How Long Should A Separation Last?
Marriage experts discourage long periods of separation, why? It builds mistrust and communicates unwillingness from both parties to come back together. At the same time, they also advocate for a period where both parties give each other time to heal from past experiences and all issues that led to the marriage breakdown, put into a deep perspective from both parties. Taking a break to give your partner a chance to realize and admit some of the mistakes is fruitful in the marriage set up. In addition, if you need a change in character then you need to give each other time for self-evaluation and deep thinking for all parties to accommodate the new changes – a condition for coming back together. When both parties are committed to spending the rest of their days on earth as husband and wife; first, there should be 100 % commitment from all partners to prove their willingness for the marriage restoration. Imagine of 10 years of separation, a lot happens in one’s life, probably new friends, new relationships or even a change in lifestyle which might cause trouble once again in the marriage set up. With the help of a counselor and third parties, a maximum of a year is a good time for a healthy separation.
What are the indicators of a healthy separation?
• There is constant communication: Mature conversation without blame in a bid to solve the issues in marriage characterizes a healthy separation. It means all parties have the will and determination to come back together as soon as possible. In case you moved out of the home because of your partner’s behavior which you had earlier brought to their attention with no change then more reconciliation effort should come from him/her. A clear indication is now willing to make a complete change. It is not the time to judge but time to give him all the support. However, verbal utterances might be deceiving just to cover the guilt, look for other character traits to prove the willingness to have a complete transformation. Using the right skills without being emotional about the issues shortens the separation period.
• Commitment: You made the first step to think of the separation; of course, the other partner supported the idea. If you are the only person trying to make a comeback while your partner is comfortable with the arrangement it lengthens the separation time. Probably he/she needs more time to have a comprehensive self-evaluation to look at the issues from your perspective and feel the depth at which he/she hurts your feelings.
• Honor of agreement: You have to discuss the direction and roles each person plays during this separation period. Does your partner fulfill the promises? Do you also honor the agreement? Does he/she also go an extra mile as a proof of willingness to shorten the period? You may even agree on the period but to honor it, ensure you solve all the challenges to come up with a fresh beginning. The fact that both of you maintain their boundaries in line with the agreement during separation; it shortens the separation time. Take note, check for indicators for actions that just want to make you happy rather than have a permanent change. If it is just to boost your ego, you are bound to get back and within no time you are headed for a divorce.
• Honesty: Yes, you involve the third parties and marriage counselors. Ensure both of you honor the promises you make before them. You will understand this from your partner’s engagements. If your main reason for separation was infidelity, then from one’s effort you can you gauge his level of remorsefulness? Is one open enough to give you reasons for this and if possible engage the person to prove the end of the relationship? Honesty builds trust which gives you an opportunity to forgive one another. Of course, you will just need a short time to reflect and heal then continue with your happy married life without many hitches.
• Openness: In marriage, your actions may give a wrong signal to your partner. It is important for one to communicate one’s feelings to come to a compromise. When there is constant bruising of one’s emotional state it develops to resentment which further leads to separation. All parties must be open to each other at this time and let them know of the effect of their actions to the marriage. Before a marriage professional, choose a strategy ideal for a solution to the challenges with love and respect. There is no long or short time for a separation, it all depends on the willingness and commitment of all the parties. What matters, is that there progress in the marriage resolution process during the time of separation.
Most marriages do have ups and downs. Hopefully, by working this through together, you will come out stronger in time. The key word in that last sentence is “together”. I know you miss your kids. I know you want to be home. It’s honorable that you continue to pay the bills to support your children. But working this through means talking to her about how you feel, not simply “telling” her, as this implies you are not soliciting an engaged conversation. Working together is key in a partnership such as marriage. You and your wife need to figure out why it is that you have not been treating your wife as you should and why she thinks that she can’t ‘find herself’ within the marriage. You need to work together to regain the love and interest and attention that has somehow been lost along the way. Separation, physical or legal, doesn’t always lead to divorce. Sometimes separation can be a time of forgiveness and renewed commitment. Many couples separate in hopes of saving a marriage, and sometimes, that can work. After all, just getting distance from a painful, antagonistic situation can provide you with enough perspective to come back together weeks or months later and sort things out. We often view separation as a trial period that either ends in reconnection or divorce, but in some marriages, separation rather than divorce becomes a permanent way of life. For some, divorce holds nothing positive. It would erode their joint fortune and diminish the money available to their children. The separation will only help if you two work together to make significant and important changes. Some people can do that after a break of only a few days. And, in other cases, some people need a long time. It’s not the length of time that ensures success, but rather, it’s the quality of work you do. If you can’t do the work together on your own, please make sure to contact a couple’s therapist to help you learn how to communicate better and how to treat each other well and with respect.
In order to make a trial separation successful, a couple should agree to the following rules.
• Determine a time frame. : The break should have a specific time attached to it so it doesn’t just drag on without any conclusion. The time should ideally be between three and six months so a sense of urgency and sincerity is retained, especially where children are involved. The longer the separation continues, as people settle into their new routine, the harder it is to get back to the old life. Any separation that drags on will gradually turn into two new and separate lifestyles.
