Let's face it:
It can be scary to think about what you'll break if you separate from your husband, whether it's the dishes or his heart.
You're not alone.
Separation can be an emotional and challenging process, but it doesn't have to be scary.
No matter what anyone says, this isn't a decision you should take lightly. Every marriage is different, which makes every separation unique.
Taking the time to home in on what you truly want and need is a gift not only to yourself but to your future ex-partner and everyone around you.
Ending your marriage is a big decision, but it's not the end of the world.
You're still going to be you, with or without your husband. Having a trusted friend or family member with you should help you weather this storm.
During separation, the most important thing is that you are in control of your own life and what happens from here on out.
You don't have to do anything you're not comfortable with, and you should never feel guilty for making the decision that's best for you and your family.
Separation doesn't have to be scary, especially if you know what steps to take next.
It's okay not to make a decision right away.
Take some time for yourself and focus on your sanity before figuring out the best course of action for everyone involved in the separation process.
No matter how much you want this divorce now, there's no need to rush into anything.
Don't be reluctant to seek assistance if you're feeling perplexed or unsure about what to do next.
A professional can help guide you through the process and give you some much-needed peace of mind during this difficult time.
Don't be scared to ask for help—that's what they're there for.
In this article, we will break down the basics of what you need to know about separation.
We'll also touch on some things you should avoid during this time. Keep in mind that these are just general tips and that every situation is unique.
Ready? Let's get started.
Most Common Reasons for Divorce
Getting married is always a cause for celebration, but not all marriages last.
Roughly half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce.
Most divorces occur within seven years of marriage, but some reasons cause people to get divorced after being married for much longer.
To make it clear:
There's no one reason why marriages end. The most common answer to "why did you get divorced" is "because we grew apart."
That's a pretty vague response, and it covers a lot of different reasons.
Even things that, at first glance, appear to be cut and dried are always a bit more complex.
For instance, if someone enters into an extramarital affair, is that the only reason they got divorced?
It might be the chief catalyst for the divorce but not the only reason.
It might seem like a lot to take in if you were cheated on, but an affair is usually just a symptom of deeper problems in the marriage.
People don't get divorced because of one reason.
It's usually a collection of smaller problems that lead to the end, and it can be hard to figure out what those reasons are if you're not in the middle of it all.
There has been a substantial number of studies to look into the reasons for divorce.
We collated the nine of the most common reasons below with a bit of help from some professionals.
1. Married too young
A study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) on 52 divorced individuals found that 45.1% of individuals and 61.1% of couples surveyed identified marrying too young as a reason for their divorce.1
There is no one set time to marry.
Many couples marry early on in their twenties, but many people can attest that couples who marry young have a higher chance of divorce.
This is not to say that every person or couple will experience problems if they do so—but it's something for you and your partner to consider before tying the knot at an early age.
The dominant mechanism behind the increased chance of divorce is that early marriages lack the experience and maturity to navigate challenging life situations.
Young couples are still learning about themselves, so it's harder for them to maintain a healthy relationship when things get tough.
2. A lack of commitment
A lack of commitment is the most common reason given by former couples for their divorce.
In one study reviewed by DivorceNet, this reason was reported by 85% of divorced participants—more than any other reason.2
That's pretty eye-opening, and it makes perfect sense: commitment is a massive part of what keeps people together in long-term relationships.
But what does "a lack of commitment" even mean? It's not as simple as it sounds.
You can't look at this in a vacuum, especially because commitment comes in many forms.
The man might feel like he has to provide for his family and doesn't feel that he can give up whatever is necessary (or vice versa).
Or perhaps one spouse wants children, and the other doesn't. There are endless possibilities for what might constitute a lack of commitment in a marriage.
If you feel like your spouse isn't as committed to the marriage as you are, it's time to have a serious conversation about where things stand.
It might be that this is only a minor issue and can be worked through, or it might be a sign that things are headed downhill.
3. Growing apart
"Irreconcilable differences" might be a cliche at this point, but it's still a valid reason for divorce.
This generally means that the couple has grown apart and no longer shares the same interests or outlook on life.
It could be that one person is more interested in staying home and taking care of the kids while the other wants to focus on their career.
Maybe one spouse wants children while the other doesn't.
There are a million different reasons why couples might grow apart, and it's one of the most common reasons for divorce.
