Many of the wives are stuck in a marital or trial separation that they did not want. This causes a lot of anxiety and worry. Many worry about the separation before it actually happens. (And then we do everything in our power to prevent it.) However, if it does happen, then we continue to worry about what this is going to mean for us, for our children, and for our marriage. Is there going to be any long-term damage from this? It is going to strongly negatively affect our lives? If so, what can we do to minimize the damage?
A wife might say, “I am very worried about the consequences of a martial separation on my family and on my marriage. I have tried to find information about this, but most of what I am able to find involves divorce. It is very obvious that the consequences of divorce can be steep. That is why I desperately want to avoid a divorce. But what about the consequences of separation? What am I looking at here? Are there any upsides? What are the worst risks that I need to be careful about? I’m afraid that the consequences are going to be devastating to my family. That is why I fought so hard not to separate in the first place.”
You are right. It is very hard to find statistics about the impacts of a marital separation. I did find one interesting statistic, but it’s a bit depressing. I also think that it is a bit misleading, so I would take it with a grain of salt. I found a Gallup poll (Gallup Healthways Wellbeing Index) that questioned married, separated, divorced, single, and widowed people. It turned out that the separated folks had the lowest well-being index of any other group. Married folks were the happiest. Separated folks were the least happy, followed by those who were divorced. Single and widowed people fell somewhere between the other groups in terms of happiness. Here is why I would take all of this with a grain of salt: I think that there are a couple of reasons that separated people were quite unhappy. As you know, there is a lot of uncertainty about life when you are separated. You feel as if everything is up in the air. It is harder to deal with something when you don’t know what the resolution is going to be. Also, separated people are usually dealing with something that is more fresh and current than people dealing with divorce. Therefore, the wounds haven’t yet healed through reconciliation or divorce.
As far as children go, most experts agree that it’s best for children to live with both happy biological parents. Studies have found that divorce can be detrimental to children and that second marriage homes can be detrimental to adolescents. But again, there are always exceptions. No one really thrives in a toxic home, regardless of who is living there. And some second marriages are healthy.
My point is, statistics can only tell us so much. I really struggled during my own separation (at least initially) but I have a friend who actually thrived. She traveled. She went on long adventures. She did things that her husband had no interest in. When she reconciled with her husband, she was invigorated. This leads me to my next point. What I learned during my own separation is that if you sit around and wallow in the uncertainty and you wait for something to happen, you are much more likely to feel the negative effects of the separation.
But if you try to use this as an opportunity to better yourself and as an opportunity for self-exploration, then you might find that some good actually comes out of this. There are reconciled couples who will tell you that the separation ultimately improved their marriage. Those same people will tell you that the process taught them to prioritize their family.But if you try to use this as an opportunity to better yourself and as an opportunity for self-exploration, then you might find that some good actually comes out of this. There are reconciled couples who will tell you that the separation ultimately improved their marriage. Those same people will tell you that the process taught them to prioritize their family.
Speaking of family, you can do everything in your power to make this a smooth transition for your kids. Make sure they know that you both love them. Make sure that they have liberal access to both parents. Demonstrate that you are still a family no matter what happens and don’t display conflict in front of them. Try to still have family time. Work out your issues with your spouse only – not in front of your children. What kids want is stability and attentive, supportive parents. Yes, this is more challenging when you are separated and when things don’t feel normal. But parents can and should work together to make this okay for their kids. Always think of your kids first. It’s so easy to allow your ego and your heartbreak to cause you to lose focus on what is really important. But try very hard to always be aware of how your kids are doing during this process.