Relationship Connection: Should I keep trying to communicate with my absentee husband?

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Question

My spouse of almost four years moved out about a couple of months ago. We went on a scheduled vacation together two weeks after he moved out and had an amazing time. We really reconnected and even talked about our future together. He felt we both needed counseling in order to work out some issues we had together and I agreed.

This past week my mom passed away, and of course, I have been an emotional wreck. I asked him to come see me the other day, and he said he would. Not only did he not come see me, but he also isn’t answering my calls or texts.

I feel completely abandoned by him. I don’t know what to do. Do I continue trying to contact him, or do I back off and let him come to me?

Answer

First of all, I’m terribly sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. The timing of all these events is tragic, to say the least. Not only are you grieving the loss of your mother, you’re now dealing with the ambiguous loss of your husband. You’re in a vulnerable situation and are naturally looking for some type of comfort. Of course, the tragic irony in all of this is that your main source of comfort (your husband) is now becoming your major source of pain.

I don’t know the particulars of your marriage and why he chose separation. I also don’t know why he’s currently ignoring you. I’m sure he has his reasons, but either way, he’s sending you a clear message about his level of willingness to be your husband. This is tough to say, but please see that you can either deny this reality or accept it. This is an agonizing reality to face, but your peace of mind depends on it.

Since you’re getting mixed signals from him, it’s a good opportunity for you to move carefully, regardless of whether he shows up. His instability makes it impossible to trust him even though you need to get clear about the kind of relationship you want with him. He’s moved from separation to connection, then back to separation, and now abandonment.

If you keep calling him, there is a risk of sending the signal that you’re willing to tolerate this type of back-and-forth treatment. This will only perpetuate an insecure connection that will require you to continue seeking his reassurance. Please get clear on the message you want to send back to him, as he’s already sending you clear messages.

If you want a secure relationship, then you can’t do all of the work pulling him close to you. Your marriage vows are a two-way agreement and won’t work if you’re the only one making commitments. A secure relationship is built on both partners being accessible and responsive to each other’s needs, fears, pain and longings. There’s work to do, and you both need to show up equally.

If he won’t be honest with you and share his true intentions, then all you can do is observe what he does and then determine your best response. He’s shown you closeness, distance and complete avoidance. Only you can decide which of these behaviors is the truth.

If he does surface again, then I recommend you head straight to a marriage counselor who can help you both slow down the roller coaster of emotions and behaviors so you can have a chance at a secure relationship with each other.

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

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