Preventing divorces and repairing broken marriages is one of my passions. It’s also what I’ve been doing as my day job for the last 11 years or so.
Today I’ll answer one of the more interesting questions I’ve received from a client this week which is, “can separation save my marriage?”
Whether separation can save your marriage is a controversial question among marriage counselors and therapists.
Some experts and academics think that separating can help a couple recognize what they would lose if they were to get divorced. Others think separating from your spouse when you want to save your marriage is an unproductive and dangerous waste of time.
And, aside from getting into to Marty McFly’s DeLorean time machine, you can’t undo the past.
Right now you’re stuck in a marriage in crisis.
Maybe your spouse has suggested a separation, maybe you’re considering it, or maybe you’re separate already even though you never wanted to be apart in the first place.
Now, what does separation mean for your chances of rebuilding a happy, lasting marriage? In my opinion, in a lot of circumstances, a bit of time apart can actually be extremely helpful.
Don’t automatically put me in the “separation is helpful camp” just yet because I don’t feel that way in all situations, as I’m going to discuss later in this article. But I do think that separating can be a positive thing in some cases for some marriages.
Why can separation be positive?
1. It stops your marriage’s negative feedback loop at least temporarily.
A marriage that’s falling apart is usually stuck in a negative feedback loop.
In layman’s terms, you and your spouse keep doing the same things over and over again, things that are damaging your marriage in one way or another, whether you realize it or not.
Until you break that negative cycle and get out of the rut, nothing is going to change in your marriage. Obviously, an unhappy marriage needs to change or it’s not going to survive for the long-term.
Separation from your spouse is one way to break the negative cycle at least temporarily.
Let’s say, for example, your jealousy was a major cause of your spouse’s unhappiness in the marriage.
You know you often became jealous, lashed out and created a toxic environment of mistrust. All of those things led to your spouse feeling chained down and frustrated, right?
Taking a break from the negative cycle that you and your spouse have been trapped in can really help. But separation isn’t going to save your marriage in the long term if you pick up right where you left off and immediately go back into those same negative habits as soon as you move back in together.
If you do that, you’re just going to find yourself in the same situation with all the same problems over and over again.
Separation can help break the negative pattern in the short term, but you need to make changes to break the cycle permanently if you want to solve things and remain happily married for years to come.
2. Daily petty bickering is put on hold.
Another benefit to spending time apart, is that separation puts an end to bickering, fights, and all the petty disputes that sometimes come to dominate day-to-day married life.
Think about it, it’s hard for your husband or wife to get mad at you for failing to wash the dishes if there are no dirty dishes to wash in the first place.
Of course, it’s hard to bicker over stupid little things the way a lot of couples do incessantly after years of marriage, if you’re not actually physically together. Petty bickering may eventually make its way back into your marriage once you begin living together again.
A break from the day-to-day dramas and conflicts can really be a huge help, and this sometimes rejuvenates the relationship enough to get both spouses to buy back in and put in some more effort to make the marriage work.
Now, if you’re struggling with that kind of bickering, petty arguments and general hostility towards one another in your marriage, I suggest you employ some of the simple techniques that I talk about in the full video my website.
You’ll learn a few super simple ways but you can diffuse or prevent those arguments in the first place without actually needing to separate.
3. Separation is a preview of what life is like without you.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, separation can give you perspective and it can clearly demonstrate how much worse life can be when your spouse isn’t around.
You know how we tend to take our partners for granted after years together?
We often fall into mindset that “the grass is greener.” You or your spouse might think that getting a divorce will lead to an overall happier life.
But… are you really sure about that? How do you really know?
Often, a few weeks or months of separation from your spouse can show you that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and make you feel a sense of gratitude for the positive things that your spouse or your partner brings into your daily life.
So, that’s it then? Can separation save your marriage?
Not necessarily. If you don’t need to separate, don’t.
At the very least, look at separation as a last ditch effort to save your marriage once you’ve tried everything else.
Separation can just as often make matters worse. For instance, if you’re separated for a few months and your spouse finds that they’re just as happy with life when you’re not around, separation won’t lead to gratitude or a new perspective, it’s just one more step on the path to divorce.
In a lot of places around the world, separation is also a legal requirement for divorce.
Here’s the bottom line about whether separation can save your marriage.
While separation can actually work out for the best, it’s not a situation that I would suggest you actively try to get yourself into.
If your spouse is dead set on separating, you can accept that and hopefully use it to your advantage and “right the ship” by using the separation to save your marriage before it truly falls apart.
Otherwise I don’t advocate separation as a way to save your marriage until you’ve already tried everything else.
My program, Mend the Marriage is designed to be a one-stop guide to saving any marriage, even if your spouse is convinced that divorce is the only option.
If you haven’t yet tried all the simple techniques in my program or in the free video in my website, then that’s your next step.
Often, you’ll be able to turn things around and rebuild a loving marriage long before you need to even think about resorting to separating from your spouse.
Saving your marriage is possible without your spouse’s involvement or help. You can save your marriage on your own. I see this happening on a daily basis with my coaching clients, so I know that most of you reading this can do the exact same thing and save your marriages too.