Article inspired by Dr. Lee Baucom, PhD., author of Save The Marriage
Can a Marriage Be Saved After Separation?
The simple answer to this question is yes, it is indeed possible to resurrect a marriage after a period of separation. However, this is merely a possibility and you should consider it only if there are no other options. A separation will not necessarily save a troubled marriage. So, how can a marriage be saved after separation?
Research shows that at least half of couples who separate do not manage to get their marriages back on track – they end in divorce. Ironically, this percentage is in line with that of the general population whose marriages end in divorce.
According to marriage expert and counselor, Dr. Lee H. Baucom, creator of the “Save the Marriage” system, separations tend to be merely “dress rehearsals for divorce”. Separations are not a “cure-all” and should be seen as a last resort, rather than a starting point, he says.
He advocates that marriage problems should be dealt with by the two people involved. Separating themselves from each other could well bring relief from the unpleasantness of their battle; however, it is not necessarily going to result in any constructive change taking place. If you jump out of a too-hot bath, you will feel relieved at having escaped the heat but it doesn’t change the temperature of the water.
The Outcomes of a Separation
More often than not, a separation has one of two outcomes:
1. It gives both parties the opportunity to escape from the tension of their prevailing situation – but without any change or resolution.
2. It allows one party to initiate the process of distancing from the other. In other words, it’s a step taken towards divorce.
Guidelines for Using Separation to Save a Marriage
A separation can be the starting point for healing a marriage but only if you use it appropriately. Here are some guidelines if you’re considering separation as a way to save your marriage:
1. If you’re considering separate addresses for yourself and your spouse, let this be your last option. If you are able to live separately within the home, that could be a better starting point. It can provide the necessary distance to relieve the anxiety and hurts of a troubled relationship.
2. Before you separate, make clear decisions on how you will remain connected.
Some people might advise you to have NO connection during the separation. However, if there are children involved, this would be impossible. Secondly, it would result in each party building his or her own individual life, setting the stage for divorce.
The Real Problem In the Marriage
The underlying problem in your relationship is the disconnection. Additional disconnection does nothing to cure that but usually intensifies the existing disconnection.
3. Arrange to meet regularly to deal with the practical issues that come along with a “united” life, such as finances, agendas etc. Being able to touch base regularly to address such issues will ease the tension for both parties.
4. Schedule specific times to just be together – without talking about your problems or the relationship. It’s just a chance to spend time together in a different place and in a lighter frame of mind.
Set up a regular coffee break, lunch date, walk in the park or something else where you can be together with little expectation. This can begin to heal the disconnect that most likely led to your marital problems in the first place.
5. Make a self-commitment to improve yourself and how you intend to do it.
Marriage often causes self-growth to take a back seat. A voluntary separation can be a chance for you to re-kindle your own growth process. It could entail talking to a trusted friend, a marriage counselor or a therapist.
Stay In Control of Yourself
Something important to remember at this time is to remain in control of yourself and the direction you want to move in. Don’t allow the pain of the separation to derail you. Advance in the direction of development and growth. When possible, move towards connecting with your spouse.
6. Avoid behaving angrily, spitefully, vindictively or reactively.
Don’t try to provoke a reaction or teach a lesson. This is not a time in which to make a point but to re-establish a connection and build a partnership.
If you decide to react angrily or vindictively, you will most likely just confirm your spouse’s reasons for wanting a separation. It will not teach your spouse any useful lesson, nor convince him or her to reconsider. You will merely be confirming the need to stay away.
7. Don’t beg, plead or cajole your spouse into coming home. Once there’s been a decision to separate, you need to end the separation by mutually deciding to reconnect. Neither party should be made to do so under duress or out of guilt or shame.
Consider Your Children
8. If you have children, don’t use them as a bargaining chip.
Children are innocent parties who have nothing to do with your relationship. They will be the losers in this so resist using them as a bargaining chip. They need to have access to both their parents without being a part of the battle or feeling pulled.
9. For an effective separation, decide on a realistic time frame.
Separations with no prearranged limit are problematic for both parties. “I don’t know for how long” is a demanding answer on both sides. How to end a separation? Not all the problems will be solved, so that will not be the end of it. Suddenly feeling that you’re ready to get back together is also unrealistic, as there’s bound to be some reluctance to re-enter what was a friction space.
By setting a time frame (which should be no longer than 3 months), at the end of it you would have reached the time that was set to end the separation. The separation has now been a structured break with a defined end.
Remember, you can only control your end of the situation. If your spouse won’t agree, don’t allow that to be another element of conflict.
10. When you start the separation, have the end result in mind. Begin with an awareness that the intention behind the separation is to advance beyond the current problems and achieve a more stable and united relationship.
While separations do have their drawbacks, they do still happen. So, if you find that a separation is unavoidable, construct it in a way that will benefit your relationship. Don’t allow it to derail your efforts to save your marriage.
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