After the new year, my spouse called and we compared notes: he shared his loneliness and post-separation setbacks, and I expressed my struggles, not about past hurts, but past happiness. We have loneliness in common and longing for past happiness and companionship makes us vulnerable. The possibility of a door opening in our relationship to reconciliation is not lost on either of us. My spouse stops by regularly for coffee and we discuss, laugh, debate, and argue back and forth about the demise of our marriage. I know the visits are more than coffee and conversation; my spouse wants me back and I want companionship. He complains about the cost of two households and their distance. He loves to cite examples of estranged spouses getting back together but he doesn’t mention love and affection for me. He refuses to accept we need more healing and wholeness before reconciliation. I finally told him: it’s too soon, let’s be friends.

We agree to try and form a post-separation friendship. We evaluate our individual growth and feelings for one another by going on dates without benefits. Post-separation, we do the opposite of what we did in the last five years of our marriage.  We treat each other with courtesy and respect and do things together like lunch and dinner, an outdoor concert, movies, the beach, and whatever else I want to do while he pays for everything. I like this version of my spouse. We are having fun and comfortable with each other’s company, but after two months, I sense his actions are becoming forced while trying to please me. We don’t profess our love for each other, but we hug and kiss each other on the cheek when we greet and leave. His controlling behavior slips in between dates, and he still minimizes the damage he caused in the marriage.  After I turned him down sexually, he didn’t ask me out anymore, but we did continue the coffee klatch at my apartment. Although the visits became fewer, he called daily with lectures pressuring me to reconcile.

I interrupted his lecture one day and shared my expectations, boundaries, and needs for reconciliation that I knew my spouse would never abide: caring, honesty, respect, fairness, intimacy and sharing a bed, sharing responsibilities, attending church together, joint bank accounts & tax returns, continued growth & healing, and commitment. He didn’t interrupt me, but he grunted and moaned negatively. When it was his turn to share, he had to think about it and get back to me.

My spouse didn’t want a friend, he wanted a wife with benefits without being a husband. I didn’t want a husband, I wanted a friend for companionship, without being a wife. We entertained reconciliation because we were lonely. We were also low-key manipulative in the process. The subject of love never came up and neither of us is healthy enough to reconcile and we may not be healthy enough for a friendship. Loneliness comes and goes, and the hard part is riding it out, not with misguided friendships or relationships but by learning to deal with it on my own.

I hadn’t heard from my spouse for several days. I called him to close the door on reconciliation but keep the door open to friendship. He was friendly, laughed a little bit then changed the subject. We talked for a few more minutes and ended the conversation. I don’t know if we’ll ever be friends, but I’ll be content with friendly co-parenting until our youngest is out of college.