My marriage separation was a bewildering time for me and for my husband. We didn’t know what we wanted out of the separation; we just knew that we needed to time to heal, and we needed to be apart to do that. Like my therapist said at the time, a wound can’t scab over if someone keeps picking it off. We made some mistakes in our separation, things that I really wish we could take back. Impossibly, despite our mistakes, we found our way back to each other, and our marriage is better than ever. Reconciliation is possible, but the way you handle the separation can either make or break those efforts.
Here are some things that we learned not to do during a marriage separation:
#1. Don’t use your children as messengers:
It’s important to keep your children out of the separation process as much as possible. Using them as messengers between you and your partner can create unnecessary stress and confusion for them. Saying things like, “remind daddy to send your tablet next time” when you could write the text yourself may seem like no big deal to you, but it may be a big deal to them. Don’t use your children as a way to avoid uncomfortable contact with your spouse.
#2. Don’t badmouth your partner
It’s understandable to feel angry or hurt during a separation, but badmouthing your partner to family, friends, or even social media can create additional problems. You may heal and decide to forgive your spouse, but the people who love you might not be able to. If you do reconcile your marriage, you want your loved ones rooting for you, not feeling suspicious and resentful.
#3. Don’t follow arbitrary guidelines for how the separation should work
There is a lot of advice out there about how your separation should work, and all of it is well-meaning. Use it to the extent that it can help you be happy and successful in your separation. But also remember that it’s okay to handle your separation in unconventional ways. You can craft your separation in whatever way makes sense for you and your spouse. My husband and I continued to date each other during our separation, which some people say is a bad idea. It worked well for us, and we were able to do it in a healthy and responsible way. Do what works best for you.
#4. Don’t ignore legal advice
If your separation is amicable, you might not need legal representation or advice. If it is not amicable, make sure to listen closely to your legal council. You and your spouse are still legally married during the separation, and depending on how the separation goes, there could be legal complications in the future. It’s important to listen to the advice of your attorney. Also, just as a little tidbit, there is separation and then there is legal separation. They are different things and have different legal meanings. Just something to keep in mind.
#5. Don’t treat each other like the enemy
There may be a lot of hurt and resentment during the separation, especially if one spouse wanted the separation and the other didn’t. There is also all the past pain and trauma that led to the separation in the first place. Try to remember, if your goal is to eventually reconcile, that you are doing this as a team, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.
#6. Don’t forget to take care of yourself
Separation can be a stressful and emotional time, so it’s important to prioritize your own mental health and well-being This may include seeking counseling, taking time for self-care activities, and surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family. I spent my time during the separation reading tons of self-help books that made a major improvement in my mental health.
If you are looking for an easy guide for taking good care of your mental health during your separation (or in general), I’ve written a 16-page digital download called The Next Best Thing to Therapy, which shares practical advice for taking care of your mental health at home, and shares my favorite self-help books. You can get your copy for free by subscribing to my website.
In conclusion, a marriage separation can be a challenging time, but avoiding these behaviors can help make the process smoother and less stressful for everyone involved. Remember to prioritize your well-being and seek the necessary support and guidance to navigate this transition successfully. Success is possible, though it may be rare. My husband and I are proof. Wherever you end up, I wish you well. You can do hard things, and things that hurt.
You’re going to be okay.