5 Tips for Navigating a Marriage Separation

The following five tips can help you if you’re considering a marriage separation or your spouse has asked for one:

1. Talk with your spouse about what your individual goals are for the separation. Are they the same or different?

2. Try to reach an agreement that neither of you will date anyone else during this period of time. If your marriage is going to have the best chance possible, you’ll want to agree not to have sexual entanglements with others so you can continue to work on your relationship.

3. Set a tentative time period for the separation, such as three months. At the end of that time, you can both re-evaluate the decision in terms of what’s best for each of you.

4. Agree to seek individual and joint counseling during the separation to address the key problems and issues that have caused conflict in the marriage. This is an ideal time to do some deep individual work on your own personal issues as well as to address core relationship issues.

5. Set guidelines that you both agree to about how much contact you’ll have during the separation and what kind of contact it will be. It doesn’t do any good to have a separation if one spouse or the other is calling on the phone every five minutes and constantly wanting to talk more about the problems. The separation is supposed to reduce conflict and give each person some space and relief from constant pressure and arguments.

–Written by Nancy Wasson, Ph.D.


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  1. In my experience, this is a terrible crisis that will allow you to grow. A woman in a situation like this needs to rescue herself first and foremost, so she can take care of her kids. It is important that you focus on your self esteem, and what makes you happy. Find help in family and friends, daycare, a job, education….. Things figure themselves out when you are in good shape. You can then reevaluate your marriage, and or legal procedures to ensure your kids wellbeing. There are some books I can suggest by Harriet Lerner : the dance of anger and the dance of intimacy. Some of us mask our anger with sadness. ….. Good luck!

    1. Thania, you said: A woman in a situation like this needs to rescue herself first and foremost, so she can take care of her kids

      This is a lot like the safety instruction they give at the beginning of an airline flight: When the oxygen masks fall down from the overhead compartment, place yours on your face securely before taking care of any children.

      How have you grown due to your experience?

  2. I saw the link from Twitter. I am so sorry to hear about what you are going through and I can personally relate. My husband left me with 3 young children and had a history of infidelity too. He would also come by on weekends and “play dad and husband” and it drove me crazy. What I would suggest to you is stay in the Word as much as possible. Listen to sermons , gospel music, take notes. Seek Christian counseling for yourself and work on you because that’s all you can change. As hard as it is, look for ways you may have contributed to issues in yoyr marriage. This was really tough for me as I was always quick to point out ky husbands issues when I had anger and controlling issues myself. Find hobbies, volunteer work to keep you busy. Join a life group or women’s group at your church. Read books. And pray! There is hope for your marriage and God can soften even the hardest heart. Don’t give up. God bless.

    1. Thank you for your heartfelt reply. As someone who has been through divorce myself, I well remember how crazy my life was during that painful time. And yet looking back on my experience, I can see how lessons I had trouble learning then have finally helped me in my current marriage.

      Have you found your difficult experience you wrote about has been helpful to you as a lesson in any way?

  3. Nancy and I can sense the pain you’re in. And I have seen many other cases where a spouse in a difficult situation like yours did not see any easy solution to the situation they were in.

    My first thought is that even if your husband doesn’t have the time or won’t go to a marriage counselor or coach, it may help you a great deal if you could go see one alone. This could give you clarity about what to do.

    Two sources of information regarding where and how to find local, competent marriage advice are at these sites:


    They offer a list of counseling and coaching professionals, some of whom may charge on a sliding scale.

    There also may be local counseling agencies which offer free counseling or also charge on a sliding scale. A phone call to your local mayor’s office, chamber of commerce, or county courthouse about what services are available could be helpful. Also some churches and ministers offer free or low-cost counseling.

    In addition, an online forum for marriage and relationship issues can be found at http://talkaboutmarriage.com/.

    I will also encourage my Twitter followers who may have some insight into your situation to offer comments and suggestions in response to your comments, so you might want to check back to this page within a few days.

    And last but not least, if you want professional advice more quickly than the several weeks it may take you to get an appointment with a local marriage counselor or coach, you can find some competent professionals online.

    I’m sure that there are a number of good coaches out there, but the one I’m most familiar with is of course my wife, Nancy Wasson, Ph.D. You may find out more information on her marriage coaching by clicking here.

  4. My husband left and moved in with a friend. He said it was so that he could have some peace and quiet and avoid the conflict and chaos. Admittedly, the was way too much chaos. At this point in time, we can’t communicate about anything of substance. The arguments have escalated to beyond stupidity (no violence, but a lot of verbal abuse on his end) and the children deserve MUCH better. He left at a time when I truly needed another adult in the house; I was left helpless with minor children. He has returned on his days off and expected ‘happy family and marital times,’ but we’re not allowed to discuss anything. He is studying fro a test for a second job, so I have been trying to be respectful. But being left in the lurch has left me scared and confused. I am a stay-at-home mom with no income. I have to trust that he is still going to pay the bills and provide food money. I am also growing resentful of his appearances on days off with the expectations of being a happy family and all the benefits that entails. He has a history of infidelity, so I’m also allowing myself to fear the worst about what’s going on while he’s out of the house. It’s not like he has any time to do anything physical, but he thinks it’s ok for a married man to be friends with women – he friends them & messages them on facebook, he offers to help train them at the gym, etc.He has mentioned counseling, but has no time for it.

    I like your suggestions here, but I just don’t see how I can make them work. Though I have made contact with a counselor who may be able to start talking with me in a couple of weeks. I find myself depressed, with no motivation to do anything. I can’t sleep at night – I’ve moved out to the couch – and I have a hard time getting up in the morning. I have one project I’m working on that I can’t abandon, and at least I’m able to focus on that (it’s for someone else that I can’t let down). But this project will be over in 10 days or so. I don’t know what will keep me going after that. I am praying, though probably not as much as I should. I’m too embarrassed to tell my family and have no close friends near me. I have reached out to a couple of online friends and they’ve been supportive. Thanks for listening.

    1. Have you found any counselor in your area who has either helped you, your husband or both of you?
      Also, there were two good comments in addition to my initial response to your original comment.

      What, if anything, has be useful to you?

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