Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Estranged Wife Wants Me to Help Her Choose Her New Apartment”

My wife told me last month that she wanted a temporary separation at the end of April. She laid out several solid reasons for wanting to separate, and I’m not going to throw a huge fit over it like I probably would have not too long ago. I understand her reasons, but she keeps asking my opinion about whatever apartments she’s looking at. I’m trying to be polite and helpful, but it’s driving me batty. I really don’t want this separation. I’d rather see a marriage counselor and work to fix our problems. There’s also a bit of resentment: I’m a student, so I go to school and work on the weekends. When we separate, I’ll have to live with my parents because I can’t afford a place for myself and our daughter. (We have agreed that our child will be with me during the week and with my wife on the weekends). That said, my wife has chosen to pay for daycare and has taken a lot of our credit lines (which took a serious beating when she was out of work for a few months). She’s being plenty generous, so it’s not like I’m getting screwed over.

Should I feel so much like a whipped dog every time she asks or should I be glad that she still values my opinion? I don’t really know how to feel right now and, when I tried to communicate my issues, I simply failed at getting the message across. — Resenting the Separation

Two things:

1. Stop trying to be polite. I suspect that’s part of your marital issues to begin with. Stop trying to be polite with your estranged wife and start being honest (but civil!). Tell her you’re uncomfortable weighing in on potential apartment for her to live in during your separation and that, in your mind (and the minds of most people entering a separation), being separated means living as a single person undergoing a trial experience to see what kind of clarity and insight you’ll glean with the emotional and physical distance from your spouse. Part of living without your spouse is choosing a new home without his or her emotional support.

2. Why are you not going to couples counseling? You can live separately AND see a marriage counselor to work on your problems, and, if you have any intention or hope at all of eventually reconciling, that step really shouldn’t be skipped. On the other hand, maybe your wife has already checked out of the marriage completely and sees the separation only as “temporary” in that it’s just a stop toward a permanent dissolution of your marriage. And if that’s the case, you certainly deserve the truth about it.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

32 comments… add one
  • Pamplemousse Rose

    Pamplemousse Rose March 4, 2015, 9:39 am

    WWS! My first thought was why is marriage counseling/separation an either/or proposition? Even if the separation makes you both realize you want to continue the marriage, the issues that caused your wife to want to separate in the first place will likely still be there upon reconcilliation without a lot of work (including counseling).

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  • avatar

    Samantha March 4, 2015, 9:54 am

    Maybe, she wants your opinion on her new apartment because she wants to make sure that you approve of the place and area your child in going to be living in. Also, who knows you might get back together and she wants to make sure you like a place that in the future you maybe living too.

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    • Monkeysmommy

      monkeys mommy March 6, 2015, 2:02 pm

      This is exactly what I thought too; you have a child together. Maybe she wants your input on choosing a safe place for her to raise your daughter, or maybe she wants you to feel like you have a say in the matter.

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  • avatar

    tangerbean March 4, 2015, 9:57 am

    I could be way off on this but maybe she’s trying to get you to fight for her to stay. This may sound confusing, but perhaps she’s trying to make you realize she might actually take this step and is waiting for you to tell her you don’t want this but you just keep being “nice” about it. Like “Ok, here I go… I’m really going… Any thoughts?… No? Uh ok, I’m really leaving now…” and you’re just like “Alright.”
    Tell her how you feel, that you want her to stay.

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    • avatar

      JuneBugg March 4, 2015, 10:39 am

      I agree. He is being so passive about his wife leaving, it’s like she really doesn’t mean that much to him (which I get that he does care, otherwise he wouldn’t have written in). I think if he would open his mouth and let words out that say that he loves her and doesn’t want her to go and that he wants to go to counseling to try to make the marriage work it would go a long way. If I were her and my husband was like “ok, whatever, bye” it would make me feel like I never really meant anything to him in the first place.