• Set clear boundaries. It’s important to know the rules of the separation — what is acceptable, what isn’t. Write these rules out and stick to them.
• Remain committed to couples therapy: There should be communication between the couple, with regular times to meet either with or without a counselor so that progress can be made toward reconciliation.
Communication can be difficult, as couples are likely to blame each other and recount past behavior rather than finding solutions to steer a better course together. There’s usually very little listening as a couple plays the blame game. However, separation can be a useful time to step back and try to understand the other person and their concerns. If the other person is doing the same, a better understanding of the underlying problems and how they can be sorted is likely to be reached with much less acrimony.
• Plan for financial obligations: There should be clear agreement about what happens to the finances during a separation, with equal sharing of resources and children adequately taken care of. Running two households is likely to be more expensive. How the finances will work should be agreed upon before the separation takes place so the person left with the children doesn’t bear the brunt of any financial burden that might ensue.
• Decide if you will remain intimate: Whether you will have sex and if you will spend time with one another is paramount. The couple should reach a clear agreement as to the amount and intensity of intimacy between them during the separation. It’s better not to engage in sexual interaction while separated, mainly because it tends to cloud the issues and will delay the conclusion, especially if one person is still getting what they want without having to sort out any issues.
• Have an end date: Trial separations are meant to be a time during which a couple works on figuring out whether to stay together or split for good. In order to keep your trial separation from morphing into a de facto divorce, you’ve got to put a limit on it. Most trial separations run for about six months. If you’re apart too much longer than that, your chances of ever getting back together diminish enormously.
• Figure out your living arrangements: Obviously, if you and your spouse decide to separate, someone is going to have to move out. You need to figure out who that will be. But, you also need to decide the rules surrounding your original home. Since both you and your spouse still own (or lease) the home together, the spouse who left may still feel like that’s his/her home, too.
• Decide how you will pay the bills while you’re apart: When you’re living apart, you’ve still got to pay all of the marital bills, plus the bills for a second apartment. If you don’t set rules about paying the bills from the beginning, your trial separation can turn into a full-blown divorce really quickly!
• Set your spending rules during the trial separation: Paying the bills isn’t the only financial issue you have to think about when you separate. It’s wise to set limits on your spending from the beginning, before you create long term financial problems.
• Talk about dating during the trial separation: Dating other people during your trial separation can make your struggling marriage totally flat line. On the other hand, since you and your spouse will be living separately for awhile, one of you may assume that dating others is part of your deal. That’s why you and your spouse have to talk about the rules surrounding dating others. What’s more, you must be on the same page about this. Either you both agree that dating other people is okay or you don’t date. (Obviously, you also need to honor your agreement, too.)
• What about sex? (… With each other and others) : Dating other people is one thing, but sex takes dating to a whole new level. Having sex with third parties affects your spouse’s health. It also dramatically increases the chances that one of you will form a more serious relationship outside of your marriage. Once that happens, putting your marriage back on track will be next to impossible.
• Set a schedule for when will each of you see the kids: Once you and your spouse separate, you can’t both be with your kids all the time anymore. You’re going to need a schedule for when each of you sees the kids. Look forward for the next six months (or whatever time you have agreed on to be separated). Talk about when you will each see the kids on a weekly basis. Talk, too, about how you will handle any holidays or vacations that come up while you are separated.
• Decide how you are going to parent your kids: Making a parenting schedule is only one small part of parenting your kids. You and your spouse need to agree on what you are going to tell your kids about your separation. You need to talk about how you will make decisions about your kids, and how you will handle the issues that always come up with kids. The more you can figure out in advance, the smoother this time will be for your kids.
• Set rules for how and how often you will communicate with each other: This may seem like a silly thing to waste your brain power on. But, if you think you’re separating so you can get some space to think, you may not want your spouse texting you 347 times a day! Or, you may be okay with texts, but you don’t want calls. Whatever you and your spouse decide is up to you. What’s important is that you decide something.
• Get professional help while you’re separated: You don’t need to go to couples counseling just because you and your spouse separated. But, if you want to dramatically increase the chances that your trial separation will end in reconciliation, you will. Also, you might want to talk about whether it’s okay to talk to a divorce lawyer or a financial planner during this time. You may think talking to a divorce professional at this point is wise. Your spouse may think it’s a sign that you have no faith in your marriage. There is no right and wrong decision. Again, you just need to make one.
• Decide what you will tell your friends and family: Unless you live thousands of miles from all of your friends and family, someone is going to notice that you and your spouse are no longer living together. If you tell an inquiring friend that you and your spouse are “just taking a breather,” and your spouse tells that friend that she is now “almost single,” you’re going to have a problem! (And, not just with your friend!) Take the time to write a short “elevator speech” that both you and your spouse can get on board with now. It will make answering questions later a whole lot easier.
• Decide in advance what will happen if someone breaks the rules You can have all the rules you want, but what are you going to do if you or your spouse breaks one? Does it matter which rule someone broke? Will you agree to talk about what happened before anyone does anything rash? Or, will breaking a rule be the last straw that ends your marriage? Again, there is no right or wrong answers. What matters is talking about the questions, preferably before you’re in crisis.
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