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Question

My husband has separated from me multiple times and continues to lie to me. He’ll tell me he wants to be a family and then he’ll switch and tell me I’ll be happier if he was no longer in my life. He says things like, “I know you’ll be happier if I was no longer in your life because I’ve caused you too much pain so I’m going to leave you so you can be happier with someone else.” Instead of fixing what has been broken, he says this to me as an excuse to walk away. He tells me that if he’s not around, the pain will stop. I believe he’s looking for an excuse to make leaving easier for him. My question is how do I make sure I don’t keep going back to him? What do I do to ensure a lasting separation and a successful divorce? How do I do this and not hurt my kids in the process?

Answer

Your husband has left you in a terrible dilemma. He’s telling you what’s best for you while doing what he believes is best for him. Until he’s honest and takes complete ownership for what he really wants, you’re only left to guess what’s the best direction for your future. Even though you have the right to direct your life, your children are at the mercy of this agonizing dilemma, which makes the decision even more difficult. Your question is less about divorce and more about feeling secure in a direction you can feel good about.

The only way couples can feel secure in the direction they’re going is when each person shares honestly what they need. Then, in the honesty of their feelings and willingness to honor their partner’s perspective, they work together to decide what will be best. Since your husband’s words aren’t consistent with his behaviors and he continues to conceal what he truly wants, you’re left to decide without all of the necessary information.

Your husband doesn’t get to tell you what’s best for you, so it’s important for you to be clear about what you want. Until he honestly owns what he needs, you have to decide based on the available observations of his behaviors along with what you believe is best for you and your children. When he speaks for you and tells you what will be best for you, it’s critical for you to let him know that he needs to speak for himself and not for you. He can only take ownership for what he needs from the relationship.

If you know that separation is the most sensible thing under the current conditions, then stick with that decision and move forward. Unfortunately, you have to make decisions with limited information, so please don’t let his inability to tell the truth keep you from directing your life. If he doesn’t like the direction you’re choosing, then he is always welcome to share his needs.

Even though separation and divorce are disruptive and often traumatic for children, they will fare better when their mother has a clear direction can provide them with the security and confidence that she knows what is best for the family. It may not look anything like the ideal of staying together, but if you are confident this is the best direction under these difficult circumstances, your children will have the reassurance that they’ll be protected.

You may be blamed for your choice to move forward with separation and divorce, but your husband’s conjecture about what’s best for you does nothing to help with deciding what’s best for the family. Until he’s ready to join you as a full contributing partner who shows up with in full honesty of heart, then you have to gather all of the available information, get clear on what you need, consider the needs of your children, turn to God, and decide. No spouse should have to make such consequential decisions alone, but your children are counting on you to pull them out of this limbo state so they can have the security of knowing what to expect.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

If you or a loved one are struggling with the devastating impact of pornography issues, sexual betrayal, and relationship trauma, I have created a 6-part audio program to help married couples strengthen their recovery. You can purchase the 6-hour audio program here for a limited time at the reduced price of $29 – https://geoff-steurer.mykajabi.com/marriage-recovery

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT