Separation: Is it a Viable Option?

It’s something we never really want to think about – the dreaded moment where we’ve tried and tried, and the only solution that seems to be left is to separate from our spouse.

Now, if you’ve been following our blog or subscribing to the StrongMarriageNow System, you know that we believe marriages can be saved even when it looks like all hope is lost. We’ve developed methods to work on your marriage when your partner is checked out, ways of helping them to understand the importance of making a joint effort to improve the relationship, and more.

But sometimes – and hopefully the rarest of occasions – separation seems like the only option left.

Ending the relationship should be a last resort!
Ending the relationship should be a last resort!

So when is separating from your spouse a viable option? We’ve narrowed it down to three scenarios:

1. Abuse

This is the ONE area of marriage problems that you simply can’t wait around for things to get better. If a spouse is physically or sexually abusive (or verbally abusive in some extreme cases), getting out is the only right thing to do. This goes beyond working on a marriage, and into the territory or criminal behavior that needs to be reported to the authorities. Abuse should never be tolerated.

2. You’ve Exhausted EVERY Opportunity

In some cases, one half of a marriage is just too stubborn or inconsiderate to change at all. These are the people who have checked so far out of their marriages that they won’t even entertain the idea of working to make things better. If a spouse refuses to end an affair, won’t consider counseling, won’t even glance at any educational material, or even admit that they might be part of the problem, there is very little you can even do!

To be clear, this should be the very last resort. You should consider separation only when you’ve absolutely exhausted every possible solution, and haven’t gotten anywhere. When you’ve truly tried everything you can think of, sought out all of the help available to you, and made every effort under the sun to at least begin the process of getting your marriage back on track – and you don’t even see a glimmer or hope – it might finally be time to let go.

3. For Your Sanity, For Space, For Progress

While separating can be a sign that things are over – it doesn’t have to be! This third reason is all about temporary separation – a chance to hit the reset button and reevaluate your relationship.

One of the biggest problems that some couples face is the inability to communicate about one issue at a time. There’s so much pent up frustration, anger, and hurt that it all comes exploding out every time one tiny little thing comes up. This is totally preventative to progress.

Because anger and frustration are such powerful emotions, and because people have a tendency to stew on the things that bother them until they come boiling to the surface, sometimes taking some space away from one another can actually provide the perspective needed to start addressing the problems.

Remember, this is a temporary solution. Staying apart will ultimately cause you to grow apart, but if you’re butting heads so often that you can’t even begin to address the problems in the marriage, taking a step back will give you a chance to reflect, regroup, and start working on the issues one at a time.

If this fits your situation, you must remember to use separation as a momentary “cool down.”

Make a point to come together (even while the “separation” is in effect) to talk, to see if you can address one issue or resolve one problem. Come together for counseling or SMN videos, to spend time with the kids or share a meal. Whatever you do, don’t let being separate become the norm.

While we don’t like to see married couples have to come to separation, sometimes it’s the only option left. Make your decisions carefully, and resort to separation only when you absolutely have to!

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,

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helen 10 years ago

me and my husband have been separated for 3 months. i try to talk to him but he doesn't want anything to do with me. am i doing something wrong? how can i get him to talk to me?

Emma 10 years ago

If you are getting abused, you HAVE to leave right then and find help. I was in an abusive marriage for 14 years before I decided enough was enough. I know you love you him, ladies, but he's just going to keep hurting you.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 10 years ago

Hello, Helen - First, I'm sorry you both are going through this. However, our website does offer a lot of advice for couples in your situation. In this section, we have several articles that can help you get your partner checked back in to the marriage -

Mike_Olsen_SMN 10 years ago

Hi, Emma - I'm happy to hear you were strong enough to leave him. I hope you find new happiness!

Veronica 10 years ago

My husband is ten years younger than me. I had tubal ligation, so I can no longer have children. He knew that when we got together. So after almost five years in this relationship, now he tells me that I have been right all along about him wanting a family of his own. I also point out to him that he has wandering eyes and I see him looking at other women. He would of course deny it and now he says I was right about that too. He has been looking for "other" options.. Like a mother to his child. He also said that he's seen men looking at me and that it doesn't bother him at all because he doesn't feel threatened and doesn't understand why it doesn't bother him at all. Also the reason he would say he loved me was out of habit but didn't mean it. He just realized that. I have been trying to save our relationship but when you get told these things out of nowhere and didn't see it coming well I'm confused as hell and I do think now separation is the ONLY option.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 10 years ago

Hi, Veronica - I hope you both can find someone to talk to about these things, or work through our system together. There are options for a couple who is dedicated to trying, but it won't be easy and may require compromise.