A HEALING SEPARATION With Goals

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A Healing Separation is a structured time apart. It’s one that can help a couple to heal a relationship that isn’t working. It can also help revitalize and renew the relationship so it is working. The intent of this time of separation is to move it from neediness to health. A successful Healing Separation requires that both partners be committed to personal growth. They also commit to creating a healthier relationship with each other. This framework will allow them the opportunity to carve out a more fulfilling relationship with each other.

Trial Separation

The Healing Separation is like the old-style “trial separation” that involves living apart from each other for a while. Unlike unstructured separations, however, the Healing Separation is a working separation. It is a time where you and your partner dedicate yourselves to investing in your own personal growth.

The Healing Separation is a creative way to strengthen both partners. It also helps to build a new relationship without dissolving the partnership.

Each partner agrees to the following goals for this separation:

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

2. This is a time to better identify my needs, and wants. The expectations of our relationship also needs to be better identified.

3. It is to help me explore my basic relationship needs.

4. I realize I will experience the social, economic, and parental stresses. These, of course, can occur when I separate from my partner.

5. This time allows me to work through my process better apart than I can within the relationship.

6. It helps me to experience enough emotional distance so I can separate out my issues that have become convoluted with my partner’s issues.

7. It provides an environment to help our relationship heal, and transform. This is so it will 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 end of the relationship. This separation agreement attempts to provide structure and guidelines. This is to 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 of a separation they’ll need. 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. This allows us the opportunity to create a new relationship with each other.

3. Personal Growth Experiences:

Ideally a healing separation would include as many personal growth experiences as practical, and helpful.

4. Living Arrangements:

Experience has shown that the in-house separation, with both parties living in the same home, results in a less creative experience. It may not give enough emotional space to the person who needs it.

5. Financial Decisions:

Some couples decide to continue joint checking and savings accounts, and payment of bills. Other couples will completely separate financial aspects of the relationship.

6. Motor Vehicles:

Ownership and titles are not to be changed until a decision has been made about the future of the relationship.

7. Children:

When a couple does a Healing Separation, the goal is to minimize the emotional trauma for the children involved.

This article contains excerpts from the article, “Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends.” It is written by Bruce Fisher, Ed.D.. The original copy article was sent to us from: Smartmarriages® at Smartmarriages.com.

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Filed under: Separation and Divorce

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120 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 https://marriagemissions.com/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. Cindy, It seems the Web address is flawed or changed. I cleared the cache to no avail. Would you mind re-posting it?

    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.

  12. I have been with my husband for 15 years. We’ve had some rough times in the past but we have gotten better at handling them together and it felt like our relationship just kept getting stronger. Until earlier this summer. I ran across a couple of emails he had sent, responding to personal ads on Craigslist. (Old emails from 2012-2013) I was devastated and he was out of town for work, so I spent several days of not seeing or hearing from him. When he returned home, he tried to convince me they were part of a prank he was playing on a couple of guys at work. Two months later, I noticed I had a facebook email from 2014 from a girl claiming my husband won’t stop hitting on her and is also dating one of her coworkers. By the time I saw the message, she had deleted her account. I haven’t been able to contact her. Also, the message was sent in 2014 and we moved away from that state a year before. I confronted him about it and he just keeps saying he doesn’t know either of them and that he had not even been to that place since 2012.

    When he’s home and we are talking about it, I want to believe him and I just take it all in. But as soon as I’m not with him, our conversation replays in my head and I’m convinced he’s lying at least about part of it. I don’t want my marriage to end but I feel I can’t trust him. I need to know the truth before I can make a decision of what to do. We moved across the country from all of our friends and family. We can’t afford to live separately right now. I thought I may need to move to a spare room until I figure out what to do. We have very different schedules so we would rarely see each other anyway. I just don’t know how separation could help me with my trust issues.

    I mentioned marriage counseling – he stated it was pretty expensive and doesn’t feel we need it. I asked him to help prove his stories simply by getting his coworkers to agree with is story in a very casual way – he refused because it was years ago and they probably wouldn’t remember. He’s giving mixed signals in his stories and I’m losing my mind. I just keep praying that God leads me in the direction that He wants me to go in.

  13. Me and my Husband are currently separated. After being married for 12 years my husband left because he wasn’t happy with where his life is at the time and he wants more. I didn’t ask him to leave and I’m still attracted to him. Should we still have sex during this time or will this only make things more complicated? Also I’ve read here that we can date, something that I was told was not good as well. Please advise as I am very confused about how to move forward with my emotions and the fact that my husband’s goal is us getting back together.

