I want to find out how I can celebrate my wedding anniversary with my wife during separation. Our 14th anniversary is coming up and we are three months into a separation. We have three children. I talked to her yesterday and I suggested that we could have dinner together, but she refused. She doesn’t seem prepared to reconcile. Any advice you have is appreciated.
Anniversaries can stir up a wide range of powerful emotions. They’re markers and rituals that reconnect us to important events in our lives. For most couples, wedding anniversaries are times to celebrate their love and commitment to each other. For other couples, however, their anniversary is a painful reminder of how far they’ve fallen from the dream they embraced on their wedding day. Let’s talk about how you can approach this challenging anniversary date.
It’s clear that you and your wife are in the middle of a serious separation and have different feelings about the future of your marriage. You seem to be more motivated to repair things while your wife is cautious and creating more space. Without knowing more details about your marriage and why you’re separated, I believe it’s safe to say that using your anniversary as a reason to press her for more closeness isn’t going to help your marriage.
Instead, see if you can meet her where she’s at. Make sure you don’t elevate the ideal of marriage above the needs of your actual wife. Yes, a marriage anniversary is generally a special time to celebrate your love, but your wife isn’t feeling like there’s much to celebrate right now. Prioritizing her current feelings about the marriage will do more to potentially strengthen your marriage than throwing a one-man anniversary celebration.
If dinner is too much for her right now, then let that be important feedback about the state of your marriage. Since you’re the one initiating together time, you don’t have to worry about her wondering how you feel about the marriage. She’s clearly the lower desire partner right now and isn’t ready to move closer.
Do you know why she’s in this place? Are you confused about why she’s needing space? Instead of fixating on the anniversary, I encourage you to focus on what she needs right now. Are there things you need to do to repair broken trust? Are there patterns of behavior that you need to change? Are there injuries that need your accountability and compassion? It appears this is a time to focus on repair, not celebration.
Perhaps you could send her a card or letter acknowledging the current state of things and owning your contribution to the problems. Instead of focusing on the standard anniversary-speak that you might believe is necessary to honor your marriage, try changing your language to reflect the reality of your situation. Can you have compassion for what this might be like for her? Separation isn’t easy, especially with three children. You know how difficult it is for you, so you can empathize with how challenging it must be for her.
It’s important to do this without any expectations that she matches your response. You’re the one who wants to acknowledge the anniversary. She’s not interested, so allow her to respond the way she needs to right now. Embrace the importance of your marriage to motivate you to make the needed changes and patiently give her the time and space she needs to heal. She knows where you stand on the marriage, so this is a time for you to show her you see the experience she’s having in the marriage.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@ge**********.com
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About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
The advice offered through Geoff Steurer’s column is educational and informational in nature and is provided only as general information. It is not meant to establish a therapist-patient relationship or offer therapeutic advice, opinion, diagnosis treatment or to establish a standard of care.
Although Geoff Steurer is a trained psychotherapist, he is not functioning in the role of a licensed therapist by writing this column, but rather using his training to inform these responses. Thus, the content is not intended to replace independent professional judgment. The content is not intended to solicit clients and should not be relied upon as medical or psychological advice of any kind or nature whatsoever. The information provided through this content should not be used for diagnosing or treating a mental health problem or disease. The information contained in these communications is not comprehensive and does not include all the potential information regarding the subject matter, but is merely intended to serve as one resource for general and educational purposes.