Hi Carl- Let me give you my read on why perhaps so many walkaways need space and time. It took me a long time to really accept that my H was angry with me and, perhaps on one level, hated me for having in his view alienated him and shattering his dreams of what our marriage would be like. I believe that most walkaways really wanted a happy marriage and, at the time they leave, feel that they have essentially done everything they can to improve things and let their unmet needs be known. It is fair to say that many of us who have been left wish that our spouses' level of dissatisifaction and unhappiness had been communicated better to us. Did they do a poor job communicating or did we do a poor job listening? My guess is that most often it is a dangerous combination of the two.
It is critical to realize that the walkaway feels very wronged and entitled to do essentially whatever he or she chooses. Their seeming selfishness hits us like a brick along the side of the head and can push us into great depths of anger too. The time and space element allows you to do several things. First, it shows the walkaway respect for his or her wishes (remember they feel like the one left has shown little respect for their needs...) Second, it gives them time to cool down and reflect on what has happened with a clearer frame of mind. Third, it gives the walkaway an opportunity to potentially crave the companionship of someone who has been with them for years and at least at some point was likely their best friend. Fourth, the space and time is healthy for the one left behind to make any needed changes and to get his or her life in order. Fifth and related to number four, is the fact that the walkaway is terrified that any words or changes that are from the one left are temporary and just part of a "win you back strategy." The walkaways fear that they will walk right back into the circumstances that led them to leave or into a situation that is even worse.
Bear in mind that none of the above means that the one left is taking full responsibility for all of the marital problems, but it does mean that for the purpose of saving his or her marriage he or she is able to leave the "blame game" behind and move forward into a new and improved marriage when the walkaway is ready. None of this process is easy per se, but it is "easier" when you are able to say to yourself that you truly want your spouse to happy even if that means that being without you.
This whole process is filled with ups and downs and it typically only moves to a different level when you can try to just be friends with the walkaway again. When the walkaway senses an implicit list of expectations from their spouse the uncontrolable fear kicks in as do their doubts about meaningful possibilities. That is why you'll see so much advice re. keeping things light and fun. Granted, light and fun is no simple endeavor when you feel like your heart has just been torn out and trampled upon!
Of course every situation is different and what works for one person may need to be finetuned or abandoned by another. You know your history and relationship better than anyone, but being a good listener to what your W is saying and perhaps not saying is important. It is likely that we all share the reality that the anger and fear have to subside before meaningful longterm progress is likely.
Hoping for the best--Jamie
Good morning Carl and everyone else- One other thing I want to add re. the walkaway's possible frame of mind while they are still on the fence as to whether to try and return is that during their confusion and uncertainty they seemingly would welcome their spouse ending it all. I say this from reading so many stories on this board, but also from personal experience with my H. On a few occassions during my separation my H has almost jumped at the opportunity to end it all instead of listening to my complaints re. being in limbo. When I have initiated talks about the lack of progress or his slow pace (I've learned now to just really back off and process to myself) he has said that "we could always just end this." I have not been a doormat through any of my separation, but I have been clear that I want my marriage and family back together and, in a non-threatening way that my life is moving forward in healthy ways.
So, I guess what I'm saying is that your W may be consciously or subconsciously testing you to see whether you can give her what she needs right now (space, time...). She also is likely somewhat fearful that she is making a mistake by staying away, but feels that she really is unable to change the situation right now and needs to do what she is doing. She is willing to risk losing it all because she cannot have it together yet. I can say that I do believe that my H is still fearful that things will revert to the unhealthy condition they were in immediately prior to him leaving.
The best way to show your W that you are capable of forgiving your W for the affair and perhaps other things is to be her friend. Again, this is not always easy and you need to put her needs ahead of your own for it to work. A friend is there to listen and not to criticize during the other's pain and confusion. There will be moments when internally you backslide and think "wait a second, I'm the one who was left and she is being comforted by the new beau! When do I get comforted?" You need to keep those thoughts to yourself or with a support network (here, close friends, supportive family...). Avoid contact with people who will predictably say your nuts for putting up with her or should date and slam the door in her face. These people know nothing about DB and are projecting re. a topic they've never likely delved into. It's a personal journey and others' opinions are to be taken with one very large grain of salt.
The "act as if" approach not only will probably help your W feel more comfortable around you, but also has the effect of making you feel more like the way your striving to be. It is all about deciding how you will react to things and feel. Until all of this I never really believed or grasped the concept of choosing how we feel and respond to events. It always just seemed to be an uncontrollable reflex. Mellowing out and relaxing is a learned process and we can all change when we are ready.
I hope this makes sense Carl. My mind is moving a little faster than the fingers on the keys, but there are certain topics that just really strike a chord with me.
Have a great weekend--Jamie
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