Among the studies reviewed by DivorceNet, "growing apart" as a reason for divorce was a common refrain—with one study revealing that up to 55% of divorced participants cited it as their reason for splitting up.3
It's hard to pin down precisely what "growing apart" means, but the takeaway is that the two people in a relationship need to be on the same page.
If they aren't, it's time to reevaluate their future together and whether or not this marriage makes sense for both of them anymore.
Some examples of things that can lead to couples growing apart are:
- They have very different value systems.
- Getting married at a very young age increases the chances of growing apart as you develop into different people.
- Having sexual difficulties can lead to a lack of intimacy and connection.
- Having religious differences which can create tension and breed resentment over time.
- Political differences.
Although many couples thrive on differences, most successful marriages have shared interests, values, and priorities.
Your relationship might be an outlier, but, more likely, these differences are a sign that the two of you might not be compatible long-term.
If you notice that you and your spouse have increasingly less in common, it's worth exploring why that is.
It could be a harbinger of things to come if the two of you don't address it head-on.
4. A lack of physical intimacy
This reason ties in with the previous two: a lack of commitment and growing apart.
Sometimes, these issues can be intertwined, and it's hard to differentiate where one begins and the other ends.
While this might seem like an apparent reason for divorce or separation (especially with our culture's emphasis on sex), more profound issues are likely at play.
If physical intimacy is waning in your marriage, it's a sign that something else might be wrong as well.
Couples who are physically intimate generally also have an emotional connection and level of trust.
If that's not there, it's hard to see how the relationship could survive long-term.
A study conducted by Newsweek showed that 15 to 20% of couples are in a sexless relationship.4
Even younger couples (below 50 years) are having less sex:
10% of the participants in the Newsweek study reported not having had sex with their partner in the last year; just 20% of couples under 40 years say that they have sex at least once a month.
Of course, it's natural for sex to become less important as time passes. That doesn't mean that it's okay for there to be a complete and utter lack of physical intimacy, though.
Even if the stresses of everyday life—especially with COVID-19 in the backdrop—make it hard for you and your partner to find the energy to have sex, it's essential to make time for physical intimacy.
There are other methods to be close with your partner. You may demonstrate love by performing little acts like daily kisses on the cheek, hugs, and handholding, as well as back rubs and foot rubs.
It just takes a bit more effort to find and cultivate.
Healthy marriages require tending to, asking about the sort of day they had, if something is worrying them, if there are any niggling aches and pains that need addressing, or if they want someone to lend an ear and listen to them.
Couples who are in tune with one another tend to fare better than those who are not.
If you feel like your spouse is growing further away, it might be time to reach out for professional help.
Intimacy counseling may help you to rebuild the bond between you.
Even if these things are not the cause of your separation, they can be complex issues to work through during a trial separation or divorce proceedings.
If your partner is withholding sex from you, they must not use it as a weapon against you to try and gain the upper hand.
5. Poor communication
If you've ever been in a fight with your spouse, then you know how important communication is for a relationship to work.
When couples stop talking to each other, resentment builds, and things quickly fall apart.
Communication issues can also be viewed as the underlying issue behind many other reasons for separation listed here.
Arguing with your spouse is common in every relationship.
Certain things will get under your spouse's skin, and there are certain subjects you'll never agree on either.
The key to good communication is finding ways to work through these differences without letting them tear the marriage apart.
Talking about it doesn't have to be an argument; tell each other how you're feeling and what you need from the other person.
If your spouse can't or won't meet your needs, then it might be time to reconsider the marriage.
If you're having trouble communicating with your spouse, it could lead to unresolved disagreements that fester over time.
We all have our ways of communicating.
It's decisive that we articulate what we are feeling and put it across so that the other person can understand.
It takes two willing partners to work together on establishing good communication between each other.
If they're not doing their part, it can signify that things are headed downhill.
You don't have to be an excellent communicator to be a good partner, but you do need to be open-minded enough to listen to your spouse and understand where they're coming from.
Going to couple's therapy might be an excellent way to learn to work together better.
Extramarital offers get the most attention when it comes to infidelity, but affairs are only one way of breaking the commitment you made when you married.
A significant chunk of divorced people considers an affair as just the last straw after many other marital problems. It can be viewed as more of a symptom than the actual problem.
DivorceNet's review found that the effects of infidelity on marriages are polarizing.
One of the studies reviewed featured just 20% of divorced respondents citing infidelity as the reason for their break-up. In another study, 60% of divorced people mentioned it as the ultimate reason for their break-up.6
This wide range of results likely has to do with different interpretations of what constitutes "infidelity."
