How do you talk to your partner when THEY want a separation and YOU don't?!

QUESTION: How do you talk to your partner when THEY want a separation and YOU don't?

 

Don: Respectfully.

DON'T discredit your spouse's point of view. It will only make them dig deeper into their already established position.

Each spouse has participated in what is called "belief bias," where people tend to gather friends and opinions that support their already established impassioned point of view. Rare is the one good friend that would say, "Yeah, I can see how she/he wants to leave you. You have treated her/him badly for a long time." You may not agree with the way your mate sees things, but you need to respect their right to have their own viewpoint, realizing that there is always something there for you to take seriously about yourself.

DO keep in mind that a series of shorter conversations will be necessary, especially in the beginning. Intensity will be high on both sides, so you will need to take breaks.

DO take breaks, often.  Each party must take responsibility for monitoring level of intensity. On an emotional intensity scale of 0-the lowest and 10-the highest, when either of you feel an increase to be 5-6 or over in intensity, ask to take a break. Say, "I need to take a break, so I can calm down and be more reasonable. I will be back shortly."  

DON’T tell your spouse, "You are too upset now. You need to take a break."  Saying anything that even hints at assuming you know how they feel will derail any attempt at real conversation. You can ask them how they feel if you are willing to accept it, but best not to tell them how they feel. Again, this is probably one of the reasons they want a separation.

DO, after a break began by finding something your spouse said in the last conversation that you CAN agree with, such as, "You are right. I am pushing you to stay, and I need to back off from that."  PAUSE. Most likely your spouse will say thank you and may offer up something to you, too. It is important that what you say is TRUE.  And if not, correct it with your spouse later. Neither of you have much credibility with each other right now, so rebuilding trust takes rigorous honesty and the humility to come back and reset. This builds the dignity you need to be able to start liking yourself for the right reasons. Your partner will be able to see that you are turning toward the process of transformation and away from the actions and attitudes that got you to the point of a separation conversation. You have dug your hole daily for a long time. To get out of if will take less time than digging it, but don't expect your partner to trust in your newfound self awareness until it has been proven over time and in both good and bad situations.

DON'T appease. Appeasement is giving in to something you don't agree with and really resent and is often misconstrued as compromise, where both parties may not like the agreement but they don't carry resentment either. Don't give in to anything with the expectation that you will win over your spouse. They will not feel they owe you anything at this point. This is most likely what you did in your marriage that has you on the eve of separation.

DO try to compromise where reasonable. A real compromise enables two people to agree to something that neither may like but both are willing to consider. You may not be able to come to a compromise on separation, but it is important to try. Each time you return after a break in the conversation, bring something of substance that includes SOME of what your partner really wants and something that you want.

DON'T say "I WILL DO ANYTHING."  You won't.  Such a promise didn’t work in the past, and it won’t work now. If a separation is inevitable, you can only change yourself. Your spouse may leave no matter what, but it is never to late to change yourself for the better, whether or not you save your marriage.

DO BE TRUTHFUL, DON'T LIE. All people lie in some situations. Not in all situations, however, now is not the time. That is most likely a key ingredient of how you got yourself to this point--lying to yourself and lying to your partner. Instead of trying to be liked, try being real and as sincere and authentic as possible. You are only yourself when you are honest, first with yourself then with your partner.  When you, or anyone, lie, you don't feel like yourself inside. The more you get away from how you really feel and try to manipulate others, the less you feel like yourself.  Marriage is one of the most challenging relationships that you will ever have, because the emotional committed relationship forces the truth out of us sooner or later. That is why some couples do improve their marriage with a separation or on the doorstep of the courthouse, because they HAVE started being honest, first with themselves and then with their partners.

DON'T build a squadron of friends and family and bombard spouse with advice. THEY ARE OVERWHELMED already. This will only push them to become entrenched in their viewpoint, and it will push you to dig deeper into yours.

DO try to keep these conversations away from any children. Try to get to a point of action before you tell them, if you decide upon a separation. This is hard and can't always be done, but try nonetheless for everyone's sake.

DO remember that ACTIONS or INACTIONS got you here, not how you feel or what you think. Your partner knows how much you care by your ACTIONS or INACTIONS. Not by your imaginary conversations in your head. REAL conversations with REAL people make imaginary ones go away.

DO control your impulses. No Facebook, Twitter or YouTube announcements or reactions. Slow down all responses to emails, texts, and phone calls. Only respond when your intensity level is under 2 or 3, even if it means awkward pauses.

