Many wives who are separated intuitively know that it is in their best interest to try to remain upbeat during their separation. It is common sense that being pleasant will often get you a better result than being angry or unpleasant. This is can be more challenging than you would think, though. Sometimes, it is so difficult to be upbeat that you have to lower your standards to having the conversation not affect you in a negative way. That can be very challenging at times, too.
A wife might say: "I fully understand why it's best to try to get along with your separated spouse and remain pleasant and optimistic. I am committed to this strategy. The problem is that while I completely understand the necessity of it, I sometimes find it difficult to carry out. One of the reasons that we separated is because my husband is very unhappy. It seems that everything is falling apart in his life. He's now at a place in his life where he lost both of his parents. He is no longer close to his siblings. His best friend moved away. And he had to downsize at his job. I know that he is going through a rough time and not all of it is his fault. So I will try to ask how his day went and have a pleasant voice. Sometimes, it seems as though his goal with the conversation is actually to bring me down. He will say something sarcastic like: 'oh my day was fabulous. I spent it doing a job that was way beneath me while making less money.' So I will try to tell him that I am sure that things will get better and he'll say something like: 'I don't know why they will get better when they have been getting worse for two years.' At that point, I usually try to change the topic but then he will act as if I don't care about his challenges. It seems that I can not win. Sometimes, when he absolutely refuses to allow me to try to cheer him up or to change the outlook, I become angry. I feel like he is just refusing to give me anything at all to work with. And there are times when I feel like responding with something like: 'yes, your life is not getting any better because you are choosing to sabotage yourself with your awful and negative attitude.' But I hold back. And then I am disappointed in myself. I sometimes feel like I let him say anything that he wants to me and I have lost my voice. How do I get past this so that I don't let the mean things that he says affect me?"
I have always advocated trying to be upbeat and have a positive attitude during your separation because I often see this making a reconciliation more likely. I also believe that not giving into despair makes the time apart a little more bearable. But, I don't mean for this to make you feel like a doormat or someone who doesn't have a voice and who can't express their own feelings.
I think that it is fair to put your frustration into words, so long as it doesn't come across like you are just trying to hurt your spouse in the way that he has hurt you. For example, the next time a similar scenario comes up, I know that it is tempting to say: "yes, your life is terrible right now because you're choosing to mope around and be miserable." However, while this might make you feel better for a second, you likely will feel guilty later. And, your husband will feel defensive and may think that yet another person in his life is not on his side. Instead, try something like: "I'm sorry. I really was trying to cheer you up and make things better, but it seems that no matter what I say, I'm not successful. So I'm going to change the subject or sign off for now, but I don't want for you to think that any of this means that I don't care. I do care. I can just tell that you don't want to continue on with this subject. I hope that in a few days or so, you will be more receptive. My goal is to make things seem a little brighter for you. That's all. But for right now, I am hearing that you aren't receptive to that."
Then, change the subject or end the conversation. Notice that you were not being negative or ugly. You were just telling him that, for right now, you don't see the point in trying to point out the positive when he isn't ready to see it. The hope is that the next time you try this, he will be more receptive because he knows that you will shut it down if he doesn't at least try a little give and take.
I also think that it's important to learn how to distract yourself with other things. Sometimes, it takes a little while before your spouse is ready to change or to be receptive. And, I believe that much of the time, the best thing to do then is to remain positive and wait. But if you get frustrated and start engaging or arguing, then you allow his attitude to alter your results. So it's better to just stop the negativity and to wait rather than to engage.
Sometimes, this means you have to turn your attention to other things like friends or hobbies. When I was separated, one of my friends had a new baby and I spent a lot of time with her. Another friend was going through a medical issue and I was more than happy to be there for her because I had plenty of spare time and it made me feel useful and helpful. The key is to pinpoint where else you are needed or what else might help to make the time pass in a positive way. This is so much better an option than just arguing with your husband and making things worse.