Look Before You Leap: Should you Separate to Save Your Marriage?

Separate to Save Your Marriage

John and Katie have been unhappily married for ten years living with endless anxiety and apprehensions. After many years of marriage and raising kids, John found himself thinking that he is not happy with his marriage. He was burdened with trust issues, lack of communication and intimacy problems plaguing their marriage. John told his wife that he wanted a separation. His wife agreed and they both decided to take a six month break from their marriage.


Many factors can cause a breakdown in your marriage. Separation then appears to be a practical option that presents a chance to think over vital issues that is causing the turmoil in your marriage.

Can a separation really help you?


There are three main reasons why couples consider separation. Firstly, it is a step in the divorce process; most couples just know their marriage won’t last and use separation to give themselves time before the divorce. Sometimes, couples separate to gain perspective on the marriage (like John and Katie) and to enhance the marriage.

Couples who decide to separate are mostly viewed by outsiders as those who’ve reached a breaking point in their relationship. Perhaps, they’ve tried various other tactics and interventions to help their marriage but nothing may have worked for them. So eventually, they split up and ultimately, divorce.


But, there’s another side to this, after all. Couples hardly ever stop to evaluate the therapeutic value of a separation. In fact, if done in the right way (and for the right reasons) with clear agreements at the start, it can not only save the marriage but enhance it too. In order to achieve the end goal (separating to save or improve your marriage), you need to ensure that a few things are in place before you take the plunge.


Here are a few pointers or marital separation tips that can help:

1. Duration

This may be different for every couple but 6 to 8 months of separation time is largely considered ideal. A major drawback of an extended marital separation is that it can often lead both partners in getting too comfortable with their new lifestyles, leading them to believe that their differences can’t be worked out or that they are much better off this way. That is why setting clear and reasonable expectation is of supreme importance. By setting the duration for your separation, you mutually agree that this is the time period you both need to resolve your differences. If left undecided, new issues may crop up that can lead to more disharmony.

2. Goals

Never assure that you both are on the same page. Discuss and agree that you are both doing this to resolve your matters and enhance your marriage. For example, if one of the partners wants to save the marriage but the other thinks that this is the just beginning of the divorce process, then this can lead to major trust issues. That is why discussing this matter in advance is vital in order to make this a successful exercise.  

3. Communication

After deciding that you both want to work on your issues and save the marriage, discuss how you will communicate with each other during this period. Having no contact at all will obviously serve no purpose in attaining the end goal. Decide on the frequency of your interactions well before. If one partner wishes to talk everyday, but the other wants it to be a weekly affair, then a mutual decision must be made.

4. Dates

A separation does not entail that you discontinue dating each other. Decide how often you will meet and spend time with each other. Go on dinner dates and reconnect emotionally with your spouse. Use this time to discuss how to resolve matters that are causing the turmoil in the relationship. Discover new solutions that you can bring into your marriage. Instead of physical intimacy, focus your attention on your emotional bonding and try nurturing it.

5. Children

Separations can be a disturbing time for your kids, so adopt ways that will help you co-parent effectively. Answer your children’s questions together and make sure that you control your negative responses (such as anger, name-calling, etc) in front of them.

6. Third-party Support 

Seeking out a third party, such as a therapist, clergy or mediator (family member or friend), can facilitate the process of resolving your issues. It is highly recommended that you seek some form of help during the separation process.


When we feel that our spouse is slipping away from us, our natural reaction is to get closer to them and do whatever it takes to save the marriage. The thought of separation, or creating distance at such a time, instills a feeling of panic, fear, doubt and a great deal of worry as well.

Exercising such an option can be especially challenging when the bond is fragile or the relationship has drastically weakened. But by employing care and skill (usually with the assistance of a professional), separation CAN be quite effective in bringing two people closer together. In fact, saving your marriage after separation will get much easier.



Bear in mind that this tool is not for those who don’t intend to stay with their partners. The worse thing you can do to them is pretend you’re interested in working things out.

After their separation, John and Katie were successfully able to unite again and make their marriage stronger.