Many wives are very disappointed in the way that their husband is acting during a trial or marital separation.  Often, the wives had hoped that the time apart would actually improve both people's behavior.  But, much to their dismay, the opposite has happened.

One might say: "things weren't all that great between us when my husband moved out.  So it's not like I expected him to be loving to me while we're separated.  But he's acting like a total jerk. On the rare occasions that I do talk to him, he's sarcastic and nasty.  He makes rude jokes at my expense.  He goes out of his way to make it obvious he would rather be anywhere than with me.  If I call him on it, he acts like I'm hysterical. And he has never once apologized.  This infuriates me because before he moved out, he told me that he felt that might be a chance that we would eventually reconcile.  Now, it's obvious this was a lie.  And maybe I'm having such a strong reaction because deep down, I hoped we could save our marriage.  The petty part of me wants to be mean to him right back.  But the rational part of me thinks that this will only make things worse.  I don't want to be a pushover though.  What should I do?"

It's not uncommon for people to show negative behaviors during a separation, especially in the beginning.  It's stressful to suddenly uproot your life with so much uncertainty on the horizon, especially when you're estranged or away from the ones that you love.  This can make even the most good-natured folks lash out.  And sometimes, people can project those frustrations onto the easy target or the person who they feel contributed to the situation in the first place.  But, things often do calm down and behaviors then change accordingly, which is why I think that it's a very bad idea to react in negative ways, as tempting as it might be.

I felt that the wife was right when she suspected that being mean to her husband would only make things worse.  I felt that there were more positive ways to handle this, which I'll outline below.

If You Can, Try To Diffuse His Nastiness With Humor:  To be honest, sometimes your husband is just waiting for you to say something nasty back to him.  That way, he can justify continuing to act in the inappropriate way that he already is.  Don't allow him this luxury.  Instead, try to use humor to stop him in his tracks.  When he says something mean again, make a lighthearted comment asking if he woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning or some other inside joke that you might share. He may still give you an underhanded response, but if you keep right on using humor, he'll eventually learn that his nastiness no longer has the desired response so there is no need for him to continue.

Or, Try The Sincere, Calm And Honest Approach:  If you don't like the humor method I described above (or you don't think that you can pull it off convincingly,) there's another option.  You might just try to be direct but calm.  A suggested script might be something like: "I know that we're both frustrated and uncomfortable, but those comments really hurt me.  And I have a feeling that you don't really mean them. So I'm not going to react in a negative way.  I'm going to ask that we start over.  And if that doesn't work, I'm going to take a break.  Because this relationship is still important to me even if it's struggling right now.  And I don't want to throw it away because we're both being careless with our words.  Can we start over, please?"  If he's still nasty or resistant, make good on your promise to give him some space.  Once he's had time to cool down and he realizes that you did nothing but try to diffuse the situation, he'll likely see what a jerk he's been and will hopefully back off. Or better yet, he'll apologize.

Don't Expect An Immediate Apology And Always Remember Your Goal:  I know that it's difficult to remain calm when the person who is supposed to love you is saying such nasty things to you. And I know you want an immediate apology.  But it often takes time for your husband to calm down and to see things clearly. I DID get an apology, but only long after we reconciled. (You can read the whole story of my separation by clicking here.) Always remember the long-term goal.  And that is to improve things between you so that hopefully you can eventually save your marriage.  This becomes less likely if the two of you are throwing verbal barbs at one another.  So take a deep breath, put a smile on your face, and pause.  Don't allow yourself to get caught up in the negativity and try to create a break in it instead.

To answer the question posed, I did not believe that the wife should be nasty to her husband in retaliation.  This would only ignite the situation more and the whole goal was to bring him closer to her, not further away.

Believe me when I say that I didn't always hold my tongue when my husband was rude during our separation.  But, every time I gave in to this temptation, it only made things worse.  Eventually, I decided to try a completely new strategy and it worked.  If it helps, you can read the whole story on my blog at

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