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Seeking Help Before Separating From Your Spouse
Dr. K. explains why separation without help will only put distance between you and your spouse.


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A trial separation without help will only put distance between you and your spouse.


My husband recently suggested that we try a trial separation in order to rebuild ourselves and relieve the tension between us before we can attempt to work things out. I am currently unemployed and had to go stay with a friend. I understand that space may help us if we truly work on ourselves, but I am so hurt and feel abandoned. He says he doesnít want a divorce, but things can't stay the way they were with routine and negativity. I want to work it out, but I donít know how to begin picking up the pieces of my life. I feel more alone now than I did before the separation. He wants me to be positive and hope for the best, but I feel as if I'm losing everything that is important to me. Is this normal to feel this way? This all happened within a weeks' time from him telling me to find somewhere to stay to actually moving some things. Do I just need more time? We still talk almost daily, but he doesn't seem to miss me at all yet. Iím so confused.

Itís very understandable, given the information youíve provided, that you would feel all the emotions you are experiencing: confusion, alone, abandoned and hurt. I would also imagine you are feeling frightened and insecure.

One of the most significant theories available for couples today is Dr. Sue Johnsonís Emotionally Focused Therapy. Her theory is based on the concept of attachment; for many, the idea of attachment carries a negative meaning. However, the brain is a social organ. As such, everyone needs to feel a sense of attachment, which starts immediately at birth and continues throughout life.

Let me take a moment to make the distinction between a healthy attachment and co-dependence. Whereas the latter is an unhealthy sense suggesting that one cannot exist without the other, healthy attachment indicates feelings of a marriage where you feel important and sense that your significant other is there and available to you and are not alone.

Thus, with this explanation itís quite understandable that your spouseís suggestion about separating would ignite a sense of abandonment. Not feeling grounded that he is there for you would certainly only increase these alone feelings.

On the positive side, the fact that he says he doesnít want to divorce and that you speak everyday seems to indicate hope. Tension, especially if it had been escalating, is never an enjoyable situation for one to live with. Iím not surprised that as a man, your husband would think that space might help resolve the issue.

You donít state whether there was active fighting going on. In fact, sometimes itís good to have a "timeout." When emotions are running high, itís hard to resolve anything.

Personally, as a therapist, I tend to not like the idea of separating as the "solution" to marital problems. However, I do know that there are some other professionals who feel it does help. And, in fact, in my own practice, there were two couples that did, in fact, separate. However, in each of these situations, they were headed for divorce rather than using separation to calm things down. And, in each case, the various individuals kept working in therapy and they did get back together again.

My suggestion to you would be to find a therapist with whom to work. A trial separation without help will only put distance between you and your spouse. If you can, find a therapist who works with an attachment-type model. Even if the two of you remain separated for a short periodóas long as there is a structure in place to continue to see one another and work on your marriage to improve itóI know it can be saved!

Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is the author of "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" and co-author of "Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last." You can sign up for her free monthly newsletter with relationship tips at www.ChoiceRelationships.com




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