    1. Hi Karla. I’m so sorry for this painful time you are going through. How I wish this type of thing would never happen in ANY marriage. Sadly, as you know, it does. It’s so painful. My heart goes out to you. You ask a few important questions that I hope I can answer. You ask if you should have sex during this time, or will this only make things complicated? My answer to this is that you shouldn’t have sex during that time, with each other, or others. This should be a time when you both work on your issues to be able to eventually reconcile. If you have sex together, it might prolong your separation. There isn’t as much motive to get back together. You’re supposed to be working on your emotional issues so you WILL want to be together more, within the marriage.

      You also say that you “read here” that you can date. I don’t see that written in there anywhere, nor should it be. So my answer is, no. There is to be no dating, EXCEPT with each other. You are trying to grow your relationship, not complicate it by bringing in others. You are still married, even if you are separated. Do married people date other people? No, they shouldn’t. And if they do, they are wrong. That is NOT what they promised each other in their wedding vows.

      I hope and pray that somehow your husband works out his issues and realizes that the “more” he can have is with you, rather than what is out there. Try to build together so your life works for both of you within your marriage. It seems like the grass usually looks greener on the outside. Hopefully, your husband, together with you, will water the grass within your marital home, and it WILL be greener.

      1. Hi Cindy and thank you for your response. Your response is very helpful. After reading and doing some research on this website I spoke with my husband and we are definitely going to try some of the steps regarding setting boundaries and time frames. I have to realize that time is helpful during our separation so I think that I just have to slow down. When I said that we should date, I meant to say each other. He doesn’t nor do I want to date or have sex with anyone else. I seem to become very emotional afterwards because I don’t feel that he can have some of me and not all of me, so he understands my feelings and he’s waiting till I’m ready or until we are back together. We have two beautiful children and we’ve been together for a total of 20 years so we really want to get this right during this separation and work on our communication (very difficult for us) so that we can have another 20 years together.

        1. I’m so glad to hear that you are both looking at approaching this sensibly and with an eye on reconciling. The fact that you are looking to date each other (and not anyone else) is great. It seems to be what you need. We have a topic on our web site called, “Romantic Ideas” that may be able to help you come up with some great ideas. (We keep adding more ideas regularly.) Also, go through our “Communication and Conflict” and the “Communication Tools” topic to see what we make available. And then look to see what else we have that fits in with your needs. I’m sure you both have issues you have to work on (we all do)… now would be a good time to work on them so you come out of this dark time as partners –more united than you ever thought possible.

          That’s what my husband and I have done. We separated for a short time, but then I came back and we kind of got into dysfunction again. We didn’t have the type of info available that couples do today. We fought our way through it all (literally), and eventually, because we both were committed, we lived, learned, and we are now passing the info on that has helped us and millions of others. I pray you and your husband get to the place in your lives together where we are. We have a WONDERFUL marriage now! We’ve been married 44+ years and are more in love now than ever before, or ever thought possible.

          What you and your husband are going through could be a real testimony to your children of what commitment and determination can bring. You have to know that they are watching you. More kids need to see their parents fighting FOR their marriages and growing them into good ones, than seeing them quit and “move on” (which you never can do entirely when you have kids together… you’re always being thrown back in together), and then move on and on and on. When things get tough, we need to dig in and get tougher –learn what we need to, and find ways to unite. I pray for you and for your husband, and for your children. May this be the starting of a new beginning for you! Each day can be a new beginning if you don’t quit and learn from your mistakes. I think it’s called, “falling forward.” You go forward and then fall flat on your face, but then you pick yourself up again and see that at least you progressed a little forward that time. But you keep inching your way forward until you can eventually move forward by leaps and bounds. May God bless you as you work to be united in every way in your marriage relationship! :)

  14. I am wondering about how to manage financially during a trial separation. One of our main issues is my husband is a ‘dry addict’ who has swapped addiction for compulsive spending. I just recently found out that he has run up over $40,000 in credit card debt in two years. I am a stay-at-home mom who’s last child went to college last fall. I could see the addiction style behaviors ramping up and have been asking husband to see his therapist for over a year without result.

    Since I could see that money was the new drug of choice, I went back to school last fall as well so that I can start a late in life (I’m 51) career in the likelihood that he won’t get this one under control. That, however, leaves me in school, with about a bit over 2K on my credit card and $1,500 in my personal savings. I’m visiting our out of state daughter while she is on maternity leave and I know that we have a better chance of pulling through with a 30-year marriage intact if I don’t go back home. He needs to face his issue and not use me as a scapegoat or verbal punching bag.