Marriage counseling and Individual counseling can be a great help to sort out the emotional waves, the needs, the wants, the wishes, and the reality of what is possible in your marriage, your separation or your divorce. Working to be a more honest and more mature person, no matter what direction your situation takes, allows you to start liking yourself again. Only then, can you really like anyone else.

How do you talk to your partner when YOU want a separation and THEY don't?!

 

QUESTION: How do you talk to your partner when YOU want a separation and THEY don't?!

 

Don: Remember that they will be in shock.  And won't remember much of what you say.

DON'T expect them to be reasonable. You most likely have been chewing on this decision for quite a while, and they either didn't know that or have not taken you seriously. When you voice your desire or your decision, no matter how you say it, they will be shocked. Most likely they will go into denial, try to discredit your reasons, and plead with you not to go forward in that direction.

DO convey that you know that what you are asking for may be unexpected, and you want them to have at least a little time to digest what is happening.

DON'T rush them. Don't push your desire for separation aside, just slow down. You are ahead of your spouse in the processing of feelings about what is happening.  

DO expect them to bring up the children if this applies. Agree that this is an important point, because it is, no matter which way the marriage goes.

DON'T expect your fantasies of how you see the care of your children during the separation or divorce to be real. You have been planning this in your imagination for some time. You love your children, but you will only have 50% say as to what happens to their care during a separation or divorce. In most situations you actually have more influence over their care when not separating and not divorcing. This is not a reason to not separate, however. This is a reason for you to slow down now that the other voice in the marriage is real and not the one you imagined in your head. The real conversation might also be a shock to you, another good reason to slow down.

DO define the reason for a separation that you are proposing. Is it to cool things down so you can get into a calmer place to work to see if there can be a renewal of the marriage on new emotional terms? Is it to prepare for a divorce? There are no rules that come with a separation. You and your spouse must develop them together. Issues to be considered include living arrangements for the children and time spent with each parent, financial needs, and whether you will date others, etc. If the separation includes dating others, it is highly unlikely that your marriage can be renewed.

DON'T discredit your spouse's point of view. It will only make them dig deeper into their already established position. Often the conversation goes like this: One spouse says, "The people I talk to are saying your are going through a hard time and that the marriage is worth saving." The other spouse retorts, "The people I am talking with say they can understand why I want to separate and are amazed that we stayed together this long." Each spouse has participated in what is called "belief bias," where people tend to gather friends and opinions that support their already established, impassioned point of view. Rare is the one good friend that would say, "Yeah, I can see how she wants to leave you. You have treated her badly for a long time." You may not agree with the way your mate sees things, but you need to respect their right to have their own viewpoint, realizing that there is always something there for you to take seriously about yourself.

DO keep in mind that a series of short conversations will be necessary, especially in the beginning. Intensity will be high on both sides, so you will need to take breaks. Take breaks, often. Each party must take responsibility for monitoring level of intensity. On an emotional intensity scale of 0-the lowest and 10-the highest, when either of you feel an increase to be 5-6 or over in intensity, ask to take a break. Say, "I need to take a break, so I can calm down and be more reasonable. I will be back shortly."  The last words you say will be the ones your spouse remembers, so be sure to end with, "I will get back to you shortly." You will not have one big conversation. You have many shorter ones in the days to come, because no one can think well when intensity is higher than 7.  

DON’T tell your spouse, "You are too upset now. You need to take a break."  Saying anything that even hints at assuming you know how they feel will derail any attempt at real conversation. You can ask them how they feel if you are willing to accept it, but best not to tell them how they feel. Again, this is probably one of the reasons they want a separation.

DO, after a break, begin by finding something your spouse said in the last conversation that you CAN agree with, such as, "You are right. I am pushing you to stay, and I need to back off from that." PAUSE. Most likely your spouse will say thank you and may offer up something to you, too. It is important that what you say is TRUE. And if not, correct it with your spouse later. Neither of you have much credibility with each other right now, so rebuilding trust takes rigorous honesty and the humility to come back and reset. This dignity helps you start liking yourself for the right reasons. Your partner will be able to see that you are turning toward the process of transformation and away from the actions and attitudes that got you to the point of a separation conversation. You have dug your hole daily for a long time. To get out of if will take less time than digging it, but don't expect your partner to trust in your newfound self awareness until it has been