredible, positive, game-changing interaction between a husband and his separated wife. Many times this doesn’t come for many months into a separation... Many times these husbands have endured true "no contact" (no visits, no calls, no texts) with their wives for weeks on end... Some have even gone through divorce. But in the end it didn't matter because that one interaction made the difference and rekindled a dormant spark.
Your wife only must truly believe in your changes one time for her to start questioning her decision.
For example, I remember one guy who finally got through to his wife during a mediation session after she’d been giving him the cold shoulder for several months. He did it by participating and even leading in the mediation, all while being genuinely kind and cheerful to his wife. Their interaction was so groundbreaking that even the mediator chimed in and asked why they were getting divorced. This left an impression on her and afterwards she saw him differently.
You can’t magically make your wife spend more time with you, but you can shift your focus to make the most of the interactions you do get, even if those interactions only happen once every few weeks.
You Have Realistic Expectations
You know how it seems like people always find love when they stop looking for it?
Accept that divorce is out of your hands (at least partly). This is one of the keys to self-confidence and peace during a low/no contact separation.
Many times it is only after the husband has accepted that he can’t fix the marriage on his own – once he truly lets go and starts looking to a future without his wife – that’s when his wife finally starts having second thoughts.
Of course, there are plenty of times where this doesn’t happen. I don’t want to give you false hope that you can somehow trick ‘the universe’ into giving you your wife back by pretending like you don’t want her anymore. That is NOT what I’m saying here.
It goes back to the let her go to get her back mindset. Letting her go puts you in the best win-win position you can be in, because it both gives her the freedom she needs to MAYBE see you differently, and it gives you the ability to have peace and clarity in your life as you begin preparing for the worst.
Now you can see why I spent so much time hammering home the role of your wife’s CHOICE. Recognizing her choice in this separation is how you begin the process of letting her go.
You Are Patient & Don’t Pressure Yourself
Even in the best case scenario, this will probably be a long process. Even if you choose one of the strategies above and do it perfectly, it will take time for your wife to believe that you’ve changed. More importantly, it will take time for her to believe the marriage can make her happy.
You shouldn't let yourself think, “This is it, my last chance to save my marriage,” every time you get to see your wife.
Most low/no contact separations will go on for several months. If you put too much pressure on yourself you will ruin any chance of showcasing the genuine, natural changes you've made in yourself. If you’ve truly made changes, they will speak for themselves without you saying anything about them.
Give yourself some grace. Having one imperfect action or one imperfect word will not be the thing that keeps you from getting her back. Again, remember, it is her CHOICE that matters here. Your only goal is to make the choice that keeps you in her life a more attractive one.
The Original Question –
Can Your Marriage Be Saved?
This is the question you had when you started reading this article. If your wife doesn’t live with you AND rejects communication with you, is there any hope?
The answer is, yes. There is hope. Keep hoping!
But! I cannot promise you that the majority of you reading this will reconcile. The reality is that your marriage is in a bad state, and both you AND your wife will need to put in a lot of work and healing to make things right again. This is why acceptance of what you can control is so crucial.
What to do right now:
- Choose which strategy gives YOU the most peace. Trust your gut, which one ‘feels’ right, and adapt as needed to your own unique circumstances.
- Implement the strategy, stick to it, and be patient.
- While you do the above, work on yourself, work on building a life that can sustain itself and keep you stable through the ups and downs that inevitably lie ahead.
There are no magic answers, but there are smart strategies that optimize the odds. I wish you the best of luck as you choose and implement your own.
Do you have a different strategy for a low/no contact separation? Have any advice you’d like to pass on? Drop a comment below.
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