THE EVIL OF SEPARATION IN MARRIAGE
When a society abandons God’s word as its standard of morality, then it will reap the terrible consequences. The greatest threat to the family in our society is its dissolution through separation. Our separation rate is high because so many husbands and wives are following their own will instead of God’s design for marriage and the family. This leads directly to family strife, divorce and family dissolution. Separation has a high cost financially, personally and for society since it erodes the foundation of a healthy society.
The past few decades have witnessed dramatic changes in family life in all industrial countries. The increase in the divorce rate in the second half of the 20th century was striking; in fact, the divorce rate more than doubled in most Westernized countries from 1960 to 1980. The increase in separation has been particularly consequential for children, as millions of them have experienced parental divorce. Moreover, recent increases in non-marital births, driven largely by rising rates of childbearing among cohabiting couples, have also resulted in a greater number of children experiencing the separation of their never-married parents. Because cohabiting relationships are less stable than marriages, many children who are born into these unions also will experience the dissolution of their parents’ union when the cohabiting relationships end.
Should I separate or save family? How to overcome separation?
Marriage separation and divorce are even a more difficult experience than breaking up of a romantic relationship. Divorce and separation ruin life plans and trust to the person who used to be the closest. In addition, the family separation and related processes just do their part with the stress. Because of the effects of divorce, it is one of the most severe tests for your self-assertion and moral strength. Also, you might have to assess pros and cons about children and divorce, thinking how to make the least damage and bring them up as well-balanced people. Lots of difficult questions arise in a family break-up situation. Should I divorce or go for divorce busting to save my family? And how would I settle down in new conditions of single life? How to get the divorce recovery and how to mature to new exciting relationships?
If divorce represents the “death” of a marriage, separation is a temporary “bedrest.” As with an illness, it’s often unclear what direction things are headed in during a separation. But a separation doesn’t have to signify a terminal condition. Below I look at how to assess the health of your relationship during a separation … and pump life back into your marriage.
Look Before You Leap (or Speak)
Before you ask for a separation, think long and hard about all potential consequences of this request. While you may perceive separation simply as a time to figure things out, your partner may perceive it as rejection … and a sign that divorce is inevitable. This may prompt him or her to “check out” from the relationship. Separation also creates confusion (e.g., when/if will we get back together, to what extent are we still married, etc.).
Why Prolong the Inevitable?
If a separation is so complicated, why even bother? Why not just fast-track it to divorce? For couples in troubled marriages, divorce may seem unavoidable. But that is not always the case.
Benefits of Separation
A separation can provide a crucial “cooling off period,” allowing you to more objectively assess the strengths and weakness of a relationship. The time apart may help you remember your spouse’s better qualities, the qualities that made you fall in love. The separation can also give you a clearer perspective on any unhealthy aspects of the relationship—manipulation, co-dependency, etc. Meeting with a marriage counselor can help clarify if and how the marriage can be rebuilt on healthier terms. Individual therapy or marriage and relationship education (MRE) workshops may also be useful.
Separation doesn’t have the same clearly-defined parameters as either marriage or divorce. Accordingly, you and your spouse will have to determine how your separation will be structured and what it means to you. Some issues to discuss…
Dating Other People
Is seeing other people part of the separation? If so, think through how this might impact the possibility of a reunion with your spouse. Should you reconcile, will there be lingering jealousies? If you hope to salvage your marriage, casual dating may not be worth it. One alternative is to date each other—albeit in a limited way. Living apart doesn’t mean you have to cut all ties with each other. Going on dates once a week can inject romance back into your relationship, while allowing sufficient time and space to process through problems.
If you pursue this course, decide in advance what dating your spouse will look like. It may be beneficial to focus on rebuilding emotional intimacy, rather than physical intimacy, during this time. Sex can have an anesthetizing effect—dulling the pain in the relationship while doing nothing to actually address the root issues. As the emotional aspects of your relationship progress, so too can the physical aspect.
Some couples pursue a legal separation; others simply move out. Legal separation provides a formal process for outlining financial and living arrangements, as well as child support. The costs and processes involved in a legal separation are similar to those of divorce.
If you have children, be mindful of how the separation may affect them. A separation can disrupt a child’s basic sense of security and stability. Learning to co-parent effectively and communicate respectfully with your estranged spouse can help reduce the emotional strain on your children.
How will you and your spouse work on the problems in your relationship during this time? Jointly identify the specific issues that are causing conflict. Regardless of what happens with the marriage, these issues will need to be addressed. Merely finding a different partner will not erase old heartache or radically alter how you relate to a significant other.
If an affair triggered the separation, trust will need to be rebuilt. This process will require both time and effort. Take advantage of the many affair-recovery resources available—counseling, support groups, etc. If finances are creating problems in your marriage, set a strict budget and consult with a reputable credit counselor. Inability to communicate, lack of emotional connection and addiction are other common (but resolvable) struggles.
Ending the Separation
Some couples remain separated indefinitely, often due to religious or moral objections to divorce. Unless these are your convictions, a prolonged separation is probably not ideal. Set a timeline that is realistic for the severity of your relationship issues (3 months, 6 months, etc.). Schedule a date in advance to sit down together and discuss the future of the relationship. If progress has been made, you may want to consider moving back in together. Ongoing professional care is beneficial, perhaps even necessary, in the recuperation of your marriage.
A separation can be a time for healing in your relationship. Couples can—and often do—emerge from this period with stronger marriages. Those couples who actively work to restore healthy relationship patterns are likely to see the greatest progress in reviving their marriage.
Parental separation/divorce is associated with increased risk for numerous psychological, academic and social problems throughout the life-course. Experiencing parental separation is associated with roughly a two-fold increase on average, but an overwhelming majority of children and adolescents do not exhibit impairing problems after parental separations. In other words, recent research highlights an increased risk for negative outcomes but parental divorce separation does not necessarily doom a child to have major, impairing problems. Children and adolescents who experience parental divorce, however, frequently experience great emotional distress during the separation and afterward. Recent research that uses numerous designs to test the underlying causal mechanisms suggests that the increased risk for impairing problems is not due solely to selection factors (risks that increase both parental separation and problems in the offspring). Rather, ongoing conflicts between the co-parents after the separation, problems with poor parenting, financial difficulties resulting from the separation, and loss of contact with the non-residential parent help explain the association between parental divorce and offspring functioning.