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How to Handle a Marriage Separation

by Kristen Moutria, studioD

If you're experiencing a difficult time in your marriage, you and your spouse might decide that you need to separate for awhile to clear your minds and consider your situation without the daily stresses of living together. The time you live apart can help you gain the fresh perspective you need to determine whether you want to stay married or move toward a divorce.

Establish Ground Rules

Before you decide to separate from your spouse, you should both come together and establish some rules and boundaries for your period of separation. You should determine things like where you both will live, how you will handle your relationships with the kids, if you will date other people, what will happen in the event of any family emergencies and if the two of you will go to therapy. Discussing these issues ahead of time will help prepare you for the separation and for situations that might arise during it.

Get a Third Party Involved

You might also want to consider seeking the advice of a neutral third party. A third party can offer another perspective on your relationship, as well as support and understanding during this vulnerable time in your marriage. Susan Pease Gadoua, a licensed clinical social worker and author of "Contemplating Divorce" and "Stronger Day by Day" notes in an April 2010 "Psychology Today" article that a therapist, rabbi, clergy, mediator or lawyer might serve as this third party and help facilitate the process of resolving your relationship issues or offer individual support if you are not interested in reconciliation.

Maintain a Degree of Communication

Although you might be tempted to simply shut off all communication with your spouse during your separation, keep in mind that having no contact at all for a period of time can begin to hurt your marriage connection. If you want to keep reconciliation as an option, you should consider maintaining some type of a connection. For example, you could talk on the phone a few times a week or even meet for coffee. The way you communicate and the frequency of communication has to work for both of you. If either you or your spouse is reluctant to continue communication and prefers to be alone, you might both decide that it's best to make the separation permanent.

Take Your Time

Take the time you need to determine your next step. Resist outside pressure from friends or family to either get back together or divorce. Also, don't pressure your spouse to reconcile if he's not ready, nor should you succumb to his pressure to reconcile if you're not ready. Come up with a list of the pros and cons of reconciliation and divorce. Considering all your options can give you the clarity and perspective you need to make a well-informed decision regarding your relationship.


  • 12 Proven Steps to Have a Healthy Marriage, Prevent Divorce and Keep Your Romance Alive (Marriage Counseling); Richard Chesser
  • Fighting for Your Marriage: A Deluxe Revised Edition of the Classic Best-seller for Enhancing Marriage and Preventing Divorce; Howard J. Markman, Scott M.Stanley, Susan L. Blumberg

About the Author

Kristen Moutria has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Evangel University. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in education from the University of Nebraska.

Photo Credits

  • Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images