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      • avatar

        tangerbean March 4, 2015, 10:45 am

        Yes! Exactly!

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      _s_ March 4, 2015, 11:04 am

      OK, I feel like I’ve seen this “fight for you” concept a lot recently here on DW, both here with the “maybe she’s trying to get you to fight for her” and elsewhere suggesting that people “do X to see if he’ll fight for you.” I have to say, I really don’t get it. It sounds like a lot of passive-aggressive BS to me. If this wife really wants to save her marriage, why bother staging this elaborate separation/move out deception just to try to get a rise out of her husband? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to lay her cards on the table – “I want this to work, but in order for that to happen A, B, and C have to happen by X date. Are you willing to do that?”

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      • avatar

        jlyfsh March 4, 2015, 11:17 am

        Yeah I almost feel like such poor communication between them has led her to take action on it. And rather than saying he needs to ‘fight for the marriage’ what really needs to happen is they need to learn to communicate. Which maybe in this case needs to also be that he takes action, but it’s less fighting for a relationship and more just learning to have one with effective communication. Which they obviously lack based on some of his statements! So I think the answer to your last question is that they don’t know how to have that conversation effectively anymore.

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        JuneBugg March 4, 2015, 11:19 am

        I understand what you are saying s, and I don’t think that “fighting” for the wife, or anyone for that matter, is the correct way to go. But the way I read that letter, and I think that tangerbean did too, is that he is like sitting in the background and letting the wife walk out without even trying to voice what he feels for her.
        Obviously, we have no idea what is going on, and the wife could have said that, and maybe she is the one that doesn’t care anymore. But he wants to go to counseling, and she is still asking about his opinions, so I think that there is still feelings of love in this relationship.
        I just know that I would not be passive about my husband leaving if the roles were reversed. I would not sit back with the “alright, whatever you want to do is fine” attitude that I think that the husband is using in this situation. I would be pouring out my heart to try to make my husband realize what I felt, and that I would be willing to do almost anything that needed to take place to make the marriage work. This is what I mean when I say “fight for” her.

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      • avatar

        tangerbean March 4, 2015, 11:27 am

        Again… Yes! Exactly! 🙂

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      • avatar

        tangerbean March 4, 2015, 11:24 am

        I completely agree with you but many people aren’t that mature. A lot of women think they have to threaten things and the guy needs to prove his love. It’s an immature way of eliciting a response. The world would be a much better place if everyone would just communicate!

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover March 4, 2015, 3:02 pm

        I agree with you, but the wife didn’t write in so we can’t really give her advice. She’s handled things however she’s handled them, and all the LW can control is his reaction. I think if he wants to stay married, he needs to tell her. It’s not really about “fighting for her”, it’s about making your desires known, in my opinion.

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    • avatar

      d2 March 5, 2015, 12:38 am

      It could be that the wife has decided that the relationship is over, but wants the LW to be the one to end it. She could be gradually inching her way out of the marriage, hoping that the LW eventually realizes there is nothing left and he ends it.

      Either way LW, the answer is still the same. Make your feelings known that you want to do everything possible to save the marriage. That’s the important thing.

      Your feelings towards assisting her moving out will likely be affected by her interest level in saving the marriage, so I wouldn’t worry about addressing that until after you resolve the bigger question.

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  • avatar

    Clementine March 4, 2015, 10:01 am

    1. a. LW, If finances are still in any way entangled, and this separation is truly temporary, she may feel like she needs some kind of approval from you.

    b. You have a daughter together. She may feel that she’s doing the right thing by letting you have a say in where your daughter lives.

    c. You may live there one day, too. Again, if this is truly a temporary separation, and you are moving back in with your parents, where else will you go when/if you reunite?

    You don’t have to give input you don’t want to give. You have every right to protect your emotional boundaries. But perhaps checking in on these possibilities might give you some insight into her motivation. You could then give her a list of criteria you’d hope for (not require) in a place where your daughter will be living or that you may one day occupy.

