There is no question that it is an admirable thing when one spouse supports another. This can be emotional, physical, or financial support. The fact is, not every one who is married peaks at their career at the same time as their spouse. Sometimes, they are just beginning on their career path or they are still in school while the other spouse is at a comfortable and prominent place in their own career. Much of the time, the more financially stable spouse has no problem whatsoever with supporting the other. That is what people who love one another do. And the idea is always that improving one person’s career situation will eventually improve the financial situation of the couple in the long run. Most people see this as a “win / win” situation that is mutually beneficial. Sometimes though, the spouse receiving the support can eventually find themselves uncomfortable with the arrangement. And this is where the problems start.
A wife might say: “I had no problems supporting my husband through school. I knew that once he graduated, he would have a much higher earning potential. And I also knew that he would feel much better about himself. I worked and supported our entire household throughout his entire college career and I was more than happy to do it. My husband pitched in with running the household because he was home more than I was. So in my mind, it worked out wonderfully because I was freed up to just worry about my job and he felt that he was making a difference in our home. I was completely fine with this arrangement. And looking back on it now, I honestly don’t think that I ever did anything to make my husband feel weird or badly about this. But as soon as he graduated, I was still making three times the amount that he was. I tried to tell him that every one starts out in an entry level position and that we had no need for him to make huge amounts of money immediately. This didn’t seem to help. He obviously felt pretty badly about himself. I tried to build him up, but obviously it turned into a problem because he actually ended up leaving our home and telling me that he just needed some space and time. He is staying with his brother and he tells me that he feels awful that he can’t afford a place for himself. He said that he will feel more like a respectable person if he can live on his own and earn his own way for a while. He said that he needs to do this for his own self worth. Some of my friends say that this is just an excuse. I am not sure if I buy that this is an excuse because quite frankly, if he didn’t leave me for his own self respect, then I can’t think of another reason. I honestly feel that other than this issue, our marriage was really good.”
I only guessing here, but I would suspect that you have two major concerns. You are wondering whether or not he’s being sincere about his motivations for leaving. And you are wondering if this matters in terms of him coming back.
From my own experience, I know that it is very tempting to ask him a bunch of questions and to pressure him about why, exactly, he is doing this. But often, this will make him clam up even more and he will get frustrated on top of this. In my experience, you are better off trying to maintain a positive and open relationship with him so that you can watch him very closely. Often, just observing what you see in terms of his actions and behaviors will tell you what you need to know about his motivations.
In terms of whether you can overcome this, I have seen separated couples overcome almost everything. If he truly is dealing with low self esteem and self worth right now, then know that although you can support him and encourage him, no one is going to be able to give him self worth except for himself. Counseling may help him, if he is open to it.
It is my opinion that your best bet is to offer him support and understanding and allow him the controlled space that he thinks he needs. Quite often, men in this situation will soon find that they do not feel nearly as happy or as free as they had hoped. They often find that they are every bit as unsettled apart from their wives than with her. And this is when they realize that their unhappiness or sense of unease has nothing to with their marriage or their wife. It is something that they need to work on within themselves.
Once they realize this, you really don’t have to do anything. And since you have been loving and supportive all along, then you will be in a very good position once this happens. This is so much better than trying to tell him he’s wrong or being silly or asking too much when he’s already struggling with low self esteem.