A Healing Separation May Save Your Marriage
Time apart can work wonders. Maybe you’ve asked, or even demanded that your partner stop hurting you, show up, protect you or change in some other way and it is just falling on deaf ears. Maybe you just need some space to think things over. Maybe the two of you keep hurting each other in the same ways, saying the same things over and over trying to be heard. When this goes on too long your nervous systems will become hyper-active causing nearly everything to feel like an affront. A nervous system is a little like a pet. (Yes, I know, that is not very scientific. It’s just an observation.) It needs a soothing environment in which to flourish and will snarl or shut down if it does’t feel safe. Life is more fun when our nervous system is happy.
Time apart allows your nervous system to relax and most importantly, prevents you from hurting and being hurt in the same ways over and over. Change takes time and good resources.
This is important
You are not yet the people who can do things differently. You’ve probably figured that out. If you could have, you would have. Your best efforts haven’t been enough. You may even have the right resources or tools but something is missing. Personal growth is needed. Think of a small puppy trying to get onto a couch. It may leap, climb, claw, get three paws up and then fall back, bark at it, chew on it, and every time end up back on the floor. But give that same pup a couple of months to grow and it will easily climb onto the couch. We can look at relationship blocks the same way. We have to grow in order to see new solutions.
A little known secret about relationship success is that we have to, and we can, and the successful ones do, grow to become the people who can solve their relationship problems. It nearly always requires third party help. After all, if you could do it on your own, you would have done it already. On your own takes longer and we’re impatient. Working with someone who knows what they are doing will speed things up and create better opportunity for success. Someone outside your system will keep you from going around in circles.
A Healing Separation clears space and time so you can tend your personal work, allowing you to become the person who can participate in your marriage the way you want to.
To make your time apart a truly healing experience structure is needed.
- How much time do you want to spend together?
- Do you want date nights or be completely separate? Will sex be involved?
- Who will stay in the house? How will the other be housed?
- How will you handle kid stuff?
- Who pays for what and out of which accounts?
- What happens with vehicles?
- How often do you want to re-evaluate?
- Are dating-type relationships allowed?
- And most importantly, how will you each use the time to grow and change?
Living apart for a time does not mean it is the beginning of the end of your marriage. In fact, if your marriage is really struggling, a period of time away from each other that is focused on personal growth and healing, may actually save it. Marriages end because they get too tight. People grow and change and if the relationship doesn’t grow too, it may break needlessly. One of you may grow more quickly than the other and the other doesn’t want to or doesn’t feel the need for change. Time apart can provide incentive.
If the two of you continually hurt each other in the same ways, time apart will stop the wounding while you heal. The saying absence makes the heart grow fonder is also appropriate. You may discover you really like each other and come back with renewed interest to create the relationship you want.
Healing Separation Agreement
I have created a (non-legal) fairly thorough Healing Separation Agreement that will help you design your separation time in a positive way. It covers the areas in the bullet list above plus others, which will eliminate gray areas that can cause needless conflict and confusion.
(This is NOT a legal document. If you want something to file with the court please consult an attorney who can help you with a Legal Separation Agreement. I can recommend several Colorado-based attorneys who are non-conflictual and very helpful. If you’re out of Colorado I suggest you check with your local Bar Association.)
Even though the Healing Separation Agreement is not legally binding it will guide you to clear agreements so your time apart can be truly productive.
You may also want to consider my 90-minute, Relationship Assessment to identify your trouble spots and your strengths.
Some items in the Healing Separation Agreement may be difficult to negotiate on your own. After all, if you were on the same page with those items you might not be struggling to the degree that you are. I can help you design your healing separation by facilitating important discussions between the two of you. We all want your time of separation to go well. Contact me at any time to discuss.