I often hear from people who are trying to come up with the best strategies for dealing with their spouse during a marital separation. The goal is to make their spouse want to come back to them and to be willing to save the marriage. To that end, one suggestion that is often given is to “ignore your spouse” or to use “reverse psychology” to make them more than willing to come back.
I recently heard from a wife who said that she had read that she should “completely ignore” her husband while they were separated so that he would want her that much more. And I can see why this strategy seems attractive. Basically the idea is that, if it works, you don’t have to do much of anything (but a good acting job) and he will just enthusiastically and willingly do exactly what you hoped for all along. But it’s my experience that this strategy doesn’t always work out this way. I’ll discuss some of the risks to this strategy (and tell you one I think works better) in the following article.
Why I Think That Ignoring Your Spouse During The Separation Isn’t Always The Best Idea: First of all, I don’t know many people who can completely pull this off. Unless you are an award winning actress or actor, it can be very hard to make this convincing. (And if your spouse sees through this, they will quickly lose respect for you.) The truth is, your spouse likely knows you better (and can read you more accurately) than anyone else. It’s highly unlikely that they won’t see through this.
And even if they buy your act, do you really want for your spouse to think that you care so little for them and your marriage that your response is to just ignore them? I am all for using some strategy to get your spouse back during a separation, but posturing to portray something that is the complete opposite of what you really feel (and what you really want) is in my opinion not only risky, but not the best call.
There are also a lot of risks associated with this strategy. If you chose to ignore your spouse, you are hoping that they won’t be so hurt or put off by this that they will actually pursue you. Depending on the personality and motivations of your spouse, this may or may not work. But, your spouse might be hurt or frustrated and respond by trying to move on or see other people. And, even if it does work, your spouse may eventually harbor some resentment for being manipulated. This isn’t good for your marriage.
I Agree That Sometimes Strategic Planning Is Needed During A Separation. Here’s A Strategy That I Think Is Better Than Ignoring Your Spouse: One of the main ideas behind ignoring your spouse is that by not being there constantly or by not making yourself completely available to them, you will seem more attractive (and they will want you more) as a result. I completely agree with the strategy of creating mystery and it actually ended up working for me. But, there’s a big difference between creating mystery and completely ignoring the person you are trying to get back.
I think there’s actually a delicate dance between staying in touch and showing that you care while not being constantly available or completely transparent. I advocate communicating and interacting with your spouse on a regular basis while you are separated. With that said, I believe you should be very deliberate and conscious of what cards you are playing while you are doing this.
What I mean by this is that you always want for your spouse to know that you care deeply about them and the marriage. (I think it’s even sometimes OK for them to know that you’d like to save the marriage, but respect that you both need to make that decision.) At the same time though, you also want it to be clear that you care enough about yourself to remain busy and vibrant and that you are not be hanging on your spouse’s every word or whim.
It can actually help your cause if your spouse wonders where you are or why you occasionally don’t answer their call on the first ring. Does this mean that you are ignoring them? Absolutely not. You’re simply giving the impression that you’re also living your own life to the best of your ability during the separation. This will usually make you seem more attractive than someone who is anxiously awaiting your spouse’s next call or text (and who is falling to pieces when it doesn’t come.)
I think it’s perfectly fine to limit or time your availability just to make it appear that you are handling yourself just fine. However, you don’t want to take this to extremes. Doing so shows a lack of respect toward your spouse and it’s dishonest in a way that (at least in my opinion) posturing is not. To me, there’s a difference between a strategy that places you in the best light and a strategy that is dishonest and downright risky.
During my separation, my leaving town and getting away for a while was a turning point that actually improved things. But I didn’t do this in an attempt to ignore my husband. I did this because I wanted and needed the support of my family and friends. My husband knew where I was and I checked in with him from time to time. But the mystery and distance this created did help.
So, while I think there is some validity to backing off slightly and being very deliberate with your interactions during your separation, I don’t advocate making yourself completely unavailable unless you just don’t want to interact with your spouse at all or you don’t care how they perceive or react to this.
I understand that this strategy is likely one of many that has been suggested to you. And you’ll have to take your marriage and your spouse into account when you decide how you want to play this. But it’s my opinion that you always want to remain true to your heart and not go to extremes or take huge risks that might actually backfire if what you really want is to get your spouse back rather than to alienate them.
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