To some, it might be just physical cheating, while others include emotional affairs or even "emotional cheating."
We all know that infidelity happens, but the frequency with which it occurs varies from study to study.
It's important to note that just because a marriage ends in divorce doesn't mean an affair was necessarily involved.
This broad selection might indicate that at least some divorcees consider an affair to be the final straw in a long line of other marital issues that preceded it.
Those other issues might be why someone goes outside of a marriage for intimacy, excitement, or even just a different take on life.
7. Financial disagreements
Around 40% of divorces in the US are due to financial disagreements, according to NCBI7 - especially those caused by complaints about how the other spouse handled money - were one of the significant reasons marriages ended.
Financial problems and associated disputes can be seen as a type of "financial incompatibility," where differences in priorities and values around finances cause severe issues within a marriage.
A few tell-tale signs that you and your spouse might not be financially compatible:
- One of you doesn't disclose or even lies about purchases, investments, or withdrawals from savings accounts
- One of you does not consult the other before making significant purchases or taking financial steps that will impact your shared finances.
- You can't have a normal conversation about your money without someone getting angry
- The two of you can't agree on joint goals for saving and spending money (like budgeting)
Financial disagreements generally crop up more often among couples with lower incomes, but that doesn't mean that those with higher incomes are immune to them.
Any couple can experience money-related disagreements if they're not mindful of their spending and saving habits.
And, of course, the stress of financial disagreements only increases during a divorce proceeding.
It's important to remember that just because you and your spouse disagree on handling money, that doesn't mean you can't be successful as a team.
You need to figure out what works for both of you—whether it's saving or spending first—and make sure your financial habits are transparent with each other.
Recommended reading: How To Avoid Divorce: 20 Ways To Save A Struggling Marriage
8. Substance abuse
Between 35% and 50% of participants in the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) studies said they divorced because of their spouse's substance use disorder.8
There are many indicators that your spouse has a substance use disorder, including:
- altered sleep, food, and hygiene patterns
- secretive behavior
- difficulties with attention and memory
- paranoia or other personality changes
- volatile emotions
- neglecting career or family obligations;
- abandoning old friends and activities
- needing quick cash all of a sudden
A substance issue can be especially tough on your marriage because it can lead to trust issues, resentment, and even violence.
If you're struggling with whether or not to leave your spouse due to their substance abuse, know that you're not alone.
Many resources are available to help you through this challenging time, including rehab programs, therapy, and support groups.
9. Domestic violence
Roughly 25% of the participants surveyed in the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) studies reported domestic violence as an important factor in their decision to get a divorce.9
Domestic violence is any form of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse between spouses or partners. It can include:
- hitting, slapping, punching, choking
- forcing someone into sex or sexual activities
- exposing someone to public humiliation
- destroying property
The impact of domestic violence appears to be more severe for older women.
A study focused on older divorced couples revealed that more than 30% of participants cited verbal, emotional, or physical abuse as one of the three main reasons for their divorce.
Women, in particular, are more likely to be affected by domestic violence than men.
They're more likely to experience physical and sexual abuse, and they're also more likely to suffer from emotional abuse, like intimidation, threats, and isolation.
42% of women identified domestic violence as a core reason for their divorce, compared to just 12% of men.
Leaving a violent relationship can be very difficult, but it's important to remember that you're not alone.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please know that you are not to blame.
There is help available—please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788 for more information on what steps to take next. Visit their website here.
Types of Marriage Separation
A separation is not the same thing as a divorce—although the court can sometimes grant a judgment of separation.
At its core, separation means that the couple is living apart.
However, both spouses are still legally married during this time until a final judgment of divorce has been issued by the court.
During your separation, you maintain all legal rights and responsibilities for yourself unless otherwise stated in an order or agreement between you and your spouse—including financial obligations to each other that existed while you were married.
When you file for a divorce, you can ask the court to issue a "temporary order" limiting your spouse's activities, such as selling assets or withdrawing funds from joint accounts.
If there are children involved during the divorce proceedings, both parents must have custody agreements in place that state when and where the children will be spending time with each other.
If you consider separating from your spouse, you have three options: trial, permanent, and legal separations.
Only legal separation changes your legal status in most states, but make no mistake about it: all three have the potential to affect your legal rights.
That's why it's so important to understand their differences before making any decisions.
