My Spouse Wants To Separate Because Of His Affair

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from people who are suffering from a double blow. Not only have they found out that their spouse has been cheating or having an affair, but they are also dealing with the fact that their cheating spouse is pushing for a separation.

I heard from a wife who said: “I found out about three weeks ago that my husband has been cheating on me for about two months. I expected him to agree to go to counseling and to break off the affair, but this isn’t what happened. Instead, he said that he wants to separate because he isn’t sure what he wants. He says that he needs time to get himself together and determine where he wants to go from here. This infuriates me. Frankly, I might have pushed for a separation first if he wasn’t acting this way. But why does he get to decide to separate? I feel as if he is only doing this so he can continue to see the other woman and determine where their relationship is going. And, is weird as it is, now that he wants to leave me, I am determined to get him to stay. I don’t know why I feel this way, but I don’t want to separate. I feel as if we need time together to sort this out before we come to any decisions. Is there anything that I can do to change his mind? I’ve thought about giving him ultimatums or trying to get him to feel guilty. But I don’t know if either of these things will work because maybe he is just determined to be with her. What should I do?”

While I couldn’t tell this wife what she should do (as only she could make this decision) I could offer her some insights on what her husband might be thinking or what his strategy might be. I will do that below.

Sometimes, He Says He Wants A Separation As Part Of His Own Strategy:

Often, a cheating husband will suggest a separation as a way to beat you to it. Often, he hopes that his wanting a separation will mean that you don’t want it as a result. The hope is that you will insist that a separation isn’t necessary. In this way, he has shifted the power in the relationship and he has taken away your ability to ponder what you actually want. And, he knows that it’s unlikely that you will now be the one to suggest separating.

I am not saying that this was definitely the case in this scenario, but it was certainly a possibility. Now, it’s certainly not out of the question that he wants some time apart because he intends to see the other woman. But frankly, giving him ultimatums or trying to make him feel guilty isn’t likely to change his mind. Instead, it may alienate him even more so that he is even more motivated to be with her.  Your response really depends on how you want to proceed.

How To Respond If You Really Don’t Want To Separate:

I know that this wife was adamant that she didn’t want him to move out. But she freely admitted that she had initially thought of a break herself before her husband brought it up first. So, she needed to take an honest look as to whether her reaction was authentic or if she was reacting the way that she was because of her pain at his actions.

If she decided that she truly didn’t want to separate, then she might ask him to take a certain amount of time before he actually moved out. She might say something like: “I understand that you’re confused but we can’t access where we are if you just take off without us having any time to regroup. Would you agree to delay this decision for a month just to give us a chance to evaluate where we want to go together?”

The other alternative would be to take a somewhat hard stance. The idea is that you draw a line in the sand and let him know that continuing to see her is not only unacceptable, but that if he does this, he will lose his access to you. To that end, you might want to say something like: “I understand you’re needing some time. I need some time also. But I need to make it very clear that if you engage with any other women during the separation, then our relationship will need to be put on hold. I can not try to reconcile with you if I feel like you are not being faithful to me. So if you have any interest in saving our marriage, then we need to talk in depth about either delaying the separation or establishing some boundaries during it.”

Often, when he sees that asking for the separation isn’t going to mean that you’re going to beg him not to go or to give him free reign with the other woman, then it begins to lose its appeal. And you can move forward and begin healing a little more quickly since that issue is no longer between you.

My husband initially tried this strategy, but it backfired on him because I myself was all for a separation due to my severe anger at his actions.  As soon as he saw it wasn’t going to work, he became honest about wanting to make things right again.  This wasn’t an easy process.  But it was worth it because ultimately we were able to rebuild our marriage after the infidelity.  If it helps you can read the whole story on my blog at

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