I get a lot of correspondence from wives lamenting a husband's distance, coldness, and aloofness.  Some of these come from wives who are already separated and others come from wives who are still married, but who suspect that their spouse may be contemplating a break or separation.  These wives are worried about what their husband's lack of interest, distance, and coldness may mean.  They are particularly concerned that it means that he is no longer in love with them.  And they wonder if it's possible to ever maintain a marriage without love.

Here is an example.  One might say: "for the past six months, I've noticed my husband become more and more distant. Eventually, things got so bad that we separated.  We used to meet every other night after work for dinner.  We used to always have Sunday meals with my parents.  This was sacred and it kept us close. We used to talk quite a bit. And laugh.  But that began to taper off.  And I notice that not only has the talking and laughter died off, but so has the thoughtful things that my husband used to do for me.  Eventually, it seemed like he was avoiding me. He actually almost forgot my birthday a couple of weeks ago.  I would worry that there was another woman, but my husband works at home and rarely interacts with other people - at least enough to maintain a relationship.  He pretty much used to meet his social needs through me, but that's no longer happening.  He's started to become short and argumentative with me.  A few weeks ago, he actually mentioned that he might want to take a break from our marriage for a while.  And he moved out last weekend.  I had hoped that he would move out and realize that he made a desperate mistake.  I had hoped that he would miss me and would immediately want to come back. This hasn't happened.  If anything, he is more cold and distant than ever before.  He doesn't seem remotely interested in me in any way.  He avoids and ignores me.  When he looks at me, there is nothing there.  It is as if he is looking at a stranger.  He is MORE distant during our separation, of course. But he was actually getting distant before.  So now I'm wondering if his distance means he doesn't love me or just doesn't care anymore.  And I'm wondering if this means that I am going to end up divorced because of this."

The Distance Is Often A Form Of Self Protection: Well, the meaning of the distance is very difficult to predict.  But I can tell you that men who are contemplating, pursuing, or going through a separation, often just naturally distance themselves - even if they are aware that they still love their wife very much.  They do this because they are struggling with their emotions, they're trying to gauge how they feel, and they know that this process is going to be more difficult if they lean on you emotionally.  They know that if they are actively emotionally connected to you, this may well be harder for you both.

It's very natural for BOTH parties to try to shut down their feelings and emotions somewhat during the separation.  There is just a natural reaction to want to avoid pain.  (That can be true even of the party who initiated the break.  It can be very painful to remain in close contact or to remain close emotionally because it gives you glimpses of EXACTLY what you are missing.)

Feelings Change Constantly During A Separation: Now, I can't say that there aren't separated husbands who are leaning toward a long separation or even a divorce and who, as a result, are distancing themselves because they think that this is what should happen anyway.  They think that they may as well start the process of mentally untangling themselves from their spouse.  This certainly does happen.  Some of these spouses eventually change their minds and some do not.

I'm not sure if there is any reliable way to tell which category your husband is in, especially since people regularly change their minds and have fluctuating feelings during the separation.  And frankly, you can't control anyone's feelings but your own.

That can leave you in a situation where you feel as if you are sort of just getting pulled along with the tide.  I know.  I have been there.  But it helps to realize that you DO have control of yourself.  You can control how you deal with your feelings, how you act, and how you interact. (When I learned this, it changed everything in my separation. And I was able to save my marriage. More here.)  You can control whether you overreact and whether you expect the worst.  I know that it is difficult.  But it may help to know that the way that he is acting right now may change.

This is all very new.  It is normal to be guarded.  It is normal to want to protect yourself (and sometimes your spouse) emotionally.  No one knows how this is going to turn out and no one wants to wear their heart on their sleeve and get hurt.  When I was in this situation, I noticed that I had a tendency to do one of two things.  I would either try really hard to break through my husband's hard shell and would overcompensate and frustrate him.  Or I would become angry and act cold right back, which of course, would just make things worse.  I wanted to feel closer to him, but this only achieved the opposite.

I found that there was a happy medium.  As best as I could, I tried to act upbeat when we were together.  I tried to give him that space he wanted by working on myself and keeping myself busy with things that were important to me as an individual - things that, to be honest, I had lost.  Eventually, this worked much better.  And he began to drop the cold, aloof attitude and to bridge the distance.  But this didn't happen immediately.  And it took patience and finesse on my part. There's more on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com

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