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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Should I initiate contact during the separation?

My wife have been together for nine years and married for three of those. We recently separated.

The context
There is a never ending cycle of blame so it is difficult for me to pinpoint the starting point. In general, for me, it was more about my perceived observation that she tends to want to control things in her life as a means of feeling secure. I am also taking a guess, from our time together, that she has been afraid of not being accepted, of being judged and of being truly intimate in her relationships, including with her family.

From my perspective, our issues seemed to really spiral when I moved in with her soon after our engagement. There was a seemingly never ending criticism and nagging about my cleaning the house: either in terms of regularity or thoroughness. The extent of the criticism seemed to me to be much more disproportional than was needed. I kept sensing that there was an underlying issue but she insisted that there was none. I kept trying to reassure her that we are on the same team but she kept insisting that she felt like she was doing it (the responsibilities of our life) on her own and was terrified to think that would be the rest of her life, especially with children.

We went to counselling where the recommendation was for me to keep on trying to do my best with the chores, riding out the waves of criticism to reassure her that I would always do my part. Unfortunately, she felt that the counselling sessions provided a forum for me to blame her for the troubles in our relationship and felt that the counsellor had taken my side. She had initially felt uncomfortable about us discussing our issues with a counsellor but had reluctantly agreed to do so long as she got to pick who it was we saw.

As the criticism continued, I began to really withdraw and in the later stages became depressed and hostile towards her (refusing any attempt or gesture of affection or interest in me from her). This lasted for over a year, mainly during the second year of our marriage. The damaging nature of my approach is very clear to me after working with a relationship counsellor and my own personal growth.

This personal growth and healing phase for me was sparked a year ago when she got a job opportunity across the country. The job offer presented an opportunity for us to have a long distance relationship (LDR) with the intent of my moving to her city within a year. This provided time and space for me to think things through as I was feeling very conflicted about if she really loved and wanted me, or if I was merely a checkbox on her meticulously planned life.

It felt good to have that time and space and I really began focusing on myself physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I had more energy, which stimulated me to learn more about relationships and eventually, to begin to realize my part hurting her, and moving away from thinking that the main issue in our relationship was with her. And that if she could only change, then there would be hope for us.

Through the initial four months of the LDR, we talked regularly by phone and with visits about every month. This was right at the beginning for our third year of marriage.

A turning point in my own journey was the moment I realized just how large my faults were and how much I had been pushing her away. I had opportunities to stay connected, to reassure her but I choose to play the victim. And, more importantly, reaffirmed for me that I love her.

I wrote a letter which started off as a breakup letter, expressing my remorse and guilt for how much I had hurt her, giving her the option of leaving or staying, but letting her know that I would always love her. I couldn't change that, regardless of if she stayed or left.

I gave her the letter at our next visit and she melted upon reading it. However, a few weeks later, a coldness and increasing hostility began to come from her. She said that the few weeks together showed her that nothing had truly changed.

I didn't loose hope and kept on my own healing and growth, kept being positive with our interactions through the LDR, even through the increasing indifference and hostility mix of interactions from her. There were sparse moments of emotional connection and physical intimacy in the last ten months but which only seemed to last for a day before the familiar patterns returned.

It felt like the more I tried to be affectionate, romantic (dinner on Valentine's, flowers, gifts,etc), the more hostile she became. Additional information about others' experiences made me realize that my approach was the wrong approach.

This hostility and coldness combo has been in play for the last ten months. I keep rationalizing that I need be as patient with her as she was with me, when I went through very similar feelings of ambivalence about us and the eventual hostility towards her.

However, a few months ago, I began to sense that there could be another reason. I checked her email and found out that she had reconnected with someone she had an EA with before we met. The OM was in a serious relationship but they had a very strong EA which was never really resolved as he was with someone else and eventually moved away. Her reach out email to him was a few months into our LDR. His response indicated that they could only be friends as he was now married. They agreed to talk by phone and Facebook.

When I asked her about her feelings for him, she reassured me that he was an important person in her life but that she did not have any romantic feelings for him and that they could not be compatible as a couple.

I also discovered that she has developed feelings for a co-worker over the last year. From what I found, it sounds like it is a one-sided attraction and EA. She confided to a friend she is struggling with her feelings as he is gay. I had been dismissing their closeness as a good friendship which I felt happy about as she was happy and surrounded by good people. I got to meet him a couple of times he is a genuinely very nice person.

I approached her tenderly about this as it sounded absurd that I should be worried about this scenario. I had rationalized that the reason for her hostility and the tension she said she felt when around me, was due to this secret she was carrying. She denied it at first but then admitted that she was attracted to him and had been getting the kind of emotional love and support from him that she could not get from me.

We talked about it and it seemed to open up the door a little wider.

