A Healing Separation is a structured time apart in which can help a couple heal a relationship that isn’t working. It can also help revitalize and renew a relationship that’s working. The Healing Separation is designed to transform the basis of a love relationship —moving it from neediness to health. A successful Healing Separation requires that both partners be committed to personal growth, and to creating healthier relationships with themselves and each other. Such a framework will allow them to carve out a new and more fulfilling relationship than they’ve known in the past.

The Healing Separation, like the old-style “trial separation,” which involves living apart for a while, with the decision as to whether or not to end the relationship put off until some future time. Unlike unplanned and unstructured separations, however, the Healing Separation is a working separation, in which you and your partner dedicate yourselves to investing in your own personal growth. If you can create a better relationship with yourself, that can allow different and healthier relationships with others.

Sometimes your work during a Healing Separation may be on “the old relationship,” and sometimes it may be on “the old you.” The Healing Separation is a creative way to strengthen both partners and build a new relationship without dissolving the partnership.

Each partner agrees to the following goals for this separation:

1. To provide time and emotional space outside of the love relationship so I can enhance my personal, social, spiritual, and emotional growth.

2. To better identify my needs, wants, and expectations of the love relationship.

3. To help me explore my basic relationship needs, and to help me determine if these needs can be met in this love relationship.

4. To experience the social, sexual, economic, and parental stresses which can occur when I have separated from my partner.

5. To allow me to determine if I can work through my process better apart than I can in the relationship.

6. To experience enough emotional distance so I can separate out my issues, which have become convoluted and mixed up together with my partner’s issues in our relationship.

7. To provide an environment to help our relationship heal, transform, evolve into a more loving and healthy relationship.

Some structure and awareness can help improve the chances of success of the healing separation. Unplanned and unstructured separations will most likely contribute to the ending of the relationship. This healing separation agreement attempts to provide structure and guidelines to help make the separation a more constructive and creative experience, and to greatly enhance the growth of the relationship rather than contributing to its demise.

Key Elements of the Healing Separation Agreement:

1. Length of separation (Most couples have a sense of how long a separation they’ll need or want. It may vary from a few weeks to six months or longer.)

2. Time to Be Spent Together (A healing separation ideally should include some quality time together on a regular basis creating a new relationship.)

3. Personal Growth Experiences (Ideally a healing separation would include as many personal growth experiences as feasible, practical, and helpful.)

4. Relationships and Involvements Outside of the Relationship (Ideally a joint decision and compromise should be made concerning social involvement.)

5. Living Arrangements (Experience has shown that the in-house separation, with both parties continuing to live in the family home, results in a less creative experience. It seems to dilute the separation experience and keeps both parties from experiencing as much personal growth as is possible with separate living arrangements. It may not give enough emotional space to the person who needs it.)

6. Financial Decisions (Some couples will decide to continue joint checking accounts, savings accounts, and payment of bills. Other couples will completely separate financial aspects of the relationship. If there’s any chance for [significant] disagreement, each person could take out half of the assets and open separate accounts.)

7. Motor Vehicles (It’s been suggested that ownership and titles not be changed until a decision has been made about the future of the love relationship.)

8. Children (It’s important when a couple does a Healing Separation to minimize the emotional trauma for the children involved.)

The above article contains excerpts from Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends, by Bruce Fisher, Ed.D. This positive relationship-healing concept was developed by the late marriage and family therapist, Bruce Fisher, Ed.D. of Boulder, Colorado. A complete description of the Healing Separation, along with a format for a couple’s agreement, appears as an appendix in the 1992 and 2000 editions of Bruce’s book, Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends. The original copy article of this was sent to us from: Smartmarriages® Smartmarriages.com Subject: Time/Healing Separation/Way We Love/Village – 9/16/03


Filed under: Separation and Divorce

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102 responses to “A HEALING SEPARATION With Goals

  1. I’ve been with my husband for 20 years. We kind of grew up together. When I say that I mean we grew into adults together. We met when we were 17. There’s kids, financial issues, debt and anger. There’s lies, alcohol, pornography and resentment. I don’t think I’m an angel and no way is it one sided, but I want to hear from other people who have had success in separating with the purpose of rebuilding.

