The most important concern while considering separating from your husband is that of your safety. If you have a reason to think your husband may react in a verbally or physically abusive way, it is imperative that you have a support (and even legal) structure in place.
Step 1: Ensure your own safety
Some practical steps would be getting in touch with local domestic violence organizations and helplines or speaking with local law enforcement to file a restraining order.
One of the most helpful avenues people take however, is to stay with a close friend or family member if she has that option. I encourage these women to inform their loved ones what is going on, if they haven’t already. I know this is a much easier said than done, but it really is that important.
With that being said, the actual logistics of separation are pretty straight forward.
Step 2: Get educated
It is crucial to look up how separation and divorce works in your particular state.
In general, there are two forms of separation, informal and formal. The formal separation entails a legal separation in which lawyers are hired to create a separation agreement. This agreement will divide and dictate the rights and responsibilities of each partner such as housing arrangements, childcare, finances, payment of debts, etc.
This option does cost money, so it may be necessary for you to save or to ask a friend or family member for help.
Finances are a very real barrier which keep women in unhappy and even unhealthy relationships. However, the good news is that the human mind is built for creative ideas and a-ha moments. There are no exceptions to this, so even if you don’t think of yourself as so smart, you still have the built-in capacity for creative and insightful thoughts. Meaning, a great idea of how to access money, other that what was stated above, always has the potential to breakthrough.
Another option of separation is an informal separation to which the courts are not necessarily involved. This can be drawn up and signed by both partners. Again, if you are in a high-conflict marriage already, this may not be a realistic choice. However, it has been my experience that sometimes people can surprise you.
I had one client go to her husband and just simply say “I don’t want to be sad anymore”. He actually agreed to the separation and that was pretty much all they ever said about it. She drew up the papers, they separated, and were eventually divorced.
A benefit of this informal separation is that it doesn’t incur such high legal fees. The downside is that it can not be enforced by the courts, so if there is a breach of this contract by your partner, there isn’t much you can do about.
Step 3: Ensure clarity
For some women (or men), it is absolutely clear that getting separated is what they want. Others go back and forth for years wondering what the right solution is. At times they feel hopeful and at other times they think “Why haven’t I left this person sooner?”.
There is no right or wrong way to approach this decision.
However, I want to make this clarification. Many women I speak with went into the marriage seeing the potential in their husband for change.
Therefore, they have believed all along that they can change their husband. Now, I am not saying change isn’t possible for everyone. It absolutely is.
And…it is not something you can ever control, force onto or inspire someone else to do.
True and lasting change, always comes from the inside-out of each person. Meaning, a person has to see or realize something new about themselves and how he or she is relating to world in order for their actions to change permanently. Every human being can only behave based on the quality of thinking (conscious or unconscious) that they have in that moment.
Therefore, it is also helpful to see that your husband not changing, is not a reflection of whether he loves you or not. Behavior is the effect, it is never the cause.
So, I will leave you with this. The only guarantee you have, is how your partner is acting right now. Change is possible, but it is not inevitable.
At the end of the day however, no matter how bad it gets, you always have the capacity for resilience and fresh thought. I encourage you to let that guide you during this evolution of your relationship.