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Can a temporary separation help fix your marriage?


Wavebreakmedia I Shutterstock

María Álvarez de las Asturias - published on 05/27/21

When your relationship is in crisis, a brief period spent apart from each other might support your goal of reuniting to save and strengthen your marriage.
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Every marriage has inevitable moments of crisis. When this happens, we shouldn’t panic, nor should we identify “crisis” with “failure.”

A crisis is an alteration of the balance of the relationship, caused by internal circumstances, as when something that happens to one member of the couple and has repercussions on the relationship, or by external circumstances.

When a crisis occurs, one possible consequence is that each partner reacts differently. This can create a certain distance between the spouses.

Generally, the spouses can solve these crises together. Through communication and affection, the distance created by the crisis disappears and the relationship is strengthened.

Crises that create distance in a marriage

However, sometimes this distance becomes greater: It’s not possible to re-establish harmony, for whatever reason. Perhaps there are different points of view that are not well expressed or not properly accepted, previously existing tensions that haven’t been resolved, or one person minimizes the situation even though it’s important for the other person.

The danger is that the spouses go from having a small, easily repairable distance between them to a growing estrangement.

In these cases, what perhaps initially wasn’t a serious difficulty becomes prolonged and causes a rebound effect of lack of communication. This in turn leads to further distance and thus to a greater lack of communication.

This vicious cycle means that the tension between the spouses increases progressively. All of this makes it even more difficult to overcome the initial crisis.

When and why might a temporary separation be considered?

When this happens, in some cases it can be convenient to propose a temporary separation as a first step to fix the marriage.

Why? So that both can recover serenity, because differences cannot be solved when one—or both—are so upset or wounded that they’re unable to open up to the other.

It must be clear that the separation—temporary and as brief as possible—has the purpose of facilitating conditions such that each of the spouses can work to recover the serenity that allows them to approach the other to solve their differences.

This must be evident to both spouses and their families, because it’s fundamental that both spouses have sincere intentions. 

Both will be able to meet again with proper dispositions only if they’ve made clear their shared understanding that the separation is not an end to their marriage. On the contrary, it’s a first step to recover and improve their relationship.

This happens when each accepts that, during a period of time, they’ll have to respect a mutual distance.

This temporary physical separation must be understood as an expression of determination to save your marriage and to recover the love that is still alive under the misunderstandings, failures of communication and distance. 

Alone or accompanied by a professional?

If the spouses have not been able to overcome the initial crisis, it’s a good idea to consider whether this proposal of temporary separation can work successfully without outside help, or if it’s more appropriate to count on the support of a professional.

In my opinion, it is better to turn to a professional, for several reasons:

  • The purpose of the separation is that one or both of the spouses can recover from the emotional wounds which are keeping them from opening up to the other. This situation requires external help to identify and heal these wounds.
  • Managing this temporary separation with the help of a professional reinforces the intention that it’s a measure for fighting to recover the marriage.
  • The separation is proposed precisely because the spouses haven’t been able to overcome the crisis that has originated their estrangement. Therefore, it’s good to look for an alternative solution to reach the desired goal, which is to overcome the crisis so that the relationship may mature and the spouses’ love be strengthened.
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