    I need space; I need to rebuild myself in a healthy environment. I want to be happy and healthy. I can’t do that here as it’s just toxic. Nothing is supported and if I do embark on something like a detox I talk about it first so everyone knows what’s going on or even to the point of a team sport it’s all good. But then I’m resented for taking time for myself or spending money.

    He doesn’t have too many opportunities for social things because he works early til late and weekends are usually family time and sports for the kids. I want to rebuild my relationship but I’m very afraid that I will break free and not want to come back. I think my husband knows this but I think he thinks I’m trapped here. I have no money, no family, no job, and kids that are dependent on me. I think he thinks if I leave I would never want to come back and that scares him.

    It scares me too but also excites me to the possibilities out there. Makes me feel guilty for talking like that. I’m afraid if I go that my husband won’t bother trying to work on our problems. I feel like he would just fill the void with more work. And that’s so hurtful. He blames me for not letting go of old issues, which is only partially true. He cheated, well didn’t get that far, and I let go of the cheating itself. It just caused trust and sex issues, which he doesn’t agree stemmed from that. Anyway I do want to hear from others that have repaired their relationships and are living back together.

    1. If you go into the “Save My Marriage” topic and go into the testimonies, you will see just a small representation of marriages that have been reconciled despite the fact that they looked like they would never go anywhere good again. Problems don’t have to stay forever, only if one or both spouses lose hope that there can be a journey back to loving each other again… learning how to handle their problems so they don’t run over the both of them. Please go through the testimonies found at http://host.agencysrvr.com/~marriage/about-us-2/save-my-marriage-testimonies-3/ so you can see that marriages can be rebuilt.

        1. Dear Sleeder, We checked the Testimonies link in the section “Separation and Divorce,” and had no problems. You may want to try and clear your cache and then come back in or if you have another web browser on your computer try coming in using that. We tried it from both Chrome and Safari and it worked both times. As far as we can tell it’s not happening on our end. Hope this helps.

    1. I’m so sorry to say that obviously, you can’t. You can’t MAKE your spouse agree to follow these principles. This obviously says something in itself that your spouse is most likely thinking of breaking at least some of these guidelines in some way, or thinks that you will. That is sad… so, so sad. I hope that you can both come to some type of an agreement to work on the vows that you both made on your wedding day to honor your commitment to love and stay committed through the best and worse of times.

  2. I’m so thankful I found this page at 2:43am! I have been really struggling with my decision to separate from my husband of 12 years …But I know it’s what’s necessary for my to heal; he has put myself and our 4 children through quite a bit and it seems at times he’ll never change and although he’s doing OK now…it’s usually only a pattern that lasts no more than 3 weeks. I’ve been so stressed because I’m a stay at home mom with no job, but im praying for a job because I have to separate and this page has given me the exact outline I was looking for, when I relay WHAT TYPE of separation I’d like it to be. We both need serious healing and I believe this time apart will be just what we need! Although I’m afraid, I know God is with me (and everyone else in this desperate situation).

  3. The article really hit home for me as I hadn’t loved my wife unconditionally and didn’t recognize that she was also hurting from past relationships. Now I’m living separate from my wife due to a job, and sincerely coming into the knowledge of learning how to love as GOD intended. Unfortunately, my wife desires to move on from our marriage but I know GOD is able!

    The testimonies on this site have been encouraging, because this is the hardest thing to do, when you repent of your failures and GOD is changing your heart but your spouse still only sees your failures. I’m trying to love from a distance and continue to reach out to her but she continues to avoid my attempts. I realize now my decision to accept this position was selfish because I didn’t consider her feelings but never imagined it would lead to an apparent divorce. Even still, I’ll trust GOD for my direction, regardless of how hard it becomes I know my wife and my marriage are worth it.

  4. My husband and I got married in 2007. We have 3 children of 7, 5 and 1 years. In 2013 he filed for divorce saying he no longer loved me but 2 weeks later changed his mind. In January 2014 I discovered he was cheating on me with another woman. I became depressed, hurt and frustrated. The result of this was our youngest child. In April he decided to leave home on unstructured separation to date. And he is with the same woman. He doesn’t listen to anyone. He is bitter towards me and hardly supports the children. He has even stopped talking to me -he has become totally cold. What could the cold mean?

