My husband left today …

My husband and I have been together for 3 years. Today he left. He texted me and said I have a week to show him more affection or he’s finished with our marriage. He wants me to text him throughout the week to share that I love him. I am so confused and heartbroken. I want him to feel my love for him and maybe I haven’t been as affectionate with him lately as I could have been. But it feels like he has already made up his mind.  For the last few weeks I have noticed changes in how often and when he is on his phone.  I asked him about it and he said he is texting friends.  I know the amount of time he is spending on his phone has changed.  I did not ask him any more questions about it.  What do I do?!?

Rob’s Reply:

What you’re going through now sounds painful. A few things to consider:

  1. Every couple co-creates their relationship. It’s both of you. It sounds like you are taking responsibility for how you may have contributed to the current situation. His part might be that he did not ask for what he wanted in a way that you could hear him. It’s no one’s fault, but often people expect their partners to know what they want without asking (please see the video I created specifically about this topic for more details). In this case, it does not take abrupt withdrawal to share “Hey, more verbal and physical affection would feel good to me.  Would you be willing to work on it together?”
  2. Giving you an ultimatum of 1 week is not fair. Healthy change in marriages does not occur by one partner leaving and making demands of the other. If it is about affection, taking steps to make you less secure and anxious is not a healthy, mutual approach. One guess is it might be that he has had past experiences where he only felt like he mattered when he did something drastic.
  3. The recent changes in texting behaviors could be a sign. It’s great that you are paying attention to behavior changes and trusting your gut. For some people who don’t have a lot of practice in asking for what they want directly, they could be on their phone complaining, asking friends for advice, or checking out (e.g., arranging options for a place to stay).  There’s a lot you don’t know so you may feel an inclination to speculate.  Instead, a good option is to talk with him about it when you are in person together again.  That’s going to be complicated in the current circumstances.   In the current heightened situation, it might be really tough to have an open intimate conversation: “I noticed you’ve been texting a lot. When I asked you about it before, you said you were texting your friends. Something in me longs for more information. Would you please show me your phone?”

Do you have a good friend with whom you can talk about what’s going on? You’ll benefit from someone to whom you can share the ups & downs of what the current situation is like for you.  When asking for this support, please let the person know what you want from each conversation (e.g., “Would you please listen to me and try to understand what it is like for me?  I don’t need advice at this time.”). That way, you can get care and support from someone else other than your husband during this time.  Reliable sources of support will help you stay grounded.  With support, you’ll feel more equipped to evaluate your options carefully, be less reliant on your husband as a primary source of support right now, and you’ll be more resourced to explore what’s going on with him.

A qualified 3rd party (e.g., Relationship Coach) could help you navigate this situation, if you’re open to it, either together or individual coaching.

Best wishes! Hope these considerations feel helpful to you…