Coping with the Process of Marriage Separation
Are you considering a separation for your marriage problems? When used with intention, a marriage separation can work to revolutionize your relationship and bring you back together healthier and stronger.
It’s wise to consult with a Christian counselor before taking the steps to become separated because professional guidance can make the difference between a successful or failed marriage separation.
Dealing with Marital Problems
Though problems in marriage are very common, many couples think that their problems are unique to them and unsolvable. Too many couples wrongly assume that divorce is the only option. However, a separation can be a good tool to combat specific marriage problems.
If one spouse is caught in destructive behaviors and refuses to change, a marital separation can help wake that spouse up to the truth. For example, if the spouse is caught in an affair and refuses to end it, or is addicted to something, a separation can help the spouse realize what he or she stands to lose.
A physically or emotionally abusive spouse is unlikely to stop the abusive behaviors while the victim’s spouse is still living in the same home. In these extreme circumstances, a separation may be the wisest choice. The space created by the separation can give both spouses clarity, time to heal, and incentive to make needed changes.
Most marriage problems can be handled through individual or couples therapy with a Christian counselor. Your counselor can help you decide whether marriage separation will be helpful or detrimental in your marriage. Through counseling, you can learn the steps that will be necessary to take before the separation begins.
Setting Boundaries Before the Marriage Separation
A marriage separation is essentially an ultimatum. It isn’t wise to throw down an ultimatum for a minor issue. However, if you have a persistent and significant issue in your marriage, a separation may be the only way to have hope for reconciliation.
Consider a husband who becomes addicted to pornography. His wife finds out about the problem months after the addiction begins and is heartbroken. However, she loves her husband and wants their marriage to be saved.
With a counselor’s help, the wife sets some boundaries to see if her husband will respond. She requests that he installs a firewall against pornographic material and give her access to all his devices and accounts. She also asks him to meet weekly with an accountability partner and get counseling for his addiction. Her boundary may be sleeping in a separate room until he shows a commitment to change.
If the husband fails to show that he is taking steps to overcome his addiction, the wife may need to send a stronger message. She may suggest a trial separation so her husband can feel the loss of her presence as a taste of what is to come unless he changes. The trial separation can have a set time period and may require legal assistance to outline financial requirements and child custody arrangements.
After the set time period is complete, the husband and wife can reassess the situation. If he has made significant progress, the wife may be willing to let him move back home. If he has only made a little progress, the separation time period can be extended. If no progress is made, divorce may be the final option.
By setting boundaries before the separation, you show your spouse that you are serious about making changes. If you have not set boundaries before, you will need the help and support of a Christian counselor. Boundaries work well if the one setting the boundaries operates from a position of strength. Your counselor can help you build up your reserves to set the necessary boundaries first.
If You Decide to Separate
Separation is a stressful event. It not only causes emotional strain but can also cause financial, social, and spiritual strain. Maintaining two households is stressful for many. Your friends and family may not understand the situation and could be conflicted about which one of you to support. Your church may not know how to help and may not provide the best advice for your situation.
If you are considering separation, it’s in your best interest to consult with a Christian marriage counselor first. You can explain your view of your marriage problems and learn whether separation is the wisest choice. The counseling team at Seattle Christian Counseling has helped many couples navigate the rough waters of separation, and we can help you too.
Attending counseling during your separation can give you peace of mind. You can work on your contributions to your marriage problems with your counselor. You can also gain clarity from a professional, third-party perspective.
During a separation, you may feel lonely, vulnerable, and afraid. The worst thing you can do is to become romantically involved with another person. That choice will only lead you further away from your marriage. You can stay strong by investing in godly friendships of the same sex, attending regular counseling sessions, and avoiding tempting situations.
If you have children, you’ll need to clearly communicate to them what is happening to allay their fears. A caring Christian counselor can help you find ways to tell the truth in age-appropriate ways. Your children need lots of assurance and love during this tough time. The stronger you are emotionally and spiritually, the more you will have to offer your children.
Encouragement During Your Separation
It’s important to rely on God every day during your separation. He will help you know that you are loved, treasured, and esteemed despite the problems that exist in your marriage. By reading God’s Word every day, praying honest prayers, and filling your mind with godly media choices, you will feel stronger and more secure.
Pray for your estranged spouse every day of your separation. Your prayers for your spouse will help you cultivate compassion and understanding, no matter how hurtful your situation may be. You can also pray that God will restore your marriage. Most importantly, trust God for the outcome every day. Prayers of surrender will strengthen your faith during the separation.
You need to surround yourself with people who will speak encouraging words over you. Avoid those who want to tear down your marriage or criticize your choices. Seek out people who withhold judgment, listen well, and offer a shoulder to cry on. Quality social connections are priceless treasures during the difficulty of separation.
Your counselor can recommend books to help you stay strong during your marriage separation. By reading accounts of others who not only survived separations but thrived after them, you can be uplifted and encouraged. Books on marital separation can also give you ideas to try that you may not have considered before.
After the Marriage Separation
If you and your spouse decide to reconcile after a separation, your work is not yet complete. You will still need the support and accountability of your counselor, Christian leaders, and friends in the months and years to come. With a strong network, you can have a resurrected marriage that is thriving and healthy.
Some abusive spouses may toe the line to move back home, then start the abuse again after a period of compliant behavior. That is why accountability measures are essential after separation. Ideally, one marriage separation should be enough to stop the destructive behavior. But in many cases, former abusers need lifelong accountability to avoid slipping back into bad habits. Counseling is vital after a separation from an abusive spouse.
Know that if you enact a marriage separation, there is a risk that your spouse will not change and will not return. This is a reality that not many spouses are willing to face. However, Christian marriage counseling before, during, and after the separation can help you understand which risks are worth taking.
To learn whether marriage separation may be the best option for you, contact us at Seattle Christian Counseling today. We can help you make the wisest decision for your unique situation.
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