Reconciling a marriage after a long separation can be difficult because something happened that made separation necessary in the first place. Whether the separation was due to infidelity, drug or alcohol abuse or a lack of focus on the marriage, each individual should have taken time during the separation to objectively look at the marriage and decide whether or not they want to salvage it. Long separations can create even more distance between people, but sometimes it is exactly what is needed in order for the individuals to miss not only each other but the marriage as a whole.
Make the commitment to each other and your marriage to give 100 percent effort into the reconciliation. Separation often scars both individuals in the marriage, especially if one of the partners didn't want to separate. These scars don't heal on their own. Make sure that you are both giving and getting what you want in terms of absolute commitment to the reconciliation.
Communicate your hopes for the marriage, your fears and what it was like living separate from each other. These talks will bring you closer together because you will learn a great deal about each other. Don't focus on the past by asking questions about the past. What's done is done, but the separation must have been somewhat worthwhile if you both are committing to making it work.
Be patient with each other. A good marriage takes time to build and yours has been bruised, but not broken. Of course there will be some feelings of resentment and anger, but focus on why you are working on the relationship as opposed to why you were angry in the first place. Don't expect wounds to heal overnight, but they will eventually heal with commitment and communication--and a whole lot of patience.
See a marriage counselor if there are certain issues you feel you need mediated. Marriage counselors can help you get to the root of the problem so that you're not concealing what is really going on with petty things. Getting counseling is not something to be ashamed of, rather it shows that you both are willing to do whatever it takes to make the marriage strong again. There is no shame in getting help.
Sit down with each other and come up with a plan. Write down what your goals are for the marriage. Write down each person's wants and needs. Review this plan together often. Remember the plan when you are feeling like you want to delve into the past. Make a promise to yourself to live in the present and make the most of what you have now--a partner who missed you and wants to make it work.
- Sometimes long separations are a way of taking space and thinking about whether divorce is what you want. If, after separation, you feel that you don't want to make the marriage work, be honest with your partner. Don't reconcile out of fear or guilt because you'll only end up in the same place. If you are unwilling to make a commitment to rebuild the marriage, then say so. Doing otherwise is not fair to either of you.
- While you are working on the marriage, do not forget to work on building your own individual strength as well. Offering 100 percent commitment is different than focusing constantly on the marriage. You are still your own person. Discover some new things about yourself and what makes you happy outside of your marriage (e.g. yoga, volunteering, gardening, biking). Spend time with friends. Remember that marriage is about two complete people coming together. Jerry Maguire had it all wrong. You complete yourself and then you bring that sense of wholeness into your marriage.
Rachel Oliva is a writer/actress who has been writing since 2005. She has been published in "Valley Scene Magazine" and her voice has been featured in television and radio ads across the country. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in theater and psychology from Augsburg College. She studied acting at the Actors Studio and the Royal Theatre and writing at the UCLA Writer's Program.