When your marriage is clearly not working but you are not yet ready to walk away from it, a separation can provide both of you with a hiatus where you can decide on the direction you want your marriage to take. A separation is not about staying in a holding pattern, it is about taking small steps to get more clarity and valuable information.
What should you do during separation?
Before making any final decisions it is best to live apart for 60-90 days. If it is not possible to live in separate houses establish some ground rules so that there is some emotional separation while living under the same roof. During this period do not discuss the status of your marriage rather keep an open mind.
Think about your visceral and immediate reaction to your separated relationship. This will provide tremendous insight into your emotional state. After living apart for a few weeks ask yourself if you miss one another or are you content? Living apart can provide a clear perspective which allows you to understand the dynamics of your relationship without all the anger and emotion. Furthermore, separation allows you to find a different way to stay together or to find a stronger version of yourself.
The practical side of a separation
Separation is never easy. It does not matter whose decision it is to separate, you are likely to feel a rollercoaster of emotions. It is common to feel numbness or a sense of shock even though you can see that a separation is imminent. You might feel overwhelmed by the enormity of decision that you need to make an anxious due to the uncertainty of the future. You might be feeling dejected and angry if you did not want the relationship to end.
On top of coming to terms with these issues, there are a number of practical issues that will require your immediate attention. You might need to deal with:
How the separation is going to affect the children is the most important issue. You will need to decide how both of you will divide your time and support among the children. You will need to decide about child care, access arrangements, Christmas and birthday arrangements, seeing in-laws, and telling the school. You both will have to decide what to say to the kids and how to prepare then emotionally.
When you are in a separated relationship you will need to decide on the living arrangements. Will one of you stay in the house that you were living in or will both of you move? Where will the pets live?
3. Friends and family
Who will tell your family and friends about the separation? How will you handle your in-laws? How will you keep up with mutual friendships?
How will manage running two homes is another important decision. You will need to come to an agreement regarding the financial support of the children. You will also need to open separate bank accounts if you have a joint account.
5. Emotional upheaval
Separation is a very difficult time. You will have to outline the steps that you will need to take to make sure that you cope with this difficult time. Which friends will be able to provide emotional support and which will be able to provide practical support?
Relationships are like journeys. Sometimes, we stay in them because we can’t see the final destination. We can’t see the pitfalls ahead of time and that unknown is what keeps us in the same pattern, in the same spot, reliving the same painful experiences. It is not necessary to know the end destination. We just need to take a small step forward and pay attention. Sometimes, separation provides the breathing space needed for a relationship to grow again.