Is this a new beginning… or the beginning of the end? It’s the million-dollar question when it comes to marital separation. It is about space to figure things out or space to ease your way out?
When your heart is aching and your head is buzzing with what to do, you’re obviously in an emotional quandary: a separation or a divorce? Or can I somehow force myself to just stick it out?
If that last question causes a nauseous dread and quickly falls into the bucket of impossibilities, you have a couple of choices.
The Options Available to You
You can start a marital separation or you can go straight to filing for a divorce.
A natural question, however, is the statistical link between separation and divorce.
Is there a mystery connection there that you won’t know until you’re in it? Will you somehow be sucked into an “inevitable” divorce without wanting it or being prepared?
The answer isn’t as black-and-white as you might hope.
The “absolute,” therefore, is going to reside with you and your spouse.
You may be overthinking when to leave your husband. That’s to be expected, especially if you have been married a long time.
You may also have a lot of fear about stepping out on your own, either in a marital separation or a divorce. This is understandable, and you certainly aren’t alone.
But this is the fork in the road where your complete honesty—first and foremost with yourself—can ultimately be decisive.
Statistically, 80% of couples who enter a marital separation end up divorcing. And, on average, they remain separated for three years before finalizing their divorce.
On the other hand, 10% of those who separate end up reuniting, on average within two years.
Making Separation Work for You
And therein lies the call for your fearless and complete honesty, both with yourself and with your spouse.
If the two of you are struggling in your marriage but know you want to work things out, you can use a separation to your advantage.
That means you will have to be clear about the rules of engagement—and disengagement.
If you’re truly separating to work on your marriage, then you need to separate and work on your marriage. No dating, no accepting fix-ups, no singles functions, no online dating apps.
In that scenario, it will be important to keep children’s routines as close to normal as possible. Those details will also have to be worked out in advance.
Who is going to leave? Where will that person live? Will the kids go back and forth, or will you switch homes every other week so the kids can stay put?
And, if you’re committed to your marriage, despite the loneliness and uneasiness of separation, will you be going to therapy? Individual, couples, family—all these forms of therapy may be warranted to give you the best tools for healing your marriage and family.
But let’s go back to that 80% because that’s where you may be if you’re vacillating in your thoughts and decisions.
There are very good reasons that most separations end in divorce. You may not want to fess up to them at this point in your journey. But read on and contemplate the truth for yourself.
By the time most couples separate, at least one person has had one foot out the door for some time.
Let’s say that person is you.
You don’t know if you should seek a separation or divorce. You don’t know if you can handle “finality” right now.
Follow Your Intuition
It’s all (understandably) so frightening. So many moving parts. So many things to think about. There are so many things you can’t undo once they’re done. So many things you can’t predict.
But chances are you already have a strong hunch about where this is heading.
If your husband wants to stay married, but you’re staking your claim for time and space alone, you probably have your answer.
Have you been fantasizing about life on your own? A place of your own, a schedule (mostly) your own, a chance to fully express your own tastes, your rules? Is there an Inner Voice talking to you?
Even the mental escape can be a detour from marital dissatisfaction. The mind is very adept at finding ways out of pain.
Without realizing it, you end up nurturing a new mindset that doesn’t include your husband. You have a head start to the door, even if you don’t want to fully admit that’s where you’re going.
The danger of a separation to the possibility of reconciliation is the loss of proximity and contact. You’re either working back toward one another or you’re not.
And the assurance of a separation to the probability of a divorce is the loss of proximity and contact. Again, you’re either working back toward one another or you’re not.
So what happens with that 80% of separated couples who end up divorcing?
Probably the biggest factor is the tendency for at least the partner who initiated the separation to become comfortable with (perceived) singlehood.
If you are thinking about divorce or separation, or even, beginning the process, you may wish to know about Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual group coaching program for women only.
Side Effects of Separation
You start focusing on only the bad parts of your marriage to justify how you feel and what you want now.
You get used to seeing your kids on a set schedule and having time to yourself.
Maybe you feel excited by the prospects of a new relationship—or even an occasional dinner date.
You get used to operating on your own clock and calendar. And the thought of going back to whatever your marriage has come to represent to you feels imprisoning.
And, finally, you are away from the stimulus—or at least the reminder—of your unhappiness.
Basically, you create and get used to a new reality. And going back would be like…well, “going back”…
…or maybe just backward.
What’s important to take from this article isn’t a green light to go sign a lease on a jazzy new apartment. It’s the awareness that, through all the uncertainty, divorce guilt, and yearning for happiness, you really do have the power.
Your responsibility is to be honest—to yourself, to your children, and yes, to the marriage you entered all those years ago.
Because, if you don’t confront your truths (and personal accountability) at this moment of consequential choice, you will confront it at another moment.
And this is one of those major life journeys that a divorce coach can help you navigate.
Whether you stay in your marriage or move on to grow on a different path, coming to a place of conviction within yourself will dramatically influence your future happiness.
And there is always help for you to get there.
Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are thinking about divorce or already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and not go it alone.