Will separation help?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Ok I was born with a very bad temper that runs on my moms side of the family where all the males have it. I am in the Army and currently staioned in the West. My wife got tired of my temper and finally left me Christmas day and went back to her family. Iits been two weeks and I dont know that she is coming back. She has left me once before for the same thing back in June and came back 5 days later. I went to see someone about my temper I saw an Army counseler and even though I said I have had this all my life they just said it was from PTSD and just treated me for that and after about 6 sesions said I was doing good and told me they didnt need to see me anymore. We also went to marriage counsling when she came back and after 4 sessins we were doing really good and she said that we shoudlnt go back because were doing so good I thought it was too soon to stop but we did. My temper also did get better for a while even though I was being treated for the wrong thing. We were doing great until this past November when my I started losing the control I had on my temper again. I have never hit her but I have hit walls and stuff like that and it has scared her. On Christmas day I had to work from 9 am til the next day at 9AM. I had a four hour break so I went home to see my daughter and her and an hour before I left we got in a fight and I lost it and punched a fridge and broke my hand. When I got back to work she sent me a text saying Her and my daughter were going back to her family for a few days. Well she changed her tune the next day and said she is confused and doesnt know if or when she will come back.

I went and saw somebody to get help and I am doing anger management classes and going to a counlser once a week but not an Army one this time and I am getting the right help this time. I really miss my wife and daughter and I know that things will be different since I am getting the right help and I dont want to give up on my marraige so eas.y I at least want her to come back and give marriage counseling a shot and not quit too soon this time. Now I dont know what she is going to do

I kinda made the mistake for the past week of not giving her her space to think and have been pleading with her to come home. She goes back and forth with divorce and working it out. I have stopped calling her and we havent talked for the past two days so I can give her the space she wants but its hard I just want to call her but I wont til she is ready to talk. Now I know that she does kinda want to work this out because she has said alot that she wants to be separated for a while then after a while try and work things out.

Also Sunday I had a bad wreck and totaled my truck and she and her dad drove all the way up here to give me our car. She took some of her colthes and our daughters clothes back with her but didnt take all of the clothes.

I know we can work this out but how do I prove to her that things are going to change and that I am really trying to fix my temper? What signs should I look for that maybe she thinks we can work this out? What signs should I look for to realize she is not coming back and I should move on? Please help as much as you can I miss my wife and daughter and am in alot of pain and just want to know how I can prove to her things are going to be different. Also why does she keep going back and forth one minute she wants a divorce and nothing to do with me the next she tells me she thinks we can work this out just not right now.

A: It sounds to me like your wife is as torn up as you are. She wants to believe that things will be better but she’s scared that this time won’t be any different. She doesn’t want to be hurt again and she doesn’t want to put your little daughter through listening to her parents fight. On the other hand, she does love you and wants you to be okay. Both things – wanting to patch things up and being scared to try again – can be true. That’s why it looks like she’s going back and forth.

I have a guess that it isn’t temper that runs in your mom’s family. It’s anxiety. The men get really upset when things aren’t going as they think they should. They can’t tolerate feeling anxious so they lose it. Talk with your counselor and see if I’m on to something, ok? If I’m right, you need to work directly on your anxiety as well as on anger management skills.

As for relating to your wife: Your best action would be to stop pleading and making promises and continue really working on yourself. Actions speak so much louder than words. I’m so glad that you are getting the right kind of help this time. Stick with it! Keep your wife informed about what you are learning in therapy and what you are doing to live a healthier life. Tell her you love her and miss her and your daughter but don’t pressure her. Stop looking for signs. It will make you both nuts.

Instead, I suggest the two of you agree to suspend all talk about your future for 6 weeks. Work hard during that time. At the 6 week point, the two of you can re-evaluate. Setting a time frame takes the pressure off every conversation.

Meanwhile, a timeout from each other isn’t a bad idea. Use the time to work hard on your own issues. See if your wife will consider the two of you getting together a couple times a month so that you and your daughter can be together and so that you and your wife can get into some serious couples work. You’re right. The last time you tried counseling, you quit too soon. You both have work to do to learn how to work as a team so that you can solve problems together instead of fighting over them.

It’s too bad that things had to get to this point for you to take it seriously that your temper could cost you everything. But it’s to your credit that you are willing to do the hard work that’s involved in making real change instead of walking away. You are only 22. Investing in yourself now can make a lifetime of difference. You and your young family are worth it.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Jan 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Will separation help?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/01/11/will-separation-help/

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