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Separating from your spouse comes with lots of emotions, and it can quickly devolve into fighting, tension and drama. Whether you want a legal separation or divorce, keeping the split civil takes intentional effort to keep things calm and free of major conflict. You can't control your husband's reaction to the news, but you can control how you handle the situation.
Break the News
If your husband isn't already aware that you want to separate, breaking the news can be difficult. Break the news as easily as possible by making preparations instead of blurting it out unplanned. Make sure you're clear on your feelings and why you want a separation. Practice what you want to say. The specifics depend on your intentions. If you're leaving room for a reconciliation, let your husband know that. You might say, "I want to separate for a while. I feel like things are getting worse between us, and I need some time to sort things out for myself." You might cite specific issues in the marriage. If you want a divorce, make those intentions clear. Be honest and direct without being rude or mean.
Avoid the Blame Game
It's easy to blame your husband for the problems in the marriage, but separation usually means both partners have made mistakes or have some part in why the relationship isn't working. Blaming your husband is often a defense mechanism to avoid your own feelings of shame or guilt. If you publicly blame him, he is naturally going to get defensive, and the split can quickly get ugly.
Instead, use the separation as a catalyst for self-reflection. If communication was an issue, did you do everything you could to promote open, honest discussions? If the marriage suffered from lack of intimacy, did you pull away or make it difficult for your husband to get close? Whether you reconcile with your husband or split permanently, taking ownership of your actions can help better you for future intimacy. You might realize you need to make some changes in your life to improve yourself.
Keep Emotions Under Control
Keeping your emotions under control when you're deciding things like how to split up property or share custody is no easy task. You're allowed to feel a broad range of strong emotions. However, if you want the split to be amicable, you can't let those emotions guide your actions. It's tough to make good decisions when you're overcome with emotion. It's also not fair to try to keep your husband from seeing the kids because you're angry. Acting on emotions often breeds more anger and conflict during the separation.
Emotions can continue to be an issue even after the decisions are made. Avoid saying things about or to your husband in anger. Try to stay calm when you interact with him, whether it's during court proceedings or drop-offs with the kids.
Use Mediation to Make Decisions
Sometimes it's difficult to agree on issues like dividing assets, property and child custody. Even if you don't get divorced, you'll likely need to split things when you separate. If you can't calmly and fairly make these decisions, get help from a mediator experienced in separations. Mediation is often faster and easier than going through a lengthy court battle over where the kids will spend holidays or who gets the wedding china. It's also a lot cheaper to work with a mediator. Splitting things amicably with the help of a mediator can keep the relationship civil going forward.
See a Counselor
If you are considering reconciliation in the future, working with a marriage counselor during the separation can help you work toward that reunion. Even if you think you want a divorce, counseling may bring awareness to things that hurt the marriage, and you may decide there's still something to save.
Still convinced your marriage is over? Going to counseling together can help you work through some of the past issues, so you can get to a healthier place in your relationship. This is especially important if you have kids. Having an amicable relationship makes co-parenting much easier. If your husband has no interest in counseling, consider going on your own. Your therapist may help you learn to handle the split and your husband's actions in a civil way to keep the separation friendly.
- Never end a relationship by telephone, text message or via a third party. Put yourself in your husband's shoes and think about how you would feel if he was the one who wanted to separate. Try to treat him the way you would want to be treated.
- Arrange to meet a close friend after you have told your husband you want to separate from him. Even if the separation is your choice, you may still be upset about the end of your marriage. Having a good support network in place will help you through it.
Shelley Frost writes professionally on a full-time basis, specializing in lifestyle, family, parenting and relationship topics. She holds an education degree and has extensive experience working with kids and parents.
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