Saving your marriage with two willing people can feel daunting and overwhelming at times. But saving your marriage when one spouse is not participating and has said very hurtful things can feel downright impossible. A wife might be dealing with a marriage in which both parties have said hurtful things that have caused resentments, hurt feelings, and a sense of hopelessness. In this type of situation, it can be hard to determine where to even start.
A wife might say, “I admit that while my husband and I have been struggling while going through a separation, I've said some pretty mean things to him. I am frustrated with feeling as if I don't matter to him. I feel like I've just been dismissed while he gets the luxury of sorting himself out and deciding what he wants. So yes, in my frustration, I have called him selfish. But before we even separated, he was saying really hurtful things to me. For example, he said that I sold him a bill of goods when we were dating. He said that he was dating a laid back, funny girl who was thin and healthy. But then after he married me he got an uptight, overly-serious person who was overweight. He acts as if I purposely tricked him and then switched my personality for spite. He doesn't realize that people naturally mature and change over time. He even called me ‘portly' once. And he said that he thinks that I take joy in making him unhappy. These are low blows. But we have kids to think about. So I've asked him if he thinks that it will be possible to save our marriage. His answer was that he doesn't know, but that he thinks that we are better off just going with the flow right now. He's pretty distant and cold. In spite of this, I would like to save my marriage for the sake of my children. But when I mention this to my sister or to my friends, they both ask why I'd want to maintain a marriage to someone who has said hurtful things to me. I do see their point. Are hurtful words an indication that you can't or shouldn't save your marriage?”
I'm not a counselor, but in my nonprofessional opinion, that depends. If your spouse makes a habit of saying hurtful things to you regardless of whether he is angry or you are fighting, then this is problematic because it shows a pattern of cruelty or a lack of empathy. If he is saying mean things just to hurt you without any regard for your feelings and the relationship is constantly toxic, then I'd want to see some changes before I make any long term commitment.
With that said, it's extremely common for both people to say some pretty awful things in the middle of a fight or during a separation. Emotions can be incredibly high. Both spouses can say things that they deeply regret and are incredibly embarrassed and remorseful about later. I know that this was the case during my own separation. We both said really regretful things to one another. I wish I could take them back, but I can't. Your husband may feel this way also. It really does come down to a question of whether the hurtful things were said in the heat of the moment or whether it is your husband's typical habit to be hurtful or verbally abusive. There is a difference between a couple who has a regrettable fight and trades hurtful insults and a marriage where one spouse is constantly belittling the other for sport. If you can't decide which category your marriage falls into, I'd suggest asking a counselor or neutral third party. Sometimes, we get so close to our situation that we can't see it objectively anymore.
If you decide that your husband's words were due to the situation instead of intentionally meant to hurt you, then I can tell you that it's possible to move beyond hurtful interactions. My husband and I were truly brutal one another at times during our separation. And I was just as guilty as he was. I was so hurt that he was moving out that I was deliberately cruel because I was just trying to get a reaction out of him. Ultimately though, I made a decision to let go of any anger I had about these conversations because I wanted to move on. I decided to use the conversations to draw a line in the sand to define the type of marriage that I no longer wanted. Sure, no one can get through life without ever saying something in anger to their spouse, but with effort and in time, you can improve your marriage so that more words are said in happiness than in anger.
When your marriage is back on track and you are feeling loving and protective of your spouse again, those types of hurtful conversations usually don't surface very often. If the conversations are bothering you, then you can certainly ask for clarification when things calm down and when you are back on solid ground. It would be fair to ask if he really has an issue with your weight or demeanor, but I'd suspect that if you have this conversation when things are better (or you've reconciled) he will say that he only said those things because he was angry at the time.
But to answer the original question, you save your marriage in this scenario by asking yourself what your husband's intentions were. Once you're satisfied that these hurtful remarks aren't a habit, then you work on yourself first and then on your marriage as things calm down and you are able to do so. I know that things seem immediate and explosive now, but as time moves on, things tend to calm down so that you can communicate in more productive ways and without hurting one another.