Let's look into all three options in a little more detail:
1. Trial separation
A trial separation is when you and your spouse live apart but don't file for an official separation or divorce.
Because this option doesn't legally change your marital status, neither of you will be able to take advantage of the protections afforded by legal marriage while living under these conditions.
A trial separation can be a good way to test the waters before making big decisions about your relationship.
If you and your spouse are considering ending things, both of you must have an opportunity to separate from one another to figure out what works best for each other.
Legally speaking, you are still married, and all of your obligations remain in place until a court issues an order that states otherwise.
Any money you earn or property you purchase during this time is considered to be owned by both of you, and the same goes for any debts or financial obligations—subject, of course, to your state's specific property laws.
If you and your spouse believe that reconciliation is still in the books for your marriage, a trial separation can be good to figure out if you're both still on board with the idea.
Drafting an informal agreement at the outset of your trial separation can be a helpful way to outline the rules of your separation.
Some of the most important things you should address in your agreement include:
- Who will stay in the family home?
- How will you budget your spending?
- What expenses will each of you be responsible for?
- How and when will you share custody of any children, if applicable?
2. Permanent separation
Permanent separation occurs when you and your spouse move apart, intent on not living together again. In such a case, the law will generally treat you as if you are already divorced.
While individual states will vary in the specifics, a permanent separation usually means that any assets or debts acquired after the permanent separation will belong solely to the spouse who receives them. Each spouse becomes responsible for their own debts.
Any income or property acquired by either spouse during a permanent separation is generally considered separate property.
Permanent separations can have serious implications for both spouses' legal rights, so it's essential to understand what you're getting into before making this kind of decision.
If you and your spouse are unsure whether reconciliation is still an option, consider a permanent separation.
The date of permanent separation is often a point of serious dispute for couples, as the change in rights and responsibilities can be huge.
For example, if your spouse vanished in a huff but didn't talk about divorce until the month was up, it's hard to say which date should be considered the formal separation.
This could complicate matters if, for instance, you received a work bonus somewhere in that timeframe.
If the timeline is fuzzy, you could be in for a serious legal battle over who gets to keep it.
Moving out of your shared home is generally considered a pretty clear-cut indicator that you are permanently separating, but other circumstances may be less straightforward.
If you believe a permanent separation is the right choice for you, be very clear about whether reconciling is an option or not.
If you believe reconciling is not an option, be very clear about the date of permanent separation.
If you're dead-set on a permanent separation, resist spending time with your spouse during that window. Any reconciliation, however brief, risks resetting the date of permanent separation and could have severe consequences down the road.
For those who are still on the fence about a permanent separation, try to take some time for yourself before making any decisions.
Moving out of your shared home is a big step, and it's essential to make sure that you're doing it for the right reasons.
Once both of you are clear about the timeline of your separation and you're sure that a permanent separation is the best option, it's time to figure out how to move forward.
Drafting an informal agreement at the outset of your trial separation can be a helpful way to outline the rules of your separation.
Remember that, once you commit to a permanent separation, you will likely have to iron out simple agreements with your spouse regarding issues like who gets to keep which assets and debts.
Although some states mandate that a permanent separation is necessary before a court can finalize your divorce, it's unnecessary to divorce immediately after a permanent separation.
You might choose to remain married to retain insurance benefits or for the sake of your children.
There are various reasons why couples might decide to stay together after a permanent separation. However, it's important to be honest with yourselves about whether or not you think reconciliation is still possible.
But if divorcing your spouse as soon as possible is your goal, make sure you understand the legal process and what to expect.
3. Legal separation
Legal separation is generally viewed as a viable alternative to divorce. Some reasons why this is the case are:
- Religious beliefs
- Keeping your family together
- A visceral aversion to divorce even though you're clear about wanting to separate
- To retain one spouse's insurance benefits
Some states allow couples to legally separate by filing a petition in family court. This isn't the same as being divorced; you're neither married nor divorced, so you can't marry someone else.
A judge who accepts a request for legal separation will issue an order with information related to alimony, property division, and child custody.
Suppose you divorce after a legal separation order is issued, you can elect to use some or all of the terms in a marital settlement agreement.
This would mean that there wouldn't be any need for a full-blown trial, and you could potentially avoid some of the animosity that often accompanies a contested divorce.
One final note: if you prefer a legal separation over a divorce due to insurance benefits, check with your insurance company to make sure that a legal separation is the same as a divorce for their purposes.
