I often hear from people who are trying to come up with the best strategies for dealing with their spouse during a marital separation. The goal is to make your spouse want to get back together and be willing to save the marriage. To that end, a suggestion often given is to “ignore your spouse” or use “reverse psychology” to make them more than willing to come back.
I recently heard from a wife who said she had read that she should “completely ignore” her husband while they were apart so that he would like her that much more. And I can see why this strategy seems appealing. Basically, the idea is that if it works, you don’t have to do much of anything (except good acting work) and he’ll just enthusiastically and willingly do exactly what you expect all the time. But in my experience, this strategy doesn’t always work this way. I’ll discuss some of the risks of this strategy (and tell you one that I think works best) in the next article.
Why I think ignoring your spouse during separation is not always the best idea: First of all, I don’t know many people who can pull this off completely. Unless you’re an award-winning actress or actor, it can be very difficult to make this convincing. (And if your spouse sees through this, he will quickly lose respect for you.) The truth is, your spouse probably knows you better (and can read you more accurately) than anyone else. It is very unlikely that they will not realize this.
And even if they buy into your act, do you really want your spouse to think you care so little about them and your marriage that your response is to just ignore them? I’m all for using some strategy to win your spouse back during a breakup, but taking a stand to portray something that is the complete opposite of what you really feel (and what you really want) is, in my opinion, not only risky, but not the best to call.
There are also many risks associated with this strategy. If you choose to ignore your spouse, you hope he won’t be so hurt or discouraged by it that he’ll actually come after you. Depending on your spouse’s personality and motivations, this may or may not work. But, your spouse might feel hurt or frustrated and respond by trying to move on or see other people. And, even if it works, your spouse may eventually harbor some resentment for being manipulated. This is not good for your marriage.
I agree that strategic planning is sometimes needed during a separation. Here’s a strategy that I think is better than ignoring your spouse: One of the main ideas behind ignoring your spouse is that by not being there constantly or completely available to them, you will appear more attractive (and they will like you more) as a result. I totally agree with the strategy of creating mystery and it actually ended up working for me. But there’s a big difference between creating mystery and completely ignoring the person you’re trying to win back.
I think there’s actually a delicate dance between staying in touch and showing you care without being constantly available or completely transparent. I advocate communicating and interacting with your spouse regularly while you are apart. That said, I think you have to be very deliberate and aware of what cards you’re playing while doing this.
What I mean by this is that you always want your spouse to know that you care deeply about them and the marriage. (I think sometimes it’s even okay for them to know you’d like to save the marriage, but respect that you both have to make that decision.) At the same time, though, you also want to make it clear that you care enough. about yourself to stay busy and vibrant and not hang on your spouse’s every word or whim.
In fact, it can help your cause if your spouse is wondering where you are or why you occasionally don’t answer your call on the first ring. Does this mean you are ignoring them? Absolutely not. You are simply giving the impression that you are also living your own life to the best of your ability during the separation. This will usually make you seem more attractive than someone who eagerly awaits your spouse’s next call or text (and falls apart when he doesn’t show up).
I think it’s perfectly fine to limit or time its availability just so it looks like it’s being handled well. However, you don’t want to take this to extremes. Doing so shows disrespect to your spouse and is dishonest in a way that (at least in my opinion) posture is not. For me, there is a difference between a strategy that puts you in the best position and a strategy that is dishonest and downright risky.
During my breakup, leaving town and getting away for a while was a turning point that really made things better. But I didn’t do this in an attempt to ignore my husband. He did this because he wanted and needed the support of my family and friends. My husband knew where I was and I checked in with him from time to time. But the mystery and distance this created helped.
So while I think there’s something valid about backing off a bit and being very deliberate with your interactions during your breakup, I’m not advocating being unavailable at all unless you simply don’t want to or won’t interact with your spouse. It doesn’t matter how they perceive or react to this.
I understand that this strategy is probably one of many that have been suggested to you. And you’ll need to consider your marriage and your spouse when deciding how you want to play this. But it is my opinion that you always want to be true to your heart and not go to extremes or take big risks that could actually backfire if what you really want is to win your spouse back rather than alienate them.