Facing Facts: Reading Unsaid Messages from Men

"My DH (married eight years) moved out after our young son passed away from cancer. We had many problems before this, but when dealing with our grief he decided to live separately. The problem is that our experiences together have tied us up in emotionally intimate knots and made it hard for either of us to untangle ourselves from each other. We have also been physically intimate throughout our relationship, which has brought us four children but also given us loads to fight over. My DH actually began divorce proceedings at one point but canceled them because he said that he didn't want to hurt me any more. I believed that this meant that we would resume being and acting married, but it's been a year and a half and we still live apart. DH hasn't tried to move any items into my house, or invited me or our children over to his place. We recently had a conversation about how we envisioned things working, but it ended with him offering weak compromises and me feeling forced to accept them. But I don't want a compromise, I want a marriage. So now I am left trying to figure out what to do." --iVillager ginger_mojo

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Brenda Shoshanna

Dr. Shoshanna is a psychologist, therapist and certified divorce and family mediator. She has written five books, including Zen and the... Read more

Dear ginger_mojo:

Try to make yourself understand what he is communicating. So many times our partners cannot tell us directly what is in their minds and hearts. Many times they cannot even let themselves know what is truly going on with them. They may think they should feel a certain way, but other feelings, needs and wishes confuse things. The best way to know what your partner truly feels is to watch his (or her) behavior. How is he acting with you? Is he present, warm, affectionate? Does he call when he says he will? Is he defining the relationship in a way much different from the way you would?

In many situations, we will not allow ourselves to see the truth because of our own strong needs and wishes, especially when our partner actually tells us what we want to hear. He might say that he loves you, but his behavior seems otherwise to you. It takes strength and courage to open our eyes and look at the situation clearly. In this case, the story of the relationship is clear, but you have to let yourself see it.

Obviously, he only wants a partial, rather distant relationship, not what you would call a satisfying marriage. This arrangement may be acceptable for him, but it is not satisfying -- or healthy -- for you.

You do have many children together and many ties that bind. The way the situation is set up now, it sounds as if what you have is a long-standing friendship that includes physical intimacy. This can be good and bad, because the physical intimacy necessarily keeps you feeling close to him but also keeps your hopes and wishes alive.

Decide what you mean by marriage and what you want from it. Then look and see what he wants, based on how he is behaving now. If each your wishes aren't compatible, it is time for you to accept the truth of the situation and redefine your relationship with him as a friendship with a physical aspect. In fact, it would actually be most helpful to you to eliminate the physical part of the relationship if it is a friendship only. That way you can free yourself to go forward and be available to a more complete, healthy and satisfying relationship with another man. This means that although this present marriage may end, you can still care for your children together and maintain a good connection. But you will also be available to go out and find a marriage that is truly what you wish for -- one that can bring you the happiness and fulfillment you deserve.

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