Marital separation (living in different homes), can be a good opportunity for rebuilding your relationship. It can also result in ending your relationship if not done in a good way.
When you are separated, you are likely to be overly focused on ending the separation. This is natural because you miss your spouse and just want to be together again. However, you need to have the right timing and boundaries if you want to prevent another marital separation. Doing it right the first time gives you a much greater chance to save your marriage–even if it means the separation takes a little longer.
Marital separations can be marriage savers
Many people are afraid to separate, for fear that they won’t get back together. What they often fail to consider is what will happen if they don’t separate and just keep going the way they are. Both therapists and relationship coaches encourage separations when continuing to live together would just result in more damage. Being “separated” while still living together is never a good choice since it results in accelerated relationship deterioration.
Marital separations can help people to emotionally reconnect
The most important way separations help is by decreasing the amount of negative or neutral time that a couple spends together. When neutral or negative time together far outweighs positive time together, the relationship stalls and love fades. Because you are not living together when you are separated, it is easier to make most of the time together positive and to get the emotional connection growing again.
A healthy marital separation
Separations that are most helpful for reconciling combine good connections skills, limited time together, and appropriate separation boundaries. The boundaries make sure that your spouse does not end up getting everything that he or she could want while still being separated. Otherwise, your spouse will quite honestly say that being separated is better than living together again. He or she will have the best of both worlds–having a part-time marriage while being able to live a single lifestyle the rest of the time.
Here are some do’s and don’ts that will help you to avoid the common pitfalls that can prevent reconciling:
Don’t: Failing to separate (live in different homes), when marital separation is indicated
People often avoid separating while continuing to withdraw from each other or have a lot of conflict. All of their time together becomes negative and the relationship is headed for divorce. Not separating in this situation prevents a big risk of affairs and divorce. If your reasons not to separate are practical, read this post on persuading your spouse not to separate, for practical reasons.
Do: Separate when attempts to make your relationship better are not working
Separating early, while people still have love for each other promotes the rebuilding of a healthy relationship. Self control and relationship building behavior is easier when there is less contact.
Don’t: Having no boundaries while separated
Having sex together, going on vacations together, dating other people, and failing to make visitation and financial agreements give the relationship a temporary feel that makes partners feel very secure to maintain the separation indefinitely.
Do: Be friendly while still having good boundaries
There is no need for conflict or negative relationship discussions if you have good boundaries. Your boundaries will do the work of preventing your spouse from getting whatever he or she wants. This leaves you free to work on reconnecting with your spouse through the use of good connection skills.
Don’t: Ending your marital separation too soon
If you end your separation before your relationship is rebuilt, it will stop growing at the point you moved in together again. A second, and often final, separation will follow.
Do: Rebuild your relationship before living together again
Just as when you first marry, you want to be sure that trust, love, and commitment are all in place before you marry. All three of these are necessary for the relationship to work. Just living together will not create any of these. They are best created while still separated.
Don’t: Separating and having no contact
Just giving space does not build a relationship. In a bad relationship, your spouse will feel relieved with space rather than start to miss you.
Do: Help your spouse to enjoy contact with you
If you limit the contact, but help your spouse to enjoy the contact you do have, your relationship will start to build again. The contact can be gradually increased as your spouse enjoys being with you more. At first, it may be no more than a few minutes at a time.
Don’t: Having the wrong expectations about marital separation
If you expect your relationship to build quickly, you will become impatient, frustrated, and otherwise needy–sabotaging your hopes of reconciling.
Do: Have the right steps and expectations
Like building a new relationship, separations takes months. They start off slow and important steps can’t be skipped. For example, you can’t start talking to your spouse about reconciling before he or she has even fallen in love with you again. This would be like going out on a date as a single person and asking your date to marry you before falling in love with you. In both instances, you will get rejection and make it harder to reconcile.
Two main skills needed for promoting reconciling while separated
As you can see from the do’s and don’ts, you need to have the connection skills that help your spouse to enjoy talking with you again. You also need to have the correct boundaries and implement them in a way that does not make your spouse feel secure to just remain separate indefinitely. Horror stories you hear about separation mainly stem from the poor use of these skills. Marital separation, done well, does not signal the end of a relationship. In fact, it may be the only way to save your relationship and far less risky than just living together and continuing to damage your relationship.
Learn to connect, be attractive, and use good boundaries
Whether you are living together or separated, these are going to be the required skills to rebuild and maintain your relationship. You can learn some of these skills from my books or even more by opting for the Re-Connections Coaching Package. Choose the level of help that will best help you to get what you want from your relationship.