Reasons for Marital Separation

by Jo Burns

Marital separation often comes after a couple has exhausted many options to save their relationship. Some couples live in a state of permanent separation because their religious or personal views prohibit divorce, yet they cannot be happy living with their spouse. Most marital separations are informal, but legal separation is available for couples who have complicated financial, religious or parenting issues that require legal documentation.

To Save the Marriage

Though it may seem counterproductive, the website reports that some couples view separation as a step to try to save their marriage. The hope is that time spent apart will help both partners realize how much they value their marriage and commit to working to improve their relationship.


Poor communication is the No. 1 reason that couples eventually divorce, according to the website Couples who separate because of communication problems likely will not be able to resolve their issues without assistance from a trained counselor or mediator. If they were able to talk things through to begin with, they would not end up in a separation because of poor communication.


Financial stress places a great burden on any individual and perhaps even more on a married couple. The strain of debt can cause couples to argue, criticize each other's money habits and blame one another for little things that may have nothing to do with finances. Married couples who are considering separating because of money troubles may find hope through credit counseling along with more traditional resources like marriage counseling.


Infidelity can include behavior other than sexual activity. Participating in a secret, emotionally intimate relationship with a person other than your spouse, even without sex, can leave the spouse feeling cheated. The website reports that after an affair is discovered, "It's often helpful to take a 'time out.'" A separation can provide the couple with time to process the betrayal, come to terms with the reasons for the dishonesty and decide if they are willing to do the difficult work of healing the wounds of infidelity.


Addiction to drugs, alcohol, the Internet, pornography, shopping or any other substance or habit can create tremendous unhappiness and dysfunction in a marriage. Couples may decide to separate while the addicted partner participates in a recovery program or because he chooses not to seek recovery. In either case, the spouse of an addict can find support in such groups as Al-Anon during and after the separation.

Change in Priorities

It is sometimes said that seemingly happy couples who have separated after a long marriage have simply "gone their separate ways." After many years together individuals may develop interests their spouse does not share, or choose new priorities that can't be reconciled with staying married.

Photo Credits

  • unhappy franklin image by charles taylor from