How to Survive a Separation
The odds of reconciling after a marital separation aren’t good — nearly 80 percent of separated couples ultimately divorce, according to Ohio State University research in 2012 — but you can come out of the process whole, regardless of whether you reconcile or divorce.
It’s important to know the intent of the separation as you deal with a range of emotions as well as practical tasks while taking care of yourself and your family.
It’s important to set expectations for the separation from the beginning so you have a clear picture of what to expect. One of the first things to discuss is how long the separation will last.
The length of your separation should reflect the severity of your relationship issues. You should also talk about the intentions each of you have for the separation.
Are you both planning an eventual divorce, or is one of you hoping for reconciliation? Different goals for the separation will result in trust issues between you and your spouse as well as false hope.
Expect a Range of Emotions
A separation sets you on a roller coaster of emotions. You’ll likely face extreme mood swings, hurt, embarrassment, shame and loneliness.
Allow yourself to experience your emotions without attempting to fully comprehend the reasons behind them — at least in the beginning, suggests the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Health Services in the article “Coping With Separation and Divorce.”
Your feelings should lessen over time, but remind yourself that it’s OK to function at a diminished level as you’re dealing with your feelings. This might mean you’re less productive at your job and you can’t care or help others as much as before.
Dealing With Practicalities
Although you might be overcome with emotions, it’s important to deal with the practical side of the separation.
If you haven’t agreed upon living arrangements, you need to figure that out. Will you stay in your current residence, or will your spouse stay? If you’re leaving, will you live with family or find your own place? You also need to consider finances. It’s a good idea to make a budget by identifying your expenses and spending, and noting how much income you contribute.
You and your spouse should discuss, if possible, how the finances will work during the separation. Filing a separation agreement isn’t required, but it does help formally and legally divide up custody, debt, property and financial support, according to North Carolina family law firm Sullivan & Tanner, P.A., in its website post “Separation Agreement Survival Guide.”
Take Care of Yourself
Marital separation can be overwhelming; it’s important to take care of yourself during this time. Family, friends, counselors, clergy and formal support groups all represent outlets to help you deal with the emotions and stress of the separation.
Isolating yourself can actually raise your stress and reduce your concentration, according to Mental Health America in its website post “Coping With Separation and Divorce”. As hard at it might be, eat right, get enough sleep and exercise. You can also take care of yourself by finding new hobbies or activities or getting back into old interests.
When Kids Are Involved
If you have children, making sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible for them will help give you peace of mind. Come up with a plan and present it to your children — together with your spouse if possible.
Talk about visitation and who will live where when you present your plan. Change is difficult for kids, so giving as much warning as possible helps in the transition. Avoid arguments and conflict, as well as any negative talk about your spouse, when you’re in front of the children.
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