Despite attempting to work through things, you and your husband have reached a point in the marriage where you think that separating is the best course of action. While you know in your heart that this is a good decision for both of you, you are also filled with hurt, sadness and a sense of failure. Here’s how to help you move through the separation stage of your marriage, all while keeping your sense of balance, and most importantly, restoring your sense of self.
Feel it all
Deciding to separate is no easy task. This is one of those life decisions that is reached after long conversations (and perhaps several heated discussions). It is natural to have a flood of feelings around this life-changing event: hurt, anger, disappointment, anxiety over what the future holds, and loss. You may be tempted to try and stuff down your feelings and soothe yourself with food, alcohol or drugs. This wouldn’t be beneficial in the long-term. Find a safe way to feel all your emotions; enlisting the help of a mental health professional would be one of the best ways for you to take care of yourself during these challenging times. A therapist’s office would provide you with a safe space to cry and express yourself. And when you are ready, your therapist will help you put back together the pieces so that you can come out of this situation a stronger, more-confident woman.
Relying on a good group of trusted girlfriends, especially women who have been through this, can also be helpful. Reach out to them and don’t isolate yourself; knowing you are not alone in what you are experiencing can make you feel better. Surround yourself with good emotional support; you can’t do this alone.
Taking time to take care of yourself will be essential during your separation process. Establish a routine of healthy eating. Stay away from junk and highly-processed food; even though it may seem easy to grab a protein bar for lunch, this isn’t an ideal way to feed your body. Nourish yourself with whole foods, fruits and vegetables that you sit down to eat. It will provide you with a moment to center yourself and give you a sense of control when your world seems to be falling apart.
Plan and maintain an exercise routine
Physical movement will keep your spirits up and help you feel strong and capable, even if your brain is telling you otherwise. Set aside time for substantial movement each day.
Be sure to pay attention to your soul’s health too, through prayer (if you are so inclined) or meditation. A dedicated moment to calming your thoughts and looking inward will be an important element in your self-care toolkit.
If you have left all the banking and bill-paying details to your husband, it’s time to self-educate. No one likes this part of separating, but you cannot remain in the dark about your financial situation. You need to see all the bank accounts, what is in them, and ensure that you are signed on to them as well. This is part of protecting yourself and any children you have together. Discuss how you and your husband will be managing the new two-household budgets, and draw up a plan. Then present this to your lawyer so that it is recognized as fair and equitable. If you are dependent on your husband financially, you should expect that things will change. With two households sharing one income, your situation cannot remain the same, so be prepared for that.
Communication is key
You may be separating physically, but you will continue to communicate, maybe even more than when you were living together, and especially if you have children. It is in your interest to learn how to speak to each other respectfully so that your conversations are constructive and solution-oriented. If you are finding this difficult, bring in professional resources—a mediator, or a counselor. They can help you find the words to move the dialogue forward so that both of you have a sense of being heard and understood. You are both hurting, and it may be tempting to use your words to hurt your husband. It may even make you feel better in the short-term, but it won’t get you want you want and need. So learning how to speak to each other without fighting will be key in moving through this difficult passage.
Envision your future
Part of the stress of disassembling your marriage comes from the shift in what you thought your future would look like. You had imagined a life-long marriage with both of you raising your children under one roof. And now this vision has changed. But this radical change can be managed with care. This would be an excellent time to undertake some self-evaluation. Who do you want to be, now that you are uncoupled? You might want to invest in working on yourself and defining what is meaningful to you in terms of your professional and love relationships. It is easy to see this time in your life as a loss, perhaps even a failure. But you could reframe this as an opportunity for personal growth and transformation. You have before you a vast, open future and now is the time to shape it to your liking. Take the pain of this separation and use it to define what you want in your next relationship, and (most importantly) what you don’t want. There are life lessons to be learned right now, and you will want to be attentive to these. Don’t let the loss of your marriage turn you into a victim; you are far from it. Once the hurt has passed, walk straight into your future, fierce, strong and brave. You’ve earned it.