I often hear from people who want to get their spouse to stop constantly asking for a separation. Much of the time, they have considered many tactics in order to help them to achieve this. One common tactic is to respond with a firm "no" and then to ignore their spouse. They are hoping that if they don't give their spouse some sort of a reaction or don't engage in a huge discussion about this, then their spouse will eventually back off and stop all of this talk about separating. But while this strategy can sound good in theory, it can be pretty hard to carry out in actual practice.

An example of the types of concerns that you might hear in this situation are things like: "For the past five months, my husband has been telling me that he wants a separation. Most of the time, I just don't respond to him. A couple of times, I've given him a flat-out no. When I do try to respond with more than a few words, he will tell me how unhappy he is in our marriage or what a horrible spouse I am. But the thing is, it's almost like he is just venting. Because after he proceeds to tell me how awful his life truly is, he doesn't really take any action. So I'm not sure why he keeps bringing this up. Surely, he can't expect me to be the one to move out. I'm not about to leave my home. I am reasonably content with the way that things are. Sure, things aren't perfect between us, but frankly, nothing is perfect. So my plan right now is to continue to tell him no and then ignore him when he mentions a separation. But this is getting harder and harder to do. He brings this up more and more all of the time. How do I keep ignoring him when it seems that he's not going to take no for an answer?"

Consider Your Real Goal: I know that the question posed was how to continue ignoring this husband when he was basically escalating the requests for a separation. But I have to be honest when I tell you that I don't think this is the best strategy to try. Because the wife's real goal here was to keep the two of them WILLINGLY living together. I hesitate to say that she wanted to keep the status quo because she did concede that her marriage needed some major improvements. But, she didn't want either of them to move out and begin separation.

Eventually, He May Get Fed Up And Just Leave: I believe that denying and then ignoring your spouse is probably not the best way to go about getting him to stay. Here's why. Human nature is to only be deferred for so long. In other words, if this husband really wanted a separation, then it wasn't likely that being ignored by his wife was all it was going to take in order for him to give up and not want to separate anymore.

I highly doubt that a man who is so unhappy that he keeps mentioning a separation with greater intensity is going to suddenly think something like: "Well, I guess my wife isn't going to pay attention to me when I ask to separate, so I guess I'm going to just give up and figure out a way to suddenly be happy in my marriage."

What experience and research tell me is that it is more likely is that the husband is going to think something like: "I am getting so tired of her ignoring me every time I bring this up. I guess I'm going to have to just leave. If she won't pay attention to me, then I'm going to just have to do something huge to get her attention. She won't ignore me when she comes home to find me gone."

In other words, it makes sense that ignoring him makes it more likely that he will actually be pushed to pursue the separation instead of giving up on it. So my recommendation would be to stare this right in the face with the hope that by facing it down, you will be able to come up with a compromise or even a resolution.

A Better Strategy: A suggested script would be something like: "I hear what you are saying. But I am having a hard time responding because I don't really agree that our marriage is so damaged that we need to separate. However, it is clear that you feel this way. Can you tell me what is troublesome for you about our marriage? I'm trying to determine if this is something that we can work out or change. Of course, I want you to be happy in our marriage. We both deserve that. And I don't want you to feel as if you have to separate from me in order to be happy. I'm more than willing to overhaul on our marriage so that we can both be happy and no one needs to pursue a separation. Will you work with me to make that happen?"

I believe that this is a better strategy because at least at this point your husband will feel acknowledged and heard. And often, when people are repeating the same thing over and over, that is what they truly want. They want to know that you truly do hear them. And this can't happen if instead, they feel that they are repeatedly being ignored.

I will admit that I ignored my husband's early complaints in our marriage. I believe that my ignoring him contributed to him separating from me.   I had to work very hard to save my marriage from that point on.  I think I would have had an easier time if I had addressed his unhappiness far sooner.  Instead, I dealt with a very painful separation which we eventually overcame. If it helps, you can read the whole story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com

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