Divorce is an ugly and difficult word but when a marriage becomes untenable, then there is no option but to consider the ‘D’ term. However, while the legalities and other complexities of a formal separation can take time, it would do you no harm to get some good marriage separation advice. A difficult marriage isn’t easy on the mind, so we decided to bring in relationship and marriage consultant Geoffrey Setiawan, and lawyer Laila Zafar, for a few tips on how to navigate the separation period.
There’s a chance not every marriage separation will turn into a formal divorce. But it’s still a time of turmoil and emotional upheaval. Having some sort of a roadmap at such times helps you to tackle them in a healthier, more focused manner, and that’s where we hope these tips will come in handy.
How To Start A Separation
Spending some time apart from a warring husband or wife can be a good idea for many failing relationships. It gives you time to prepare for the inevitable battle ahead and in some cases, can also prevent you from making further mistakes that ruin relationships.
Marital separation is usually considered when you are unsure if you want to really file for a divorce. It can take the form of a trial separation – where a couple decides to spend time apart to see what they really feel about the relationship – but often, couples also separate because they have had enough of each other but don’t feel the need to go through a tedious divorce.
You may or may not be able to save a marriage during separation but the best marriage separation advice one can give is treat it like a real split emotionally and physically.
Laila says, “Whether it is a legal separation or a divorce that you are headed towards, it is always a good idea to engage with a qualified lawyer to understand where you stand as far as your legal position is concerned, and what are the challenges you could face, in the event of a divorce.”
In other words, if you have started seeing a counselor when trouble in paradise started, continue to lean on them even during your separation period. Begin your lawyer consultations during this period so that you can choose the right one should you go ahead with a divorce.
Related Reading: The Best Divorce Advice For Women
Whoever decides to walk out of the marriage – be it you or your spouse – should begin the conversation and the terms of the marriage separation. Remember not to fight during this period because the split is essentially taking place for both of you to figure out the next step. So keep it as amicable as possible.
At times, when the relationship is on the rocks, you can’t function or think rationally if you live in the same house as your partner. Hence, the need for space and to negotiate that well, you will need marriage separation advice.
Marriage Separation Advice- 11 Wise Tips
There can be a long period before you make the decision to end your marriage and when it actually ends. The marriage separation phase is extremely critical as the wounds are raw and the road ahead, unclear. No matter how wrong things may have gone, marriage separation essentially means pulling away from someone you once loved and may still love. Unravelling a life you’ve built together is never easy.
There are no set rules for how to act during a separation, but a little help on how to handle a separation of marriage never hurts. So here are some tips to traverse through this period without gathering more scars than you have accumulated during your marriage.
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1. Acknowledge the desire for separation
The realization that your spouse wants to separate can come as a shock. If your husband says I am done with you, you really don’t know what to do. The natural tendency would be to try and convince him/her to do otherwise. “Don’t.” says Geoffrey. “Your efforts to make them stay might actually backfire as you they are thinking emotionally and the more you push them, the more they want to stay way.”
Setiawan adds the best response would be to acknowledge the desire for separation. “It shows you respect their stance and understand why they need time apart. It also shows your confidence and maturity to handle a separation of marriage and that you are willing to give them what they want despite your differences.”
2. Don’t tell the world about it
Let’s say you have no choice but to go for a separation. Now, whenever there is trouble in paradise, it is difficult to hide it from society and for all you know, there might be gossip around it. At this juncture, do not go around publicizing your troubles. The marriage separation process is complex and can get ugly, you do not need the community’s eyes upon you.
Not only will you be given plenty of free marriage separation advice, be it tips or legal counsel, people’s words might reach your spouse, aggravating the situation. Keep your marital woes to yourself.
A separation does not go unnoticed but at this delicate juncture you wouldn’t want any external influence especially if either of you hope to save marriage during separation.
3. Give yourself and your partner time
For a lot of people, a separation is a big step towards divorce. For others, it’s a step back to assess the situation and think with a cool head. But either way, this is an uneasy, in-transition phase of life where you don’t know where you are headed next.
Do not rush into things at this period as both of you would be dealing with a great deal of marriage separation pain.
Here’s one of the major marriage separation rules. At least for the initial few weeks, do not contact your partner or try and push your views on him/her. Give each other time to process everything that has gone wrong. It would be a good idea to seek a counselor’s help if you haven’t done so yet.
Related Reading: Relationship Counselling – Everything You Need To Know
4. Commit to bettering yourself
A marriage does not break down only because of one person. So learn to take responsibility for your actions. More importantly, express your commitment to bettering yourself to your spouse. Keep your ego aside; by doing so, you are only acknowledging your part in the breakdown of the relationship.
“When you promise to better yourself, be specific as to how you are going to be a better partner – by being a better communicator or being more understanding,” says Geoffrey. “Be vulnerable about your shortcomings and keep the personality trait you promise to improve upon, relevant to what your wife/husband has been demanding.”
5. Be aware of your legal options
One of the most significant pieces of marriage separation advice that lawyers give is to be aware of the legal implications. It would be worthwhile to have a trial separation checklist. If you and your spouse are going to stay separately, decide on things like who will the kids spend time with, who pays the bills etc. Getting legal advice on marriage separation is an important step.