Marriage Separation Advice
So you've decided: you're going to separate from your spouse. This doesn't necessarily have to mean you'll have to divorce, as we mentioned above.
Some couples decide to take some time apart to gain clarity and perspective about their relationship.
Whatever you choose to do, you must approach the separation carefully and with your best interests at heart.
We prepared nine things to consider before committing to a separation:
1. Be mindful about courtesy
Separating is messy enough on its own—don't exacerbate the situation by being rude.
Deciding to separate should help you scale back potentially explosive interactions with your spouse, but that doesn't mean you should treat them as enemies.
Not only will this make things difficult for you emotionally, but it can also lead to legal complications down the road.
An email or text here and there to say "I'll pick up the kids on Friday" isn't going to make a big difference in the relationship dynamic.
But if you start ignoring phone calls from your co-parent entirely, not only is this rude—you run the risk of being accused of parental alienation.
If you're still living together, it's best to limit contact with your spouse as much as possible; this includes emailing or calling them any time that either of you is upset about something (even if the other person did something wrong).
Be courteous in everything you do and say during a separation—it will make the process easier for everyone. A few things you can work on during this time are:
- Being on time for pickups and drop-offs
- Make sure you have all of the requested documents ready when asked
- Answering emails, text messages, and phone calls promptly
- Don't badmouth your co-parent - particularly on social media
- Don't withhold information or try to manipulate the co-parenting situation
- Be reasonable and show that you can be trusted
The importance of maintaining a positive relationship with your co-parent can't be overstated.
This becomes even more important if you have children together and will continue to co-parent after the separation.
If you cannot communicate effectively or seem like you can't be trusted, your spouse will likely start seeking legal representation.
Judges tend to view cases with a critical eye when one or both parties have been hostile to each other.
Your spouse might be a total scumbag as far as you're concerned, but letting go of that animosity at the wrong time could cost you.
Legal separations can take far longer than people expect, and you must be able to work with your soon-to-be ex-spouse without hostility.
2. Don't move out immediately
Moving out prematurely is a bad idea for several reasons.
If you've filed for divorce and there's not yet a legal separation order in place, moving out will only make it look like you were the one who wanted to separate all along.
This can be used as evidence against your case later on if custody becomes an issue—even if this isn't true!
Of course, domestic violence victims will likely need to move out of the home for their safety, but this is an exception.
If you're not in a dangerous situation, it's best to stay put and work amicably with your spouse until things are finalized.
You also risk losing important belongings if you move out without a legal separation in place.
Remember that judges are, above all, humans—with a massive backlog of cases and a limited capacity to remember every little detail of your ordeal.
3. Give each other lots of time
Hostility between spouses during separation is not uncommon. You might find yourself feeling hopeless or angry after the initial shock of your marriage ending wears off - and it can often be tempting to vent these feelings to the world.
While catharsis can feel good in the short term, it's important to remember the human person on the other side of the table, however terrible they may seem to you right now.
Your spouse is going through a tough time too, and resorting to name-calling or threats will only make things worse.
Try to remember that the person you're married to is still that same person, no matter how much you might hate them right now.
Both of you will need time to process your feelings and work through them in your own way.
Not everyone works through such heavy emotions the same way, and you might find yourself in a better headspace after several months apart.
Give each other lots of time to process whatever feelings come up for both of you during this difficult period—and don't be shy about asking for help if you need it!
Remember that no one is perfect, but your marriage doesn't have to end in disaster.
4. Stay away from big changes
When separating, it's best not to make any significant changes in your life.
This means no moving out, quitting your job, or selling your house. Making sudden changes can look bad to a judge and could lead to you losing out on important assets down the road.
Of course, there will be times when significant changes must be made—for example, escaping an abusive relationship.
But if you can avoid making big changes for as long as possible, it's likely to make your life much easier down the road.
Don't think that separating erases your traditional responsibilities. Continue to pay your previously agreed-upon share of the bills until you and your spouse have resolved how expenses will be handled in the future.
If possible, don't make any major life decisions (like buying a convertible or moving out) without discussing them with your spouse first.
If you have kids, try to keep their lives as stable and consistent as possible. If you can maintain cordial relations with your spouse, staying in and working your separation out is usually the best move.
5. Open up paths toward amicability
While it's understandable that you might not want to be friends with your spouse right now, try to open up some paths toward amicability.
If you can talk civilly and work together on shared goals (like getting the kids to soccer practice on time), it will make life much easier down the road.
