Separation is often seen as the end inevitable first step toward divorce, but it doesn’t have to be. Going through a separation can actually heal your marriage, if you’re doing the right things. The right things include going to therapy, having accountability partners, staying in contact, and having clear boundaries and expectations. My husband and I separated for six months, and although it was hard on us both, it was absolutely needed. Let’s explore how separation can help your marriage.
Therapy is Key
The first step in healing a marriage is seeking help from a professional therapist who can guide you both on how to communicate more effectively and provide tools that will help bring your marriage back together. Therapy is also beneficial because it helps provide an objective viewpoint and third-party mediator who can offer unbiased advice. A therapist can also help the couple identify areas of strength within the relationship, which can then be used to build upon. It’s up to you to decide whether you prefer to do couples counseling or individual therapy. If there is a lot of trauma and distrust, individual therapy might be best at first. If the issues are mainly about communication, lifestyle needs, and the like, couples therapy could be the right fit.
Accountability partners are essential for couples going through a separation because they provide an additional layer of support and guidance during this time of transition. Accountability partners are there to help couples stay on track with their goals for healing their marriage and ensure that no one strays from what has been established by the couple as their vision for the future. Accountability partners could be family members, friends, or trusted mentors from one’s religion.
Staying In Contact
Although physical distance may be necessary during a separation, it is important to maintain communication between both parties throughout this process so that each person feels heard and understood. This means taking time out to check-in with each other regularly (even if just via text) so that both people feel connected and supported even while apart. Additionally, staying in contact throughout a separation allows couples to work together towards the common goal of reconciling their marriage rather than allowing it to dissolve over time due to lack of communication or understanding between them. My husband and I had occasional date nights during our separation, which really helped us stay connected.
Having Clear Boundaries and Expectations
Separations are a confusing time, and they can be made even more confusing if both parties are unclear about the plan for the separation. It can be hard to have these conversations ahead of time, since usually by the time a couple reaches the separation stage communication has already broken down, but it is of critical importance to try. Consider discussing things like: how often you will see each other, how often you agree to communicate, what are your definitive “bottom lines” for what is allowable during the separation and what isn’t. These discussions, though difficult, can determine the success or failure of the separation.
Most importantly, don’t use the separation as a way to ease the blow of divorce. If you have already decided that you want to divorce, but you think of separating first as a way to “slow fade” out of the relationship, DON’T. It will only create hurt and confusion for your spouse, and unnecessary conflict between you. If divorce is what you want, do that first. Separation will only pour salt in the wound.
Separation does not have to mean divorce; it can actually be used as an effective tool for healing marriages if done correctly. Doing the right things like going to therapy, having accountability partners, staying in contact, and setting clear boundaries/expectations can help mend broken relationships and bring couples closer together again than ever before. It might be rare, but it is possible. My husband and I are proof. Ultimately, using separation correctly has the power to heal marriages if done properly so make sure you’re using discernment.