    2. Sometimes the separation is necessary before the counseling. A little breathing room can be a good thing to reset and recenter before diving into counseling. It’s hard to change the way you relate to one another when you’re all up in each other’s grills. It’s hard to revive a struggling marriage when irritations about whose turn it is to get up with the baby or why the hell can’t he be bothered to wipe off the counters are still in play. Good luck!

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    • Raccoon eyes

      Raccoon eyes March 4, 2015, 10:19 am

      Gold Star for “all up in each other’s grills!” Such a great saying, and I find myself thinking it occasionally, but I havent actually used it in quite a few years. 😉

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  • Raccoon eyes

    Raccoon eyes March 4, 2015, 10:01 am

    Great advice, Wendy!!! I was distracted by the little issues, and…I still kinda am. LW, are you saying that in February your wife said that she was giving you notice of a separation in like, 2 and a half months? Also…she is looking for a place and wants your input (which….somehow flatters you?) and knows that this will mean you have to move back with your parents WITH YOUR CHILD….and, I cant even finish my thought there, Im so kerfluffled by your situation. My only real advice to you is to grow a backbone and stop letting your wife dictate all the terms of YOUR life.
    *
    Bleeergh, I blame the snow. Or rain right now, I think. According to the news, we should be happy that it is going to hit 40 degrees today for the first time since mid-January. Ugh. So.Done.WIth.Snow.

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    • avatar

      MsMisery March 4, 2015, 12:47 pm

      I got distracted by the calendar, too. Granted I’ve never been married, let alone separated so I don’t know how these things work. “Honey, in two months I am going to want to move out and temporarily separate!” What is happening in the meantime? A lot of planning for the separation or business as usual? And why aren’t yous using this time to work on the issues that are causing the separation?

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh March 4, 2015, 10:11 am

    I’m very confused here so I understand why both of you probably are. I’m wondering if she asked for a separation in April because that is when your current lease would be up? As far as her asking maybe she really does think it is temporary and that you will eventually be living there. I’m assuming you’re not asking her outright because maybe lack of communication is an issue in your marriage?

    Also like Wendy said why can’t you separate AND go to counseling? Unless she won’t go to counseling. Which is too bad because it seems like your marriage could probably benefit from it.

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    • avatar

      csp March 4, 2015, 12:20 pm

      I thought the April thing sounded so weird too! Like what an arbitrary time. Frankly, who lives with a spouse they are leaving for weeks. Especially since he is moving in with his parents. Why didn’t she kick him out effective immediately.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark March 4, 2015, 12:24 pm

        And where are they living now?

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        jlyfsh March 4, 2015, 12:32 pm

        Creating an idea in my head I was thinking maybe they are living in a rental that they can’t really afford (i.e. large credit card bills, etc) so after the lease is up she’s downsizing and he’s off to his parents? Who knows know there is so little information there about the living situation. It is odd though.

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      • avatar

        csp March 4, 2015, 1:33 pm

        Right, but why not move out immediately. Like he can move out and doesn’t have income and she could stay in the apartment for the next few weeks. If rent is due March first, then he could just have said goodbye and moved home.

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      • avatar

        jlyfsh March 4, 2015, 1:47 pm

        Well that part who knows! Maybe he’s staying put until April because that’s what she asked for and he doesn’t want it and is just like whatever, fine I’ll stay until April? Or maybe he is helping with rent?

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      • othy

        othy March 4, 2015, 12:32 pm

        This is exactly what I was wondering. Is there a reason one of them can’t stay put? Especially to give the kid a bit of consistency?

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  • FireStar

    FireStar March 4, 2015, 10:21 am

    Why not just ask her? Calmly – with no judgement: “Spouse, why is it you want me to weigh in where you will be living without me?” It might be enough to spark an honest conversation where you can tell her plainly that while she has valid reasons for the separation, you would like the opportunity to address those reasons and would rather counselling to see if you can keep your family intact for now. If there was ever a time to be honest and upfront in your marriage it is now. Leaving things unsaid will hasten the end of your marriage faster than anything else.