    He developed such hatred towards me and doesn’t want to have anything to do with me, so he says. He has little time for our children. Is cold towards me and has stopped talking to me. What could be the meaning of him not talking to me? What should I do because I want him back asap?

    1. Mrs Simutowe, Usually we say, happy wife, happy life. So you both quit making each other happy… WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO DO ABOUT IT? Have you ever seduced him? The secret dreams of most husbands usually doesn’t come to pass… Do you HONOR and REVERENCE HIM, or does he feel belittled? There is enough for you to win him back and keep him, “IF YOU DO IT”… IT’S UP TO YOU.

      1. Her husband is a cheater who is unrepentant. She should not seduce him. If the husband is having unsafe sex, she is risking her health. If her husband feels belittled he should have talked to his wife about this. Chasing after your husband that way won’t change him. Mrs. Simutowe you can only change yourself. Be strong for you and your children. You can pray for your husband, but until he decides to change and realized the wrong in his ways there is not much else you can do. Since his heart seems to be hardened to you right now maybe a third party can help, a counselor, family friend or clergy.

  5. I am having some issues with this #4 listed in the key elements during a separation. I may be reading it wrong but is this saying a relationship with someone else outside the marriage? I would never want to agree to her or I seeing someone else. Here is the statement
    4. Relationships and Involvements Outside of the Relationship (Ideally a joint decision and compromise should be made concerning social involvement, and romantic relationships outside of this relationship.)

    1. You’re right Stanley, that can be confusing… pulled apart from the entire text of what the author is saying, it looks like he is saying it would okay for romantic relationships to be pursued during separation if it is mutually agreed upon by both spouses –which I know is not the impression the author intended to give. Because of this, I took out the last part of that phrase, so no misunderstanding can occur. Thank you for pointing that out. I have no doubt that the author would have agreed with this minor deletion. Thank you for pointing this out to us. We appreciate it.

  6. My husband and I have agreed that I need some time away from the family. We love each other very much but I’m so burned out from caring for our teenage son with autism and possible other diagnoses. We have three children, 15, 14, and 6. We are both devoted parents and a devoted couple but right now I feel completely used up. I have been the main caregiver, advocate, healer, and manager of my son’s condition and I just don’t have the strength to go on. I am hoping to gain some support from this site for this healing journey. Thank you

    1. Genesis 2:24 It is hard. It would be harder without each other.

      May Gracious, loving God Almighty who has provided his Son our Savior Jesus Christ and The Holy Spirt, send you physical helpers, who will help you as you walk in the peace and power that is in Christ. You are loved and appreciated and you matter. Your union matters too. It matters to God, to your family, to the body of Christ and to the country. It matters to me! Love your sister in Christ, J.L. Smith

  7. My husband has moved out. He never forgives and says he wants a divorce after 4 months. He gives up too quickly and tried to use other women to make me jealous. He’s very rude, won’t answer the phone, and shows no respect for me.

  8. I am a 23 year old mother of 2 (1 biological, 1 step). My husband and I have been married for 4 years, our oldest girl (step) is 5 and we have primary custody she visits her mom every other weekend, our youngest girl is 2. My husband and I have been having problems for about a year. We found out that our oldest was being molested by her mother’s nephew. It completely broke us. She has had behavioral problems because of it, which is to be expected. Her mother has been brain washing her against me, so that now she believes the things her mother has told her. She makes up lies about me, which causes problems with my in laws. My husband always backs me but he’s started to blame some of our daughters issues with me ON ME…he says that I’m too strict sometimes and he will challenge me in front of her. This frustrates me because to me I feel like that is only validating the things her mother has said to her and making her dislike me more.

    That is just 1 piece of the problem….my husband is also very lazy. I do basically everything parenting wise by myself along with all the house work. I work full time, 40 hours a week from 8:30 to 5 Monday through Friday. I work 45 minutes from home…I leave my house every morning at 6:30 to get our 2 year old to daycare and our 5 year old to kindergarten. He never takes the kids, even though our youngests daycare is on his way to work…its 30 min out of the way for me. I also pick the kids up every evening, I never get home before 6:30….he’s always home by 4.

