Deciding to separate from your husband is one of the hardest decisions you will ever make. When you’re married, your lives become intertwined, and the thought of leaving that can be terrifying. If you still love your husband, separating can feel heart breaking.
Not every separation is a prelude to a divorce. For some couples, separation is a chance to work things out while getting some much needed space. Whatever the outcome, separating is not a decision to take lightly.
If you are considering separating from your husband, here are 8 things you need to know:
1. Ground rules are important
Ground rules are probably the last thing on your mind if you’re preparing to cast out on your own. However, having some ground rules in place can make the difference between whether you get what you need out of the separation or not.
You’ll need to have some hard conversations with your spouse. Decide together who will live where, and whether or not you will have contact during the separation. Agree now how to handle tough issues like child care and visitation arrangements, and whether dating is allowed.
2. Be gentle with your husband
Separation is rough on both of you. If you are hoping for a reconciliation, or even if you aren’t but you have children to think of, it’s important to be gentle where you can. The more anger and animosity you bring, the less likely you are to get what you need.
You can be gentle while retaining good boundaries – if your spouse is being cruel or unreasonable, step away if you can.
3. Relief is a normal reaction
If your marriage has become fraught enough for a separation, a sense of relief when the separation actually takes place is only natural. After all, you’ve been in an emotional war zone – leaving it feels like breathing a sigh of relief.
Don’t mistake relief for a sign that you should separate permanently. It doesn’t mean being with your partner is the wrong choice, but it does mean that the current situation isn’t tenable and something has to change.
4. There are a lot of practical considerations
There are a lot of things to think about before you actually separate. Where will you live? How will you support yourself? Will it affect your ability to work?
Sort out your financial and living situation as early as you can so you don’t have the added stress of dealing with them once the separation is under way. Don’t forget to pay attention to the little things, like who pays the internet bill or whose name the water bill is in.
Get everything squared away and be sure you have your own personal bank account as soon as you can.
5. Alone time can be both good and bad
Alone time is vital for recharging your batteries and figuring out who you are outside of your marriage. Factor in regular alone time, whether that’s a quiet evening alone or even a weekend break.
However, you can have too much of a good thing. Too much alone time can leave you feeling isolated and depressed. Make sure you get out and about and see friends and family, or join in with events at your workplace or in your local community.
6. You’ll be glad of your support network
Your support network is a lifeline during the separation. Having good friends and family to lean on will make it so much easier to handle. Confide in those you know you can trust, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Choose your support network carefully. Steer clear of those who just want to gossip, or tell you what to do. Keep your separation off social media too – this is between you and your partner, not the world.
You might consider getting a professional therapist too. They can listen and help you work through the deeper issues.
7. Separation doesn’t have to be the end
Some marriages do progress from separation to divorce and there’s no shame in that. Not every marriage is suited to the long haul. There are some marriages, however, that recover from a separation and become stronger than ever.
Time apart can be just what you both need to figure out what you truly want from your marriage, and from life. From there, if you’re both committed, you can map out a way forward together.
8. All emotions are allowed
You’re going to feel a range of emotions during your separation, and that’s absolutely natural. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself cycling from relief to anger to fear to sadness to jealousy, sometimes on the same day.
Take time with your feelings and just let them be. Write them down – this will help you process. Deal with anger constructively, such as through playing a sport or beating a pillow. Let yourself be sad sometimes, and appreciate the happy times. Be gentle and take your time – your feelings need to be felt and honored.
Separation takes emotional energy and resilience. Use these tips to smooth your path and remember to take care of yourself and give yourself all the time you need to heal and make the best decision for you.