If you and your spouse have decided to separate, you probably put a lot of thought into that decision. After days or even months of arguing about it, discussing it with each other, with your friends and with your family, you decided that being separated—rather than getting a divorce—is the best option for you. But on the first day of your separation, you may wake up and think, “Now what?” Even though you were reaching a point where you couldn’t stand another day of living with your spouse, you were still very used to life with him. And a separation doesn’t exactly mean you’re single again, so it doesn’t come with that same new lease on life you get after a clean breakup. But you chose this separation because you thought it would be productive, and it can be. Here is how to make the most of your separation.
Set dating rules
First off, you need to have set rules on whether or not the two of you can date during this separation—date other people, that is. If you aren’t clear on this, then one person may end up being unknowingly unfaithful, which will add more problems you don’t need right now.
Know when it will end
Set an end date for the separation. An alarming amount of couples stay separated for over a decade because nobody wants to handle the decision of, “Will we divorce or stay together?” The only way you’ll feel motivated to make the most of this separation is if you know it will end.
Take a break from communication at first
Take at least a week off from communicating with each other, at first. Really, a whole month would be even more productive. How can you possibly know if you want a life without this person if you don’t give yourself a chance to see what that’s like? And you have to cut off communication to see that.
Then, set communication rules
When you do begin to communicate again, set rules. These pertain to how often you communicate, to how long each time, what medium you use (Skype, in person, phone calls?) and even what you talk about. Maybe you need to decide you do not talk about things like finances or renovations on the house since those can fog up your base dynamic as a couple.
Continue going to therapy
Continue going to couple’s counseling during your separation. This is actually a great time for your therapist to see how you can interact as a couple when you haven’t come from a day of your normal, stressful lives together. You haven’t been parenting together, or talking to the plumber together; it’s just you and him, raw.
Add individual therapy if you haven’t already
This helps you separate your issues alone from your issues as a couple. You cannot thrive in any relationship if you have individual issues you haven’t dealt with. Only once you’ve healed personally can you see if your relationship has a chance.
Meditate every day
Meditate, meditate, meditate. Meditate like it is your job. This will help you get in touch with what you truly want from life, from a partner, and from yourself. If you make a practice of meditating, you’ll see things a little clearer every day.
Pick your company wisely
Avoid cynical individuals who don’t even believe in marriage—they will alter your perception and make it hard to think straight. But you should also stay away from friends who, despite their best intentions, would stay in a marriage no matter how awful it was, because they don’t want to be alone. Be around individuals who just support your happiness—whether that means staying together or getting a divorce.
This is a very important time to take stock of your emotions. Check in with yourself. If you have deep moments of sadness, why is that? What are you thinking about? If you have moments you feel giddy, why is that? Bring this journal to your therapy sessions.
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