I find that very few people go into a separation thinking that it is going to improve their marriage. Very few people are excited about it. But many feel that it might be their only hope if they want to avoid a divorce. And, since its natural to try to look on the bright side, many of us hope that our separation might actually improve things for us - at least in the long run.

This does sometimes happen. Ideally, the separation will cause both people to miss each other and allow them to see that perhaps they should compromise more and complain less. People often realize that they took the other person for granted and had expectations that were just too high. When this happens, it can make a reconciliation easier because both people are more motivated to give a little more and take a little less.

But sometimes things can go in the opposite way. Sometimes, the couple may miss one another and have the realizations that I discussed above. But, misunderstandings, jealousy, or insecurities can cause further damage. People often act out of fear during their separations. They are afraid their spouse will become romantically involved someone else, act badly, or pursue a divorce. So the interactions can be difficult and hurtful. The result is that your marriage is actually damaged by the separation and not helped by it. Still, some people decide (for a variety of reasons) to try to save their marriage anyway. And they are left with the task of trying to get their marriage back on track when it's been damaged even further by the separation that was supposed to save it.

Here's an example. A wife might say: "I'm not exaggerating when I say that my separation was a total disaster. I had hoped that my husband would see that he still wanted me. But actually, he just seemed annoyed with me. We fought even more during our separation. I was the one who had to listen to my kids cry about where their father was. And I suppose that I got resentful about that. I pictured him going out and living this carefree, fun life while I was stuck at home dealing with my children who were in a great deal of pain. This resentment came out in unfortunate ways. When I did have the opportunity to interact with my husband, I was kind of mean to him. And he did not appreciate this and was nasty right back to me. If fate had not intervened, I honestly think we would have divorced. But my husband's mother became sick. We are very close. So she is staying with me. She has asked her son to come back home. And when she did, one of my kids overheard it and chimed in: 'please daddy. Please come back home.' So my husband is reluctantly coming back home. I still want to save my marriage. But at this point, we are even angrier with one another. Is it possible to save a marriage that was so damaged by the separation?"

I think that it is possible. And I realize that not everyone has the luxury of the separation improving things. I know that I was lucky. The separation harmed my marriage at first (and a lot of this was my fault) but in the end, it actually ended up improving things. And although not everyone is lucky in this way, I have seen couples who were able to turn it around. I am by no means an expert, but I can't help but notice things that these couples have in common. I will discuss these things below.

Be Willing To Leave The Past In The Past: There's no question that many people have legitimate reasons to feel hurt and resentful about their spouse's behavior during the separation. Emotions can be raw and intense. And this can cloud the way that you treat your spouse when he attempts to come home.

Although your feelings are completely understandable, they might thwart your wish to reconcile. So at some point, you have to be able to put them aside in pursuit of the greater good.

It's not always easy, but I found it helpful that when I felt my emotions getting the best of me, I would pause and ask myself if the behavior I was considering was going to get me closer or further away from my goal. If the actions were going to impede my ability to reconcile, then I tried very hard to stop myself before I caused damage. (You can read about how I was able to turn my separation around by clicking here.)

Find A Way To Have Some Fun: Honestly, a turning point in my separation came because of a very important question posed by a very close friend. I was whining to my friend about how my husband was avoiding me and how every time we got together, it was a disaster. My friend said: "please don't take this the wrong way, but you have to ask yourself how much fun you are to be around right now."

At first, I was taken aback, hurt, and angry. But when I calmed down, I realized that this person loved me and was trying to help me. And yes, it was probably not a lot of fun at all to be around me. So, of course, my husband was avoiding me and not trying very hard to interact with me.  Our separation made me angry and sad and this affected every interaction we had. So I changed my focus and I made sure that I was more fun and less stressful to be around. This made a huge difference. When your interactions are pleasant, it is easier to navigate problems because your defenses aren't on high alert.

Seek Out Some Objectivity: Even when you are successful at bringing down the tension and ramping up the fun, there is going to come a time where you have to address what led to the separation. If not done correctly, this can negate any progress that you have made. You have to be able to objectively see what is going on and objectively foresee the most logical and effective way to fix it.

This can be extremely hard when you are so close to the situation. I know that not everyone loves counseling, but it can be helpful. If you are not open to it, then at least educate yourself so that you can identify and fix the issues that you may not be seeing clearly right now.

You can't keep burying the issues and then expect them not to crop up over and over again. But if you can eliminate them, this makes a reconciliation so much easier and the separation no longer necessary.

As I said, although the separation damaged my marriage at first, it ended up helping once I changed course and adjusted my attitude.  Looking back, I tried to incorporate a lot of what I've said above even after he came home. There's more on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com

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