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Faith Therapy : Does a Separation Work?

Faith Therapy : Does a Separation Work?

My Husband and I Are Having Trouble. Is It a Good Idea for Us to Separate?


Q: I want to separate for a while before divorcing. My husband does not believe in separation. Is a lengthy separation before divorce a good idea?  

Generally speaking, a trial separation should be a last resort because it is a risky proposition. If the marriage appears imminently headed for divorce, some period of separation is likely helpful as it is rarely a good idea to make important decisions under duress. 

When husband and wife appear to be more toxic to each other in their attempts to live together than they would be living apart, I always recommend a “constructive separation,” particularly when some major breach of trust or respect has occurred. A constructive separation may last for a year or more and is designed to be a time of active reflection and rebuilding without sexual involvement. It allows space for rebuilding friendship, restructuring values, healing through individual or couple’s therapy, and of course time to miss each other. 

When cooler heads prevail and the evidence of transformation is apparent for a sustained period, then and only then should reconciliation under the same roof take place. A premature reconciliation without demonstrated change defeats the purpose of the separation and has the potential to make things worse when old wounds are quickly re-opened. A good resource to guide you is "Boundaries in Marriage" by Dr. Henry McCloud. 

Pamela Thompson, Psy. D., is the owner of Building Bridges to Better Lives, P.C., in south Atlanta. She works together with a group of psychologists at a life and executive coaching firm known as The Novem Group, novemgroup.com. Answers provided by this column are no substitute for therapy.

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