Often, the decision taken during separation can have an impact on the divorce proceedings, if things reach that level. Especially in a nasty or contested divorce your actions during the separation can be used by your spouse to show you in a bad light in front of a judge.
Laila says, “If you are unable to afford a lawyer, find state-funded legal aid providers or NGOs that provide legal support for free. Understanding your rights around alimony, maintenance, custody, and alimony is the most important step to take during or even while contemplating a separation/divorce.”
6. Know what you are doing
Regardless of whether you are the dumper or the dumped one, the best way to handle a separation of marriage is to have a plan in place. Tough as it may sound, you will have to figure out where you are going to stay, what are the things you will need, can you return to the house if you need anything, so and so forth.
Basically it’s advisable to fortify yourself against the worst possible scenario as you can’t really say if the separation is really the beginning of the dissolution of your marriage. You have to take in account the signs that your marriage is ending.
Being prepared and drawing up a plan on how you will cope with the emotional fallout and financial responsibilities, will make the separation less daunting. Seek the help of trusted friends or family who you know has your back during this difficult period.
Also, keep your money matters clear. For men, if the marriage separation is heading towards divorce, consider things such as alimony, maintenance and childcare if they apply to you. For women, if you’re not working at the moment, now would be a good time to start looking around and brushing up your skills.
“Financial independence is crucial at this stage,” Laila says. “If you are financially dependent on your spouse, it would be useful to either look for part-time or any employment to build yourself up, or engage the support of family and/or friends while you understand where the marriage is headed.”
7. Protect yourself emotionally
When a couple decides to separate, both will go through a roller-coaster ride of emotions like guilt, anger, confusion etc. Sometimes, the divorce might not be too painful since the period of separation is akin to preparing the grounds for a legal split.
After a period of staying apart, it is also possible that one of the partners may show signs of reconciliation after separation, but another might not. Marriage separation rules have nothing on ever-changing human emotion.
This can lead to a lot of dilemmas as it might leave you with mixed emotions. Hence it is essential to be very self-aware and keep track of what you want.
Related Reading: 15 Subtle Yet Strong Signs Your Marriage Will End In Divorce
8. Decide what you are going to tell the kids
This is one of the most important to-do things in your marriage separation advice checklist – dealing with the children. Sometimes children can foresee an impending divorce. Or if they are not yet aware it would surely confuse them to see mommy and daddy stay separately. So regardless of the problems the two of you may have, try and reach a consensus on this aspect.
Never badmouth your partner to the kids, be honest with them. And most importantly let them know that you both are there for them. Never ever drag them into the drama during the separation period. Remember, the marriage separation process gets ugly enough for adults. The kids don’t need it.
9. Hold yourself together
If the separation has been foisted on you, it can be extremely painful. If you are splitting up because both of you can’t stand the sight of each other, you could be feeling unwanted in the relationship but still separation is going to be very stressful, leaving you with anxiety issues.
Either way, you need to stand up for yourself and hold yourself together. Learn to take care of yourself through physical and mental exercise.
It can be confusing to figure how to act during a separation. Do you talk to your partner or not? How often? Should you be nice and respond to texts? Your best bet is to be kind but firm. Also, do not neglect your career despite the problems in your personal life. At times, work can be the best antidote to personal life stress.
10. Following through on your promises
During the period of separation, know that your partner is watching you like a hawk. “One mistake can be devastating,” says Geoffrey. “So it is important not to slip up.”
Say for instance, one of the causes of your marriage breaking down is your spending habits or unhealthy lifestyle leading to bigger problems.
If you want to fix your marriage, prove to your partner that you have turned a new leaf. Let them see the change which might bring a change in them too. Small signals of thawing on the part of your estranged spouse give you an indication of when to give up on separation.
11. Don’t indulge in casual dating
Marriage separation does not give you a license to go serial dating and start online flirting to test it out with other women. Even if you are not tempted to give your marriage another shot, do not jump into the dating ring now that you are unofficially separated. There are two problems in this.
Your dating behaviour can be used by your spouse to discredit you or you can end up making emotional and physical mistakes during dating someone new. Jumping into another relationship at this time, just might complicate things even further. Simply put knowing what not to do during separation is equally important.
The best marriage separation advice one can give is to tread cautiously during this period. Take this time to reflect on your own behavior as well as that of your spouse. Introspect and go within to know exactly where you stand in life. The clarity will be needed as you negotiate one of the most difficult phases in a relationship. Seek legal advice on marriage separation, stand firm on your terms, take care of yourself and your kids. Whatever happens next, you’ve got this.
Separation can be good for a marriage because it gives you clarity. Either you can use the separation period to think things through and prepare for the inevitable divorce or you can make attempts to reconnect.
Do not push your spouse too much during separation, do not drag the children into the drama, do not jump into a new relationship during separation and do not badmouth your spouse to others while you are separated from them.
It depends on the feelings you have for one another. It might be very difficult to talk to your spouse if the split is very bitter but if the split is amicable, there is no harm in being connected to your spouse. You may any way have to do it for the children’s sake.
It should not last long as the longer the separation, the more likely it is to head towards a divorce. There is no ideal period but it should be enough to give you clarity of thought and knowledge of the road ahead.
Seek legal advice immediately and get your options clarified. Ensure your finances are in order and figure out how and what you plan to tell the kids. Focus on work and your own life, make yourself a better person and partner.