Is Separation Good for Marriage?

Updated August 20, 2018
Couple pondering separation

Separation can be good for marriage depending on the circumstances of the couple. If both partners are willing to work through current problems, separation can be a great way to process individual issues before reuniting. With that said, about 80 percent of separations ultimately lead to divorce.

When Separation Is Good for Marriage

Separation can give both partners time to think about the relationship and whether they want to move forward. It can allow for the space to experience what life may be like without the other partner. It also gives both partners some freedom to identify issues in the relationship. If you choose to reconcile, these needs can be shared with each other and discussed. If you both are willing and able to meet these needs, it can result in a more satisfying and resilient relationship. In a study of couples who separated and filed for divorce but choose to reconcile, researchers found the following themes:

  • Several attempts at reconciliation
  • Making grand gestures
  • Willing to do the work and grow together as a couple

Seeking Out Counseling

Separation may give you both a wonderful opportunity to self-reflect and spend some time working on your own stuff. Separation may highlight the need to work on issues related to communication, attachment, substance abuse, and childhood trauma that is impacting you as an adult. These issues can negatively impact your marriage as well as your relationship with others and can be highly beneficial and life-changing to work through.

When Is It Not Good to Separate

couple in marriage counseling session

Separation can be damaging to a marriage if one partner has no intention of reconciliation, but is leading the other partner on. Some partners may also feel anxious about how the divorce process will be handled or may not even want to ask for a divorce. If you are feeling anxious about telling your partner, you can:

  • Speak with a counselor or lawyer for tips and support
  • Think about the benefits of resolving this as quickly as you can
  • Know that the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to tell your partner

Manipulating Your Partner

Separation should never be used as a threat to your partner, especially if you intend on trying to repair the relationship. Keep in mind that threatening to separate or divorce your partner can cause immense damage to the foundation of your relationship. If you want to continue working on your relationship, but are unhappy, think about what aspects of the relationship you are unhappy with. Try to phrase these in a neutral, more generalized way when you are feeling calm.

Rules for Separation

If you do choose to separate, come up with a plan together regarding how you both want to deal with potential reconciliation, the time frame, what to tell friends and family, as well as how often you will need to communicate. There are no right answers. As long as you both are comfortable with the plan and can agree on what you think is best, you are setting yourselves up for appropriate communication during the separation. Go over the following questions to help you get started:

  • How much time do we want to spend separated before re-evaluating getting back together or going through with a divorce?
  • Are we both willing to see an individual, and a couple's counselor to work on our own issues, and our difficulties as a couple?
  • How are we going to share the separation with our friends and family?
  • Are we comfortable going to events together, and if not how will we divvy up our social life?
  • Will we be dating each other during our separation, refrain from dating altogether, or exploring other relationships?
  • If we are planning on seeing other people, what level of intimacy is expected?
  • Will we discuss our other relationships with each other?
  • How do we handle communication during this time? Should we check in with each other, and if so how often?
  • How do we plan on handling shared bank accounts?

When Kids are Involved

If you do choose to separate and children are involved, only tell them the bare minimum and be sure to keep your discussions with them age appropriate. Remember, it is completely unacceptable and damaging to a child to be put in the middle of parental arguments and discord. This can cause serious psychological trauma to the child, regardless of age. Know that if you do separate, you will both need to find a way to appropriately co-parent and refrain from talking badly about your partner in front of the child. If you need any extra assistance with this, contact a counselor or therapist who specializes in marital discord or divorce.

Healing Takes Time

Take your time processing what is best for you and your partner during the separation. Separation can be an illuminating experience for both of you and does not always lead to divorce.

Is Separation Good for Marriage?