Does Separation Have to Lead to Divorce?

Separation can actually lead to a better marriage. But, as Dr. Gary Chapman writes in his book, Hope for the Separated, "the road to reconciliation is not easy, but rather... it is right and... the results are worth the effort."

Separation should be used as a time to try to heal your marriage. To give your marriage the best chance for reconciliation follow these guidelines:

1. Be honest with each other

Discuss the real issues at the heart of your separation. Set aside time each week to talk about the issues, but only tackle one issue a week. If things get too heated, or you don't have good communication skills, see a counselor.

2. Stop seeing any third parties

If an affair is present, it must be stopped immediately. Tell the other person you've decided to work on your marriage, and have no contact with them. This is where you have to set aside emotions and go with what is right -- for your marriage and especially for any children who might be involved.

3. Do not date others while you are separated

You need to put all of your emotional energy into healing your marriage. When you start forming emotional attachments with others, you just make things more complicated, and lessen the chance for reconciliation. So during what is usually a lonely and stressful time, seek solace from same-sex friends, family and your relationship with God.

4. Examine your own part in your marriage troubles

It's very easy to look at the other person and see how they've disappointed us, to see what they've done wrong in the marriage. But first, as an old saying goes, "take the log out of your own eye." Consider what habits, actions or words of yours have hurt your spouse and your marriage. Take responsibility for the mistakes you've made. Try to discover the bad patterns and habits you may have fallen into.

5. Be willing to practice tough love

Use the separation time to work through major issues like substance abuse, physical abuse or sexual infidelity. For these types of problems you must be willing to stand firm. If you do not, your spouse may never be motivated to change. Say something like, "I love you very much and want our marriage to work. I want our family to be whole. But I will not live with you and your __________." Then, have patience.

6. Don't buy into the greener pastures myth

Many people think that life could be great if they were with the "right" person... had more "freedom" or "found themselves." Well, life will never be perfect. To live life to its fullest we need to have an attitude of thanksgiving for what we do have -- focus on what's right in your life, your spouse and your marriage. Because if we compare ourselves to others and what seems to be better in their lives, we will be unsatisfied.

Study after study shows that marriage produces the healthiest adults and the healthiest children. A strong marriage is something worth fighting for. So use your separation as a time to make a better future for your marriage.

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