Stay or Go? The Hardest Decision: Separation
And the 6 Questions that test the assumption that you should “Stick it out no matter what!”
This hits upon one of the toughest questions we all face in a marriage…and, for most of us, it IS going to be a question raised at some point: Should I stay or should I go? How do you know when the marriage is a lost cause and it's time to throw in the towel? Or, is it time to square off, get straight with one another and work things out?
What happened? We met, and the Earth stood still. We made love and the Earth shook beneath our bed. We wanted to breathe one another's breath, even in the morning! We could not get enough of each other. Then the first argument happened. Then another. Then some unloving things were said that one never thought possible. Or perhaps your partner started to “drift away” and just not there for you as much as they had been. Or they had a fling. Or made fun of you – in front of others! Something started to go south and all seems lost.
More arguments. Or some couples, believe it or not, never argue…they just eat their feelings and go stone cold. Or one person is stone-faced and the other is crying all the time…feeling the emotions for both partners. How does this happen?
There are so many reasons why relationships drift apart it is fruitless to list them all. But what commonly happens is that people forget why they got together in the first place. Often people stop telling one another the truth about what is eating them. Separation as a concept begins to form as an idea in one of the two heads, and that is kept secret until the bags are packed. I want to suggest something much better.
Some suggestions to test if it is time…
I am going to make this recommendation: Move out for a while! One of you should pack up and go to a friend or relative's house, or to a hotel, or on a vacation…whatever…but get away from each other's physical presence for a month. Not in anger…but as a deliberate decision to take time to get your heads and hearts straight. When you feel a breaking point is nearing, the sooner you do this temporary separation the better.
You can talk on the phone* but no physical visits until it is decided whether it is worth continuing. Creating that space (‘nature abhors a vacuum' sort of thing) is essential to let other things surface. It is called “reflection without interference” and can be very revealing. Rules: 1) You are not using this time to see someone else. This nixes the effectiveness like a sledgehammer. 2) Spend time “reflecting” – whether that is prayer or meditation or journaling (or all three) 3) Don't try to force anything to happen – instead, let it happen naturally.
The 6 Questions that test the assumption you should stay together “no matter what”…
I hear people saying, “Hey, it is for better or worse, you should never give up…always stick together thru thick and thin.”
To those people, I ask the following 5 Questions to test that belief:
- If you are being abused regularly, should you still stay?
- If your children are being abused by your SO, should you stay?
- If your SO is running around with a lover, should you stay?
- IF your SO is bringing home dangerous people – around you, and/or your kids, should you stay?
- If your SO is an active alcohol, or other drugs, abuser, should you stay?
- If your SO is an active felon, should you stay?
There are always exceptions that probe the rule…
Basically, use your noodle and your gut together to make sense of situations and possible choices…but time away is always helpful – even for healthy couples too. Open up a discussion, stay away from accusations and judgments…keep it civil and in the vein that you WANT things to work out and that is why you need this time away.
Other suggestions if they fit: This is between the two of you…so don't drag others into this, forcing them to take sides and really complicate things unnecessarily. You really do not need to tell anyone! If there are children this complicates things but it can, and perhaps should, still be done. Maybe mom needs time away from the kids to think. Maybe both do, and the kids can go stay with grandparents for a while. What do you tell the kids: The basic truth, but stay away from suggesting anything permanent. Just mention that “we need time to rest and reflect” sort of a vacation.
If you decide to separate for a longer period then consider a legal agreement. It sets the boundaries of what each person should consider. Here is a free template that will help you discuss things in advance. The Law Depot
*Sitting on the phone for hours with your SO reduces the effectiveness of the time away, so keep it to under 5 minutes a day, max.
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