Separation is not always the right next step for people who experience difficulty in their marriage. While that may seem like an obvious conclusion to make, in reality not all separating people live that way.
Based on my experience as a practitioner who coaches people considering separation and those who are already separated or divorced, as well as through my research,* many divorces are a result of a knee-jerk reaction to a problem or challenge in the marriage. That reaction is either immediate, such that when there is an incident that presents a challenge one party reacts with the decision to end the marriage. The knee-jerk reaction can also be after a period of time where there is a recurring issue or several issues that are not talked about openly, but rather harboured or hidden or simply not dealt with effectively, until one day it becomes “the last straw” resulting in a reaction to separate.
When people separate as a knee-jerk reaction it makes it difficult for the couple to pursue an amicable process. What many couples do not realize is that separating or divorcing doesn’t mean “getting rid of the other person.” It ultimately means altering their relationship. When the couple has children, they move from “married” to “co-parents.” Or if there are no children involved it may be a transition to “business partners” if they owned a business together. And, if it is not about the new relationship one is creating with the ex-partner, it is one’s future relationship that the past habits will affect.
So what is the alternative to the knee-jerk? Assuming there is no abuse involved where someone’s safety is at risk, stop and talk. Before you make your choice, talk to a trusted, objective person about the issues. This may also sound like an obvious conclusion but it is often forgotten when one is emotional about their situation, and in some cases they’ve made decisions in their mind and are already virtually out the door of the marriage. Having another perspective on the matter can provide a sense of ease and peace of mind while also opening up new ideas for how to deal with the issues at hand.
Who should one talk to for support? It could be a friend or a family member. While that can be a good start or even a full solution for some to gain clarity about what to do, even the most intelligent and rational friends or family members can be emotionally attached themselves, thus providing a skewed perspective. Another trusted person may be a therapist, counselor or Psychologist that one is already seeing or have seen in the past. A more recent approach to dealing with these matters is to speak to a Coach or Mentor who specializes in family matters. A Coach or Mentor is someone who is dedicated to their clients creating the ideal picture for their family life, and then guiding them to take the actions that will move them toward fulfilling that picture. Ultimately the ideal person to speak with would be the spouse or partner themself, and for many they need a support person to help them do that. Some people may be surprised that they discover a new passion in their current relationship.
How one deals with answering this question of whether to separate or not will set the foundation for their future relationship – either with their current partner or with a future partner.
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* Completed Master’s Degree in Adult Education with a focus on “Creating Peaceful Divorce & Family Forever,” 2010, Ontario Institute for the Studies of Education /UT