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  • avatar

    Elin March 4, 2015, 10:50 am

    Your wife wants the best of both worlds. She wants separation (for whatever reasons, which you seem to understand) yet she wants to keep you in her life to be around for all the instances where she feels like she needs support. Well you know what, that’s rude and unfair. She needs to pick one. Either you’re separated/divorced friends and co-parents or you’re in a relationship where you decide things — like where to live and what to make for dinner — together. It’s going down a bad road if you separate but continue to be super involved in each other’s lives.
    .
    I totally think marriage counseling is a better choice than separation here (based on the info I have to go on). Maybe take a temporary separation but also go to counseling with the intent to get back together. In that case, your input in her life while separate is totally appropriate. But if she’s just trying to get out of the relationship except for when it benefits her, I think that’s uncool.

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  • avatar

    snoopy128 March 4, 2015, 10:54 am

    So it sounds like you may have issues with communication if you can’t even express your desire to go to counselling or express how your are feeling about helping your (estranged) wife find a place to live.
    First, have you asked her why she would like a separation? What does she envision (because clearly, she’s still asking your input, which sort of goes against the point of a separation)?
    Then, what would you like to see happen? How are you feeling about this?

    Like FireStar said, “If there was ever a time to be honest and upfront in your marriage it is now”.
    It’s time to put it all out on the table.

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  • Crochet.Ninja

    Crochet.Ninja March 4, 2015, 11:48 am

    WWS.

    And a lot of people have said maybe she’s having second thoughts, or wants you to win her back – I would go with no. But, even if it’s her choice to separate, it’s still hard. I was the one who asked for a separation, and it hurt a lot. I still grieved the loss of that relationship, and it was hard to let go completely after so many years. You have to tell her no, that unless she wants to go to counseling to work it out, you need to make a cleaner break from her. knowing of course you will still have to parent your daughter with her and be civil.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark March 4, 2015, 12:12 pm

    Eh, honestly? I’d tag alone just to make damn well sure she got a CHEAP apartment as she sounds like she knows almost as much about money as you both do about birth control…

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  • avatar

    Sketchee March 5, 2015, 7:42 am

    If your wife won’t go to counseling, go on your own! There are definitely some issues you’re working on and you want the support and clarity. You’ll benefit in general from therapy to learn some communication skills. While dear Wendy always has excellent advice, there are bound to be a ton of continued communication issues. During your separation and coparenting. Instead of focusing on why your wife is relying on you, the question is why are you relying on your wife’s. =)

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  • avatar

    TheresentfulGuyinTheLerter March 5, 2015, 3:59 pm

    Thank you Wendy and thank you commenters. There are a lot of unanswered questions that people are asking and I’d like to clarify.

    1. I have suggested counseling. Her reactions have ranged from incredulous to outright cynical.

    2. Yup. Communication problems, a lot of them mine.

    3. Our lease ends in April. She’s a very forward thinker, very businessy and Type A. Any less warning and I’d be –very– surprised.

    4. I am concerned about the money issue and the living situation in general.

    5. Since I sent this letter in we have talked about all of this, many times over. She’s still pretty set on it. I’ve had time to grow accustomed to the idea and admit I wouldn’t mind a little space myself. As soon as I can get the referral I’ll be trying to see a counselor on my own.

    Once again, thank you everyone. This site has a very astute readership.

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  • Raccoon eyes

    Raccoon eyes March 6, 2015, 9:00 am

    ResentfulGuy, Im glad you filled us in with some more detail. My original impression still stands though- that you need to stop letting her dictate the terms of your life. Dont let her run up all your credit. Dont let her guilt you into seeing her potential new places. Dont let her decide all the terms of the separation. YOU have a voice, so use it!!!!

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