If hostility continues, it will only lead to more bitterness and fighting down the road.
If you're finding it hard to be civil, try seeking out counseling or mediation to help you get on the same page.
Both of you must have a way to communicate without resorting to hostility or name-calling.
When separating, getting along with your spouse is crucial to a smooth process.
If you can't seem to get along, try seeking out professional help so that you can start communicating effectively again.
Doing this will save you a lot of time and heartache down the road.
6. Select a top-notch mediator or lawyer to arbitrate
If you can't agree on anything, having just one mediator or arbitrator might be enough for your needs—and if you're feeling overwhelmed with options, hiring a single professional may help simplify the process and give both of you an ally in negotiations.
When separating, try to remain civil and work together on shared goals whenever possible.
If hostility continues, seek professional help to get on the same page. Doing this will save you time and heartache in the long run.
When looking for a lawyer or mediator, you should ask the people in your life for recommendations.
Try to identify someone who seems trustworthy and compatible with your needs.
You should figure out what they liked about certain lawyers or mediators, as well as what they didn't like, since this may help you decide whether or not the other person's objectives were similar to yours and if the recommendation would be appropriate for your situation.
Different kinds of people gravitate to different types of lawyers or mediators. Some attorneys are more interested in the debate than negotiation, so if you're looking for a peacemaker to help guide your negotiations, you will do well to scope out potential candidates who enjoy mediation and peacemaking.
Lawyers with more of a diplomatic bent will be better able to help you avoid conflict down the road.
Of course, sometimes you want or need a more aggressive lawyer who enjoys litigation.
Remember that choosing the right professional for you is essential, but it's also crucial to be honest about what you want and need from them to best help you reach your goals.
7. Visit a counselor or doctor
The tangible, day-to-day experience of going through a separation is leagues removed from the abstract concept in your head:
It can help to talk about the experience with an objective third party who has no vested interest in either of you.
As a society, separations are commonly viewed mainly through a legal framework. However, many other issues arise during and after a separation that a lawyer cannot help with because they are not legal issues.
These can be emotional or financial problems, child-related issues, or struggles with self-identity.
Even for those whose divorces are relatively amicable, counseling can be helpful to work through the emotions that come up during and after a separation.
Remember that any issues that emerge from the process aren't automatically resolved once your separation is finalized.
Seeing a counselor, doctor, or any mental health professional can do wonders to help you work through these issues.
Don't let the drive to be legally divorced overshadow your desire for peace after a separation.
Seek out professional guidance and assistance if necessary.
But do not allow yourself to lose sight of what's most important:
Keep both health and sanity intact throughout this challenging time in your life.
8. Don't jump into a new relationship
Closing the chapter on your marriage can feel exhilarating, but be careful not to jump into another relationship prematurely.
This is a more practical concern than a moral one. In most situations, a new boyfriend or girlfriend on the scene is exceptionally harmful to the Separation Agreement negotiation process.
Regardless of who broke up with whom, the "replaced" partner may experience surprisingly strong feelings.
Disregarding these feelings can harm or delay the separation process ultimately.
Naturally, it's up to you whether you want to wait until the Separation Agreement is finalized before you start dating again.
Still, it can be a lot easier for both of you if there's no romantic relationship complicating things.
9. Be honest with anyone else involved
While you and your spouse will naturally be the most affected by your separation, please remember that it could have a significant impact on any children you share.
If kids are involved, consider getting a family therapist to help the whole family work through their feelings and reactions.
This allows them to process what's going on in a safe environment with support from others who understand exactly how they're feeling.
We understand the temptation to speak your truth and badmouth your soon-to-be-ex to anyone who will listen, but try your best not to involve others in your business.
This includes friends, family members, and even social media.
Not only is it unprofessional and tacky, but it could also come back to haunt you later on if you choose to pursue divorce proceedings.
Close family members and common friends of the couple are often caught in the middle and might not know how to react or what to do.
It's best if you can be as communicative as possible with everyone involved so that no one feels like they're walking on eggshells around you.
Breaking up is hard enough—let alone doing it while trying to adhere to some semblance of decorum while you’re trying to get back to normalcy.
But it's important to remember that separation is still a break-up and should be treated as such.
What if you wish to separate from your spouse but are unsure if you want a divorce? If this is the case, a healing separation may be a good option for you.
A healing separation can be a good choice for such couples.
