When a couple makes a deliberate choice to step back from their marriage to try to make it better, counselors call it “therapeutic separation.” Think about what a clear and objective view you get of your city from an airplane. Sometimes stepping out of your couple can offer the same type of overview of your relationship and with it, the chance to change the sticking areas and strengthen the marriage.
Laying the Groundwork
Not every separation offers the chance to improve your marriage. A time apart will only be constructive and positive if both spouses want to save the marriage. Talk to your spouse honestly when discussing a separation. If you’ve made a final decision that the marriage is beyond saving, it is. But if both of you hope to return to the good relationship you once had, together you’ll need to lay the foundation for doing just that.
Set Clear Separation Goals
When only one person simply steps out of the marriage, reconciliation is left to chance. If you want to increase those chances, talk together — and perhaps with a therapist as well — about the central issues that are impacting the health of your marriage. It’s best to set up clear goals for each spouse and commit to ways to accomplish those goals, notes marriage counselor Susan Pease Gadoua. For example, if one partner’s addiction is sabotaging the marriage, she might commit to a treatment plan or group therapy.
Set a Reasonable Time Frame
The longer a separation lasts, the lower the chances that it will lead to reconciliation, according to therapist Amy Morin. Most separated couples that return to their marriages do so within the first two years. Working regularly with a marriage or couple’s counselor can materially assist you in moving toward your goals and help you both keep on track.
Communicate Often and Honestly
Communicating often and honestly is key to moving from separation to reconciliation, notes psychotherapist Dr. Gary Chapman. As long as you do that, and work hard toward clearing up the issues that you are bringing to the marriage, you’re doing your part. To concentrate on your marriage, reserve all your energy to the effort. If you date or have affairs during the separation, your marriage stands little chance of healing.