I sometimes hear from wives who could have been my past self. The reason for this is that they are separated and somewhat desperate to reconcile and save their marriages. I typically have a very good idea of how they feel because I have been there. I know that when you are separated, there is little else that you think about, other than a reconciliation. You want the reconciliation to happen today – or tomorrow at the very latest. Unfortunately, our husbands don’t always feel the same way. In fact, they are usually the one who wanted the separation in the first place, so they may be very noncommittal when you attempt to talk about a reconciliation. However, it can be hard not to become hopeful when you make start to make progress and you feel like you are connecting again. Understandably, the improvement process can make you anxious to begin to inch toward a reconciliation. But your husband may bristle at this idea. And some husbands even back away from you a little, because they don’t want to be rushed. This can leave the wife feeling a bit stuck. Because she loves her husband and she wants to reconcile, she might be willing to move at his pace. But she can worry about his sincerity.
She might say, “I have been separated for over three months. In the beginning, I was nearly certain that a divorce was in my future. But over the last month, things have slowly started to improve. My husband has been coming over regularly to eat dinner with my son. After we put him to bed, we have been talking for hours. We have had some great talks. I have started to feel a little bit of hope that we might reconcile and I finally got up my courage to ask my husband about this. He said that he is not opposed to reconciling one day, but he insists that it is going to have to be a very gradual process because he isn’t ready to commit to anything. He said that we are both still figuring things out. I admit that I was disappointed and I wondered if perhaps he was saying this just to get me to back off. My girlfriend said that she would have her doubts too and that I shouldn’t put my heart into this until I get a commitment. I am torn. It’s not like my husband is asking anything of me. We aren’t sleeping together. So it’s not like lying to me is really to his benefit. At the same time, I don’t want to get my heart broken. Is it an awful sign that he wants to move slowly?”
Why A Gradual Reconciliation Can Have Advantages: I know why this hurts. You think that he’s just trying delay hurting you and it is scary to get your hopes up. However, I can tell you that even when my husband and I were doing really well as a couple at the tail end of our separation, we both made the conscious decision to take it slowly. It was very hard for me. Because I wanted an immediate reconciliation. But I also knew that I didn’t want to fail and to have to get a divorce. I fully realized that our relationship was still fragile. I also knew that when I tried to pressure or rush my husband, he had a tendency to retreat. So I didn’t want to do anything to make him uncomfortable. I knew that I was probably going to get one chance at this reconciliation thing and I did not want to do anything at all to jeopardize it.
What did help was that, like you, we were making some progress. So when I would get impatient, I would tell myself to contrast the weeks that we went not talking with the fact that we were regularly seeing one another, getting along, and enjoying ourselves. This was just not worth risking by rushing it. I understand your dread about your husband just trying to gain some time. But look at it this way: As long as you continue to make progress, why would he want to prolong the separation? As long as each day is a little better than the last, hopefully, you will both be more optimistic about the future. Why would he want to turn his back on that?
I know that moving at a gradual pace requires more trust. But, trust is a skill that will enhance your marriage anyway. One positive of gradual movement is that it allows you to make little tweaks along the way. You’re not in a situation where it is all or nothing. When you hit a speed bump, you adjust. When things go well, you might accelerate a bit. But you have the flexibility to do so because no one is any huge hurry and no one needs to move out again when things feel rushed. When you reconcile gradually, there isn’t so much pressure when he moves back in because you’ve already encountered many of the issues that may crop up and you have already fixed them. Therefore, your reconciliation has a much higher chance of success. That is why it is important to keep your eye on the real prize.