Should you try to show affection to your spouse during a marital separation?
Many people who reluctantly separate are not sure how they are supposed to act towards their estranged spouse. This may seem very strange. After all, we are talking about your spouse. Chances are, you’ve known him for a long time and being around him should feel as natural as breathing. However, if you are separated and want to reconcile, you may sometimes feel that you are on shaky ground with your spouse. You don’t want to do or say anything that will make him uncomfortable or push him away. And yet the desire to get close to him can be hard to ignore.
Someone might ask, “How do people handle displays of affection during trial separations? My husband and I have only been apart for a short time, and honestly, I’m not too sure about the protocol here. My husband was visiting the kids this weekend.” week and we were discussing a sad topic with my husband’s extended family. My husband was upset and I went to hug him, for no ulterior motive. I just wanted to give him some comfort. I didn’t really think about it beforehand. But when I did, I felt My husband would bristle. He literally stiffened at my touch. I backed away and tried not to make a big deal of it. I later discussed this with one of my friends and she suggested that maybe I should not show my husband physical affection while we’re separated. She said that when they separate, they don’t necessarily love each other. Is this true? Shouldn’t I show affection to my husband right now? He wanted to separate. I didn’t, but none of this means I do . don’t love him anymore. If he didn’t show her affection, he might stop. But I really don’t want to. I feel like I’ve already lost a lot. Do people really not show affection while apart?”
It really depends on the couple. I know some couples who continue to hug, kiss, have sex, etc., while apart. And I know others who are hesitant to play in any way. There really isn’t a hard and fast rule on this. And in my opinion and observation (based on my own separation), I think it’s best if you follow the understandings you’ve already established. Or, if you haven’t set limits, ask now or read your spouse’s cues to determine their comfort level.
My husband seemed quite uncomfortable in similar situations and I finally just asked him. I literally said, “Shouldn’t I do this?” when I tried to get close to him. My husband didn’t tell me outright no, but he clearly wasn’t comfortable with physical affection at the beginning of our separation. So I finally decided to let him take the lead. That way, I didn’t have to worry about doing something that would damage the communication between us. Instead, I eventually focused on trying to be comfortable and laughing and relaxing with each other so that he would want to continue communicating. Later on, he was the one to initiate the physical affection and I think this worked better for us, but that may not be true for all couples.
I also know that things can change from one day to the next. There may be a time when your spouse walks away from you, and then three days later comes over for a hug. It certainly can be confusing and can give you mixed signals. However, I don’t think you can go wrong by being kind and supportive, but also by looking at how he is acting and how receptive he might be at the time.
I realize this is frustrating. I used to think during my own breakup that it just shouldn’t be that hard to know how to act around my own husband. But I think if I had pushed the issue and pushed affection when he wasn’t receptive, that might have slowed our progress further. I learned that you really have to take a gradual approach and just accept the progress that is given to you.