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Advice from Dr. Stanwix – Living in Limbo

Advice from Dr. Stanwix – Living in Limbo
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Dear Dr. Stanwix,

My wife has put our marriage on hold while she sorts out a few things, namely if she wants to stay married to me. This has created a tremendous strain on our relationship and has made for an awkward situation at home with our children. We continue to live together but have none of the benefits that typical married couples enjoy. When we speak it is only about logistical matters and it is hard for me to be so emotionless when we interact.

I know that she is interested in seeing other people, but she refuses to admit this to me. I have not pressed her on it too much, because I’m afraid of where my questioning will lead. However, the longer we continue like this, the more I realize that it could have an even more negative impact on our relationship and our children.

I am especially worried how this will affect our Christmas. Our children are still at an age where this is a magical time for them. I don’t want to ruin it by arguing or by giving them the impression that things are tense between their mother and me. However, out of fairness to everyone, I think my wife needs to make up her mind so we don’t wallow in this situation much longer.

Can you give me some advice to help me through this difficult time?


Living in Limbo


Dear Living in Limbo,

You are wise to consider the children when deciding when and how to proceed with this delicate process. The holidays are a special time for young children and separating in the middle of them will definitely spoil their Christmas. If you have been able to postpone this for as long as you have, if at all possible, continue the postponement until after the holidays. In the meantime, put on the happiest face you can and make the most of this time together. It may go a long way in how your wife decides things. It will also be much better for the children.

If you decide to separate, it is best that you sit down with the kids and tell them about your decision. Try to avoid blaming your wife or showing anger. If you can’t contain those feelings, save them for when you’re alone with your wife. This won’t be an easy thing on the children, but it’s better than having them see you argue or live an insincere existence. Children are more perceptive than we think.

It may seem that by separating you have sealed your fate and will soon be walking down the path of divorce. However, sometimes a separation is a healthy thing that gives the doubting spouse some time to think. It also gives him/her a much better idea of what life would be like without you in the picture.

At first she may revel in the separation. She may date other men rather frequently to sow her wild oats, as they say. Yet, when the novelty of that wears off, she may find that none of her suitors can hold a candle to you. This is a realization that she must come to on her own. The important thing for you is to stay out of the way. As much as it hurts to know that she is dating other people, it is something she needs to do. The more you interfere with the process, the more she may resent you. It could also cause some ugly scenes between the two of you that will cause more rancor than you had intended.

During your separation be sure to strike a good balance between helping your wife with the children and other things that are your mutual responsibility and maintaining your distance. It’s fine to be there when she truly needs you, but don’t take the bait every time she calls. When the honeymoon period wears off, she may find herself just as lonely and sad as you. Many times a spouse will call just to make sure that his/her partner is still devoted. Once they ascertain this, they may simply pull away again. Don’t fall into this cyclical trap. She needs to understand what a life without you truly entails.

I realize that these situations are never easy. However, they are a part of life. The same could have happened to you, so try to be understanding when considering how your wife deals with her feelings. Make your feelings clear to her, but don’t make her feel guilty.

If, after everything is said and done, you do end up divorcing, try to make this as painless as possible for yourselves and for your children. There are a lot of important decisions that you need to make together regarding their welfare, so keep the lines of communication open as much as you possibly can. By keeping the lines of communication open you may not rekindle your romance, but you may be able to salvage a lasting friendship.

Best of Luck,

Dr. Michael Stanwix



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