I sometimes hear from folks (usually wives) who have no idea when (or if) their spouse is coming back to them. Sometimes, they are legally separated and sometimes their spouse has just up and left either after a fight or after announcing that he’d like a break or some time to himself. Sometimes the spouse who is leaving is in constant contact or gives you a good idea of when they might be coming back and sometimes they don’t.
I hear from many spouses who are getting very tired of (and nervous about) worrying when their spouse is going to finally come home. I recently heard from a wife who said, in part: “my husband left me six months ago. He told me that he just wasn’t sure if we should be married any longer and indicated that he would be in touch with me regularly to check in. I’ve only heard from him a handful of times. I did hear from him last week, but he didn’t sound all that promising. When I am honest about this with some of my friends, they tell me that I need to stop waiting for him to come home and just live or move on with my life. They say that I am putting everything on hold for my husband when he doesn’t deserve it. I understand what they are saying, but the truth is that I don’t want to do anything with my life right now, especially without my husband. I don’t want to see other people and I certainly don’t want to give up on my marriage. Are my friends right? Should I move on with my life? My husband hasn’t asked for a divorce and hasn’t made any moves to legalize our separation. So I still hold out some up. But sometimes, I feel very stupid and naive for doing so.”
The Time Frame In Which You Feel Comfortable Waiting On Your Spouse To Come Home Varies: There isn’t one right or wrong answer for every one in terms of how long is appropriate to wait. My husband and I really struggled for about a year when we were separated before we finally got it together. I suspect he saw other people. Friends and family told me I was delusional to continue to hold out hope. But, like the wife in this example, I just wasn’t ready to begin again. I still felt connected to my husband and invested in my marriage. And I didn’t feel it was right for other people to force their own time frame or beliefs unto me.
However, I do understand that some people just don’t have the patience and the inclination to wait. In fact, sometimes when I hear from some people asking me how long they should wait for their spouse to come home before they move on, it’s clear that they truly are already ready and wanting to move on and they are almost looking for someone to give them permission to do so.
Although this is probably a conversation that you’d want to have with your spouse, you both likely knew that if the separation did not resolve itself favorably, there was always the chance that one or both of you would move on (or at least start living your lives again while you wait for a resolution.) I don’t think that you need any one’s permission to start living again, although it might be honorable to discuss dating other people with your spouse, if this is what you are considering right now.
I didn’t really think about dating other people. I was still very invested in my marriage, although I don’t think the same was true for my husband. These are very individual decisions. I don’t think that there are necessarily right or wrong answers, although I do believe that it helps if you are honest and open throughout the process so that no one feels as if they’re been deceived or mislead. And, quite frankly, I don’t think that it’s a crime to continue to live your life while you are separated. In fact, I think that it can actually help you cope with this process, which I’ll discuss now.
Who Says You Have To Stop Living Your Life While You Are Separated Or Living Apart?: Many people (myself included) sort of stop everything when we become separated. For a while, it is difficult for us to even do basic things, like show up for work, get ourselves decently fed and dressed, and interact in a meaningful way with our families and friends. And it’s understandable that we feel this way, but withdrawing into yourself really doesn’t help all that much.
All it ends up doing is isolating us and making us feel more closed off and depressed. There is nothing wrong with going to dinner with your friends, pursuing a hobby that will get you out of the house, or reaching out to other people. You certainly do not have to date again in order to continue living your life. I am being very honest when I say that isolating myself during my separation was probably the worst choice that I made. I became depressed and as the result, when I did interact with my husband during the separation, I was most definitely not at my best. I was insecure and needy. It’s no surprise that my husband didn’t want to be around me when I was acting this way and he avoided me. And, this really hurt my chances for a reconciliation.
It wasn’t until I became sick of my own loneliness and isolation that I literally had to force myself to go out with friends, do the things that I enjoyed, and to just get out there. And you know what? Not only did this make me feel a little better, but it made me appear more attractive and my husband soon became interested in me again so living my life again helped me in more ways than one. It restored my confidence and optimism, and it also restored the woman who my husband feel in love with in the first place. If this hadn’t happened, I honestly don’t know if we’d still be married today. So to answer the question posed, I think you can live your life right this very minute, even if you’re separated. And this is true even if you still love your husband very much and hope for a reconciliation.