During a healing separation, both spouses work toward individual healing and growth while evaluating and changing dysfunctional patterns and behaviors in their marriage.
The structure establishes norms and boundaries that allow the pair to develop a relationship that works for them, preventing their marriage from dissolving completely.
At its core, a healing separation—sometimes called a therapeutic or trial separation—is an informal agreement between two spouses to live apart while they work on their relationship.
Unlike a legal separation, there is no court involved, and the two spouses are still considered married.
A healing separation can be an excellent way for couples to take some time away from each other without completely dissolving their marriage.
It allows them to explore their options and figure out what they want without feeling the pressure of a divorce.
If you and your spouse decide to enter into a healing separation, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Both spouses should be on board with the idea of separating and working toward healing. If only one person wants to try this, it's likely not going to work.
- Establishing guidelines for behavior and communication is crucial. This includes maintaining civil communication, and no overnight stays with the opposite sex, etc.
- If you're thinking about soliciting legal advice, disclose this to your spouse immediately. Trying to work things out without a lawyer can be difficult, but it's not impossible.
- Agree on living arrangements. How will you handle this if you're living in the same house? Will one spouse move out?
- If you have children, be sure to create a parenting plan. This should include things like decision-making authority, custody, and visitation schedules.
- A healing separation is not a guarantee of saving your marriage. It can, however, provide some breathing room and help you figure out what your next steps should be.
I'm not going to sugarcoat it:
Trying to piece together a broken relationship can be a near-Sisyphean task.
The statistics will not be on your side:
A study on separations and divorces in the United States puts the divorce rate at 87% for couples who separate.
This is similar to the figure obtained by researchers from the American Sociological Association, who found that 80% of separated couples divorced within the next three years.
Just because you both want to make it work doesn't mean you will. If, after some time apart, each spouse is still not feeling any better about the relationship, then it's probably best to call it quits for good.
Coping with Separation
Even after all the divorce papers are finalized, you still have to deal with the unforgettable pain of the separation.
You might understand that you did the right thing, but that doesn't mean the hurt will disappear.
Divorce represents the severing of marriage and the loss of a shared life.
You might have to start over from scratch and rebuild your identity as an individual.
There will be good days and bad days - many of them at once can feel overwhelming.
It's normal to feel a range of emotions after a separation: confusion, anger, sadness, betrayal, and emptiness are just some examples.
You might also experience physical symptoms like headaches, stomach problems, or insomnia.
It's okay to feel sad or angry. You have every right to mourn the loss of your marriage and the life you imagined for yourself and your spouse.
The first few weeks and months after a break-up can be difficult, but it can also be an opportunity to find yourself again.
Here are some things to keep in mind while you give yourself time to process your grief:
- You don't have to rush into another relationship or make any major life changes right away. It might feel good in the short term, but it will only be a quick fix that doesn't address your root feelings of loss.
- Take care of yourself by eating well and getting enough sleep. You are not being selfish if you put your needs first.
- Talk to friends and family about how you're feeling. They will want to help, even if they can't fully understand what you're going through. Don't keep your feelings bottled up—it will only make them worse.
- Remember that relationships can heal after separation or divorce. You might not stay together as husband and wife, but this doesn't have to mean the end of your relationship.
- Write about how you're feeling: put all of your feelings on paper in the form of letters that will never be sent. This can be an effective way to work through your thoughts and emotions.
- the essential thing is to be gentle with yourself and give yourself time to heal. Don't try to do it all at once, and don't beat
- Seek professional help if the pain is proving too difficult to cope with on your own. A therapist can provide support and guidance as you work through your separation.
We've mentioned this several times, but it bears repeating: there is no right or wrong way to process the pain of separation, but these tips might help make the situation a little easier to handle.
Don't be afraid or ashamed of the feelings you are having. At some point, they will subside, and you will feel more and more like yourself.
That musty adage of time healing all wounds might be a cliche, but it's still true.
You might feel a little lost at first, which is entirely understandable.
You have been with someone you love for a long time—it can be scary to think about starting over on your own.
But remember: this isn't the end of your life. It might not even mean the end to things between you and your spouse.
You have the opportunity to rebuild and create something new, something that is reflective of who you are as an individual.
So don't worry about what you'll break: take some time for yourself, talk to your friends and family, and seek professional help if needed.
The pain of separation will lessen over time, and you will be able to move on with your life.
We hope that this guide was helpful and that you feel a little better equipped to handle what lies ahead.