I often have people tell me that they are living in a state of heightened anxiety when they are separated from their spouse. They often are in a quite a bit of pain and they are assuming the worst since it feels as if their life is in turmoil. I understand this completely. The time period when my husband and I were separated was among the most painful and scary in my life. However, looking back now, I realize that I could have done a few things that would have made it go much more smoothly. I probably could have also spared myself a lot of pain. So in the following article, I will offer some tips on how to best handle a trial separation so that it goes as smoothly as possible and so you have the best chance of it actually improving or saving your marriage rather than ending it.
Don’t Assume That Your Marriage Is Over: I can’t tell you how common it is for people to assume that the beginning of a separation means the end of their marriage. Of course, they hope that this isn’t true. But deep in their hearts, they fear that it is.
While this is understandable, it’s very important that you don’t allow any doubts that you have to cloud your judgement and to affect your actions. Yes, I know that this is scary. But very often, if you fear a thing so much that you place every thought or action in alignment with it, you almost make the thing you fear the most more likely.
Not all couples that separate end up divorcing. Many do not. Some not only save their marriages, they also make their marriages even better. And, even better news than this is that your actions, behaviors, and strategies can have an impact on what happens now. It isn’t as if you don’t have any control over the outcome. You do. So be careful that you don’t give up before you’ve even had the chance to fight. I know first hand that this is a scary time, but try your best to think positively, knowing that this will give you the best chance of success and will make this easier to endure.
Try To Agree On The Particulars Before Anyone Moves Out: I know that it can be painful and awkward to talk about how often you will meet or check into one another beforehand. But this is almost always going to be the best call. One of the biggest issues of conflict once the separation has started is not meeting expectations. Often, one person will assume something while the other assumes another. When expectations or hopes aren’t met, people get hurt feelings or they assume the worst. This can all be avoided if you outline what will happen before someone moves out and before misunderstandings can begin. Try to agree on as much as you can so that you both know what to expect
Outline What You’ll Do To Improve The Situation. Vow To Be Proactive Rather Than Reactive: Many people just blindly hope that the time and distance works for them. In other words, they brace themselves and they hope for the best. I’m not going to tell you that this is an impossible strategy. Often, a separation does show both people that they have taken one another for granted and they often miss one another so much that they are motivated to get along much better.
But, the problem with this is that even though the motivation level goes up, sometimes nothing has been done to work through the issues that lead up to the separation to begin with. So, although that issue may not resurface in the reconciliation phase, it lays in wait until your relationship is under stress again. This brings about doubt and insecurity that can lead to more problems.
In short, if you can vow to work through your problems (and this can happen after the separation is over if this is easier for you,) then you will have much more confidence in your marriage. And, as a result, you will have a much less chance of this happening again.
Don’t Do Things You Will Later Regret. Remember That You Are Still Married: Sometimes when there is a lot of doubt as to what is going to happen with the future of your marriage, it can begin to feel like what you do today isn’t going to matter anyway. One of the biggest things that prevents a reconciliation is when one or both of the spouses engage in behavior during the separation that ends up jeopardizing their marriage. People will often act in such a way that they never would have considered when they weren’t separated. And in a sense this is understandable because you are vulnerable and under a great deal of stress. Therefore, it can feel quite good to let off some steam. Or, it can be tempting to go out for drinks with that cute coworker because it would boost your self esteem at a time when it is desperately needed.
However, I strongly feel that you should resist these temptations. You are still married and I can’t tell you how often I see marriages end because one or both spouses began dating others during the separation. Don’t do anything that would jeopardize your marriage and know that your spouse may find out things that you were sure would remain a secret.
Know That Building Yourself Up And Conducting Yourself With Dignity Is Only Going To Help Your Marriage In The Long Run: People often resist doing self work when they are separated. Understandably, all of their focus is on their spouse, on their marriage, and on what is wrong. But frankly, there is probably never a better time to work on yourself. First of all, you probably have more time to spare right now. Second, it will often make you feel productive and will provide some relief. Third, it will likely make you appear more attractive to your husband. I know that it’s easy to just sit at home and get down about your situation, but doing so doesn’t bring your husband closer to you. But, if he sees you making the best of things because you love and respect yourself enough to do that, then he is going to follow suit. You valuing yourself enough to do this makes you appear more valuable to others. And heightening your perceived value can be vital right now.