I moved to her city a month ago. I was not prepared emotionally for this. I had unrealistic expectations that she would be over-joyed at us being together again and give me a warm welcome. It was a very cold reception and an overwhelming, unbearable tension. I tried to engage her on what would be the best way forward for us but she said that she just did not have the energy to work on our relationship as she was focused on her career. I unfortunately caved and moved out the very same night I arrived while she was out.

I left her a letter where I said that I was leaving as I felt that she was not being honest and respectful with me. That the door would always be open for her, and to us, if she was willing to trust me enough to be honest with me.

My intent was not a breakup but to do a 180 and to go silent (based on the Divorce Busting book) as it felt like I had been doing the same thing over and over in the last year, of reaching out, being gentle and trying to be supportive.

However, when she found the letter, she was shocked. She thought I had ended our marriage. She called asking for us to talk to clarify what had just happened as she was confused.

We had a good and honest conversation where she told me how both anxious and angry the letter made her feel as she believed that I had decided to end our marriage. She said she was even more confused as she thought that though things had not been great, that we had been making progress. It was one of the most open and honest conversations we had had in a long time.

We didn't see each other again until a week later and spent a good weekend at a conference back in our home city. However, soon after, I discovered a list where she had compared me to both her co-worker as well as the person she had been in an EA with. There was also a fourth person on the list who I think is someone else from her past but may also be someone she also works with.

For a second time in as many weeks, I let my anger and pain get the better of me and I sent her a harsh email accusing her of not being honest and of having emotional affairs.

I went through a week of utter confusion wafting from regret at having sent the email to questioning if she was a good person and if she had ever really been honest with me, or even loved me. It really hurt to realize she had recently been comparing me to someone she said she could not see herself with and who was just a friend.

A session with my relationship coach helped me to clarify that my preferred outcome was for us to reconcile. My email had not provided any room of that. I sent a follow up email a couple of weeks later apologizing for putting her in that spot.

She replied, apologizing of using email to do so, but requested that I do not move back to her city. She said that I seemed bent on making her out to be unfaithful so that I could find a reason to end our marriage. That the email I sent had made her feel unloved, and worse, hated. That I did not seem to want to see things from her perspective.

She also opened up to really share with me just what she had been feeling: uncertainty about our compatibility, the emotional distance between us, the lack of support from me, her pain and her loneliness. She needed time to think things through but is not feeling certain about our future together.

I should have been devastated by this but I was overjoyed. For the first time, in a long time, I feel like she actually cares about me and about us. And it made me understand that her anger and hostility had been coming from a place of deep pain and uncertainty.

The dilemma
This served as another wake up call to me. Despite my belief that I was making good progress on my own growth, I had been looking at the situation from my side primarily.

However, I am not certain whether or not I should keep on with my initial 180 approach of not getting in touch with her, as well as honouring her request for space and time. What makes me uncertain is that there is no communication to re-build any trust or connection. I fear that this will only serve to magnify the distance between us. This is compounded by the LDR and what I sense to be her emotional vulnerability at this point in time.

I also think that rebuilding a good level of communication and trust is necessary before we discuss my lingering questions about her EA.

Should I maintain the 180 approach and not contact her unless she makes the first step?

Or should I be making attempts to reach out to her, to maintain some sort of connection between us?
 

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Re: Should I initiate contact during the separation?

However, I am not certain whether or not I should keep on with my initial 180 approach of not getting in touch with her, as well as honouring her request for space and time. What makes me uncertain is that there is no communication to re-build any trust or connection. I fear that this will only serve to magnify the distance between us. This is compounded by the LDR and what I sense to be her emotional vulnerability at this point in time.

I also think that rebuilding a good level of communication and trust is necessary before we discuss my lingering questions about her EA.

Should I maintain the 180 approach and not contact her unless she makes the first step?

Or should I be making attempts to reach out to her, to maintain some sort of connection between us?
I think the 180 is probably the best plan. Not necessarily to save your marriage, your wife has had multiple affairs (EAs, at least) and doesn't want to live with you. But for your own emotional well being.

It's possible that the 180 will result in your wife coming to you. You've tried reaching out to her and she hasn't responded positively. It seems it's only when you pull back that she becomes motivated to be sure she still has you as her backup plan.

You may want to post in the Coping With Infidelity forum for more detailed advice.

Good luck.
 

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Remember, the 180 isn't to get your SO back, it's to get you back to being the authentic you.
Too often people lose themselves in relationships, change themselves to try to make their SO's love them.
The 180 is used to get you to stop that behavior and to put the focus back on you, instead of them.
If you're not utilizing the 180 for ONLY yourself, then you're missing the whole point.

As someone who started the 180 in 2010 and continues to use the healthy habits I learned then, the 180 helped my marriage, because it improved the way I interacted within the marriage.
It has been like night & day.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks PHTlump and Phenix70. I had lost sight of the fact that the 180 is about getting back to my authentic self and growing. I needed that perspective.
 
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