Why does my husband suddenly want space from me? | Agony aunt

Dear Fiona: We’ve just had our silver wedding anniversary, and what should have been a happy occasion turned into a total nightmare.

We’d been planning a party for several months and family and friends were due to come from across the country.

It was a real opportunity for a big get-together post-Covid, and my husband entered into the spirit of things with huge enthusiasm, planning the menu, the drinks and everything.

I was so excited and really looking forward to it, but a couple of days beforehand, I thought my husband seemed a bit off.

A mature couple having marriage problems. PA.

I assumed it was just the pressure of the event and we had the party as planned, although it seemed a bit more subdued than I’d been anticipating.

That night, before we went to bed, he told me he’d decided that he needs ‘space’ because he wants to ‘find himself’.

The following day, he moved out. That was a month ago. He’s still in touch most days, but says that although he cares for me, he no longer loves me.

He says he doesn’t want to hurt me, but I am so hurt and confused and don’t understand how he can behave in this way.

He isn’t asking for a divorce or anything and he phones regularly, but if I ask him when he is coming home, he says he isn’t.

I know our marriage wasn’t perfect, but I thought we were both quite content – I know I was, but I can’t go on like this.

H. T.

FIONA SAYS: THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TOO

It sounds as if the preparations for the party focussed your husband’s attention on the marriage in a way he’d not really considered before.

It perhaps made him realise that there were opportunities missed and plans unfulfilled. Many people go through a mid-life crisis like this, and it is not at all the joke some people make it out to be.

Some men buy a new sports car, a crazy new wardrobe, or start an affair to prove to themselves they are still desirable. Others withdraw into a bit of a shell, which is what it sounds as if your husband has done.

I suspect he doesn’t understand himself any better than you do what is going on inside his head. When people are in the midst of an emotional crisis like this, it is impossible for them to think or act rationally.

Hard though it is for you, you will have to keep calm if you want to give your marriage a chance.

If there were problems in your marriage, then time and space like this might be an opportunity for you too to think how to make things better. Please don’t simply wait at home crying for your husband to come back – get out and get on with your life.

That way, when he phones, you will have things to talk about, you’ll sound more upbeat and positive. It might feel like you’re putting on an act at first, but keep going and it will feel easier with practice.

Sadly, if your husband cannot resolve his dilemmas, then it may be that the separation becomes permanent. The effort you make now though, will help you to pick up the pieces and make a new life without him, if that’s what has to happen.

DEAR FIONA: WHY ARE OUR NEIGHBOURS BEING SO NEGATIVE?

My husband and I have just moved into a housing association flat in a small block with three other families.

We share a communal hallway which wasn’t very clean or tidy when we moved in, so we cleaned it up, washed the curtains and windows and painted over some of the scuffmarks.

We weren’t expecting thanks but instead of being pleased, we’ve had to put up with a lot of abuse from one of the other families.

They seem to resent what we have done and have told us, in no uncertain terms, that we are mad.

We wanted to ask for a lose tile on the roof to be fixed but they said if we approached the landlord, we’d be wasting our time.

I don’t understand their attitude – if the landlord doesn’t know there’s a problem, how will they get the chance to fix it?

I really like my new home, but these people are making life so unpleasant, and I don’t know what to do.

M. H.

FIONA SAYS: THERE’S STILL HOPE HERE

You’ve moved in to a place where people have been ‘putting up’ with things for some time. Perhaps they’ve tried and failed in the past to improve their environment, but by coming in and sorting things out for yourselves, you’ve pointed out their failings.

Obviously, you’ve not done that deliberately, but I suspect that’s how they feel.

Getting off on the wrong foot isn’t going to make it easy for you to win them round, but it can be done. It might mean making yourself look a little vulnerable or even a bit stupid, but it might be worth it.

It could be anything from asking their help getting a spider out of the bath to running out of some basic essential – like milk.

People like to be needed and will warm to people who ask for help.

You will need to be subtle because they know you are capable people, but if you continue to appeal to their better natures, I am sure you will eventually win them round.

Where the property is concerned, I would carry on as you have been – and tell the landlord about the lose tile; just don’t tell them you’ve done so!