Separation is a stressful time. You’re facing the possible dissolution of your marriage and everything can start feeling like a battleground.
For some couples, separation is a prelude to divorce. For others, it’s a last attempt to save their marriage.
No matter which side of the fence you’re on (or even if you’re not sure yet), our practical advice for separation of couples will help you survive separation and come out of it ready for the next phase in your life.
Be clear on what you want
Are you separating because you want a divorce eventually? Or do you need time to decide if there’s any hope for your marriage? Be honest with yourself about why you really want to separate – and be honest with your partner too.
Sit down and talk honestly with each other. Try to listen to and honor each other’s viewpoint instead of descending into a fight. You both need to be clear on why the separation is happening and the expected outcome.
Give each other time
Separation is painful. A lot of emotions will come up for both of you, and you might find yourself feeling bitter, angry or hopeless. You both need time to process whatever feelings come up and work through them in your own way.
It can be tempting to rush a separation or put a timescale on it, but that can often backfire and leave you or your partner feeling pushed to make a decision. Give yourself and your partner as much time as each of you needs.
Make agreements for everything
Before instigating your separation, put agreements in place for everything, including:
- Where each of you will live
- How you will manage joint bank accounts
- How you will deal with shared bills
- Where your kids will live
- Visitation rights
- Whether to continue with shared insurance policies or not
It is best if you consult a lawyer when you make these agreements.
It’s also a good idea to talk to each other about the rules regarding dating. You might not like the idea of asking your partner’s feelings about it, but unless you are completely sure you’re heading for a divorce, dating during a separation could cause a permanent rift.
Have a plan in place
Facing a separation is scary. Make it easier on yourself by having a plan in place for everything you can think of. Make sure you know where you will live, how you will manage work, how you will pay for everything, and how you’ll handle your kids’ daily needs and appointments.
Drawing up a plan will make separation less daunting and ensure you don’t get caught short with a bill or overwhelmed with responsibilities.
Be as kind as you can
Tensions run high during a separation and it’s easy to slip into fighting and sniping at each other – but try not to give in to the temptation. Whether you eventually reconcile or proceed to divorce, more tension and aggravation is bad for everyone involved.
Try to be as kind as you can and remember, your partner’s barbs come from being hurt and frightened too. If things get too tense, know when to remove yourself from a heated discussion, and remember to give yourself time to calm down before responding.
Don’t try to change them
If your partner is chronically late now, separating isn’t going to make them change. If their lack of interest in your kids’ daily life is one of the reasons you want the separation, going ahead with it won’t push them to change their behavior.
Focus on how you can best handle your partner as they are right now. Be kind and compassionate but don’t accept toxic behavior. Draw your own boundaries so you can have healthy interactions.
If you’re considering reconciliation, be honest with yourself about your partner’s quirks and habits, and what you can live with – trying to change them won’t make either of you happy.
Be honest with your kids
Kids know what’s going on, even if they don’t understand the specifics. Be honest with them about what’s happening. Remember that what your kids need right now is to know that both parents love them and will always be there for them, so make sure you communicate that to them.
There’s a difference between keeping your kids informed and dragging them into your drama. Don’t badmouth their other parent, or rely on them for emotional support. They need you to be there for them, not the other way around.
Look after yourself
You need support and good self-care right now. Confide in your most trusted friends or family members and don’t be shy about letting them know what would be helpful to you right now. Consider seeing a therapist if you have a lot of feelings you need to work through.
Life will likely be very busy and stressful as you move into separation. Make sure you build in some time to look after yourself every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes to read a book or get some fresh air. Keep a journal to work out your feelings and get some of your worries out of your head and onto paper.
Separation is difficult. Use our separation of couples advice to smooth your road so you can focus on healing and moving forward.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.