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Q & A: Why Is He Pulling Away?

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Question:

My husband and I have been married 33 years. About 10 years ago, I developed a terrible anger problem. My husband and I went to marriage counseling but I stopped going after a couple of months. My husband had begged me to stay in counseling for my anger issues but I didn’t listen. He put up with my anger for years but eight months ago after one final angry outburst I had toward our 16 year old daughter, my husband had a meltdown, cried and said “that’s it.” He left saying he wouldn’t live
another day like this.

But after 2 weeks he began to come home on weekends. We don’t sleep together or even in the same room, but are on good talking terms and go out to eat and do errands together when he comes home. I love him dearly and he’s a great dad to our daughter.

Since he left, I’ve been going to a therapist for anger management and working very hard learning how to manage it. My therapist thinks I’m doing well and others have noticed a change too. When I asked my husband if he thought I was doing well, he sort of minimally agreed that I was.

But when I press him about reconciling, his standard line is, “Today I don’t want to be married – who knows how I will feel in a year.” He refuses to discuss reconciliation and won’t go back to a therapist with me for marriage counseling. His emotions run hot and cold. One day he wants a kiss and a hug, the next day he doesn’t, and he never wants sex.

I’m nice to him, cook him dinners and I guess I’m just hoping he changes his mind. Occasionally he reminds me that he still wants a divorce but he hasn’t made attempts to file papers. He’s said if we divorce it will be in two to three years.

So, my question is, should I keep things the way they are and hope things get better? Or should I file for divorce in the near future? During the holidays I asked my sister why he hasn’t come home as yet and she said, "Because he knows 1)you want him home and 2) he knows he can come home at anytime.

Answer:

Your husband has his cake and eat it too, as they say. He can have the warmth of feeling like a family anytime he wants it, and the rest of the time he can be single and do whatever he wants. Your sister is right. Many people, especially many men, would love to have this arrangement. Why would he do anything else? You obviously feel guilty and wish you had worked on the relationship before he gave up on it, but guilt isn't going to get you anywhere. Besides, you say you had an anger problem, but do you not remember the things you were angry at him about? Don't forget that you had to have issues with him as well as it's never a one-way street.

You are making it way too easy on him, and allowing him to toy with you at this point. You need to let him know that he is either "in" or "out." Don't give him hugs or kisses or dinners or anything else unless he is committed to working on the relationship with you. My guess is that it is too late to repair the relationship since he waited until he felt like "That's it," and because he doesn't want to have sex with you anymore. If he refuses to work on it, which I think he will, then tell him he can't come home anymore and that you are filing for the divorce because "now you aren't willing to live like this anymore." To get over him, look back at the issues you had with him in the past and move on. Start dating again, and if he does still love you at all, his fear of losing you will bring him back. If not, you need to move on anyway.

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