    He also has a problem with weed. He spends nearly $450 a month on it. This really bothers me because there are things I want done around the house that we can’t afford to do because of his selfish habit. I’m not necessarily against him smoking (he doesn’t do it in the house or when our kids are home – this is why he never picks them up) but I want him to limit his spending on it. When I bring it up he gets angry with me.

    We recently split, I’ve moved back in with my parents. I have our youngest daughter with me, he is taking care of our oldest. This is hard for me, I’ve raised her from the time she was an infant. We got into an argument and he busted the windshield on my car – this is the reason I decided we needed space. We’ve been arguing non stop for months. He would wake me up at 3 and 4 am to fight with me, causing our kids to wake up in the middle of it because he keep his voice down.

    He said he would support my decision for a trial separation, I want to work things out with him but now he’s pressuring me to move back home. I’ve only been out a week. How can I get it across to him that we need this space?

  9. While separation is an excellent method for one to examine the relationship fully, it also identifies an impasse or serious misunderstanding has surfaced. Either party may identify the ‘thorny’ issue but, before meaningful remedy may be considered each must understand the issue and its implications. Nothing by way of reconciliation should be commenced until it’s clear both parties wish to reunite.

    1. Back again, he says that he doesn’t see any problems and that I’m on a power trip. He said that he can tell I don’t love our oldest daughter because I moved out, and that he will never forgive me for loving them differently. I don’t; I love her as much as my youngest. But I have no legal right to her and I knew he wouldn’t let me take her with me. He is using her to try and bait me into coming back. He’s having her call me and ask me to come home. We have been spending time together, I’ll come over for a few hours on the weekend but he sleeps the whole time I’m there. He’s spending absolutely 0 time with our youngest daughter and she’s still afraid of him from the last fight when he busted my windshield. He’s upset that she’s scared of him and he’s blaming me.

      Also, he hasn’t done any house work since I left. The dishes are starting to get moldy in the sink. He’s spending all of the money we have in checking on going out to eat and drink with his brother. He’s acting like a bachelor instead of a man trying to save his marriage. He says “come home and I’ll start trying but I’m not until you’re back in this house”. I say no way, I put up with it long enough! I want to see some sort of proof that he loves me and wants our family. He’s giving me none. I’m torn, I don’t want to be stuck like this.

  10. A known person of my surrounding does not have any conjugal life with his wife. He’s stayed with his wife for the last 2 years with out physical relation, only with mental fights and talks. Now they want a 3 month separation to see whether they can live without each other or not. Now, the gal wants to stay with that boy before they get separated. The girl is basically a materialistic admirer. I want to know whether after few months is it possible to stay together or need a divorce.

  11. Our son and daughter-in-law have been separated for 4 months. We see him, but not her. We can see he is growing spiritually and emotionally. However, she has done some bizarre things that make us wonder if she is really interested in saving this marriage. They both go to separate Christian counselors. But it appears her control behaviors are being enabled rather than addressed.

    Presently she is on a luxury vacation with her sister and our grandson at the Cayman Islands. Our son is paying for it. She has remodeled the home they were living in. Our son paid for it. She has written up an agreement forbidding him to come near the home, not to call or see her in person and he can only be with their son for one day of the week. He is 14 years old. She made him sign this via his counselor.

    We feel she is using our son during this separation. It is painful to watch him continue to believe there is real love here. Is there anything we can do to help? We are praying.

    1. Darlene, as painful as this must be (I can only imagine), there really isn’t anything you can do. The laws are tilted towards the woman and if she digs in her heals, he can be screwed. There are some exceptions to the case, depending upon the city and if a judge is involved that tries to give men the same opportunity as women, but what you describe is very, very common. It shouldn’t be, but it is. My heart goes out to you. Praying IS the best thing you can do, plus trying not to let yourselves become bitter. Fight it with everything you have because it will change you. Pray her eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit, and that she opens her mind and heart. I’m so, so sorry for all of you –especially this 14 year old.