I often hear from folks who are getting ready to separate from their spouse. Many never wanted the separation to begin with and they are dreading it now. So, they want to know what they are up against and how long they must endure it. Some of them are dealing with spouses who are insinuating or insisting that the separation might take a while or a lengthy amount of time.

A wife might express this: "my husband apparently needs time to work out what he wants. He's honestly being very selfish right now. He acts as if it's perfectly fine for him to just back away from his life and from his responsibilities. But I don't feel as if I have any choice but to go along with it. The other day, I mentioned beginning a home restoration in a few months. My husband responded that he didn't know if he would be home in a few months. This really surprised and upset me, so I asked him how long he anticipated that the separation would last. He told me that he didn't have any set time frame in his head, but that he thought for sure it would be more than a few weeks. I told him that a separation that goes on for more than a month is most likely headed for divorce. He disagreed with this. Who is right? For how long should a separation last?"

The Average Duration Is Just An Average: I'm certainly not a therapist. Although I've researched this topic and read that the average duration of separation before reconciliation is around six months, I don't think that there is any set time for a separation to last. I'm not aware of any rules or guidelines that are potentially helpful. Essentially, it's my opinion that the separation should last only long enough for the issues to be resolved. But it certainly should not linger on so long that it distances the spouses from one another or creates unsure feelings.

The Ideal End Point For A Separation Is When Both People Believe The Marriage Is On Its Way To Recovery: As to how long this should take, it truly does depend upon what type of issues the couple is dealing with and how willing they are to meet or to speak regularly in order to work the issues through. Frankly, you often have one spouse who wants to hurry things along while the other is dragging his feet.

Now, I won't tell you that some people don't end their separations much earlier than they anticipated because they found that they missed their spouse terribly and that life living alone makes them even more unhappy. This absolutely does happen. But you have to be careful in these situations because when nothing has been done to address your problems or to enhance your ability to work issues out as they arise, then you can eventually find yourself in the same negative place when stressors come up again.

I personally felt that my separation went on for far too long. I certainly would have shortened it if I could have. But my husband set the time frame because he was the one who initiated the separation. But looking back at it now, the time away did give us a perspective that we wouldn't otherwise have had. And it did show us that we didn't want to let our problems simmer ever again because we never want to repeat that process. (You can read about how my separation turned around and I saved my marriage by clicking here.)

I believe that if I had to do it all over again, I would have tried to set up an agreeable schedule beforehand. Instead, my husband and I just left this open-ended. And so long periods of time would go by when we didn't even communicate and then I would get desperate about this and then call my husband acting in all sorts of negative ways. This lead to more issues between us which made our separation last even longer.

Try To Agree On Regular Meetings And Communication: I think that one of the best things that you can do right out of the gate is to agree that you are going to meet or talk on a regular basis. Plan on that time like a regular appointment and stick with it. If your spouse is willing to go to counseling, this makes it easier because you can just pre-schedule those appointments. And people tend to take things more seriously when they are paying for something. Most people don't want to pay a counselor and then turn around and discard that counselor's advice.

Why An Exact Time Frame Is So Hard To Give: I know that you were probably looking for an exact time frame or were hoping that I would say something like "a trial or marital separation should only last for a couple of weeks at the most." Unfortunately, I really can't say that. Because this time frame may not be right for every couple. And I believe from experience that there is a real risk in pressuring a spouse to come home before he thinks that he is ready. There is also a risk in him coming home before the issues are addressed. And I would never tell you that a lengthy separation always ends in divorce.  I've seen even long term separations lead to wonderful reconciliations.

I understand wanting your husband to come home as soon as possible because that was my reality also. But, I've come to believe that a separation should last as long as it takes for the couple to at least address their problems and then to both decide that the marriage is what they want.

If I'd have gotten my way, my separation would have lasted only a couple of days.  This wasn't my reality though.  But some of my own behavior contributed to its length.  You can read more on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com

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