I recently heard from a wife who said that she felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under her. She had only been married for a couple of years, but she and her husband had recently purchased a home and had begun trying to start a family. But then, out of the blue, her husband sat her down and told her that he didn’t feel that married life “agreed” with him. He said that he didn’t think he was meant to be married and probably wasn’t the right guy for the wife. He told her that she deserved better and that he wanted his “old life back” where he didn’t have all these responsibilities. He assured the wife that she would find someone “more grown up” and better suited to raising a family.
Needless to say, the wife was floored and beyond devastated. And frankly, she didn’t know where all of this was coming from. The husband seemed excited and committed when they had brought the house and planned their family. And now he suddenly wanted a divorce because of his own cold feet? Of course, the wife was terrified of being stuck with a large house all on her own, but more than that, she loved her husband. She wanted a future with him and she firmly believed that he had wanted that too.
She wondered if there were any signs she missed or if she were just seeing things that she wanted to see. And, she had a hard time believing that the husband could just declare that marriage wasn’t for him and walk away that easily. She asked me what women typically do in this situation. Frankly, the response to this as individual as the couples themselves. But since it was clear to me that she didn’t want to walk away without trying everything that she could to save the marriage, I offered her some insights, which I’ll share now.
Sometimes, The Responsibilities Of Being Married Scare Husbands. But With A Plan, Space And Time, Things Can Get Better: I think that the fact that this couple had been married for only a short time was pretty telling. And, the fact that they were getting ready to make huge steps like being home owners and parents also likely played a role. The husband was likely looking around and suddenly seeing how different his life was now compared with the way that it used to be.
And this comparison may have made him feel scared and uncomfortable. I’m not saying that this is entirely fair. The wife had changed her lifestyle too and also had some anxiety, but you didn’t see her running away. However, the fact was that the husband did have these feelings so rather than denying them or trying to magically erase them (which probably wasn’t all that likely,) the preferable choice was likely dealing with the issue at hand.
And I felt the wife was going to have more success if she approached this from a place of understanding rather than a place of disappointment. Yes, it was probably quite tempting to let it slip that he was being immature and cowardly. And these descriptions may well have been accurate. But, telling this to a man who is already struggling to be a responsible adult would probably not be the best call.
And sometimes, this anxiety and fear by the husband can be worked out if you have some patience and play this correctly. You want for him to know that, as his wife, you want for him to be happy. If this situation was too much too soon, all that could be changed. The idea is to change the situation rather than the marriage.
How To React When Your Husband Says He Wants His Old Life Back: This phrase was somewhat offensive to the wife. Because honestly, when the husband was single, he was immature with no real goals. I told the wife that he probably wasn’t saying that he wanted to be a young kid without responsibilities. What he was probably saying was that he did want some time to just enjoy fun times with his wife and his friends before he made the commitment to be a father or to be the sole support of someone else.
This seemed very self centered and immature to the wife and she may have well been right about this. But, the undeniable fact was that this was the way he felt so, as his wife, she needed to respect this and open up the discussion. Because I didn’t think it was impossible for a compromise to be reached. Nothing said that the wife couldn’t offer the husband more carefree time with her or his friends. And nothing said that they couldn’t make a decision to delay parenthood until they were both ready.
Sure, the wife didn’t want to wait to start a family. But, she had to admit that waiting and having her husband was better than pushing too hard and sitting in her house alone. I suggested that she try to get him to have an honest conversation about this so that she could get a sense about which things the husband found most problematic. Once she had a good sense of what was truly bothering him, she could work on coming up with compromises that made them both happy.
I felt pretty certain that there was a happy medium somewhere. Yes, their marriage had come quickly and they were suddenly spouses with a mortgage and this was making the husband feel pressured. But there was also a lot of love between them and I suspected that if the wife focused on the love rather than the conflict with some very deliberate actions at the right time, she might see an improvement, which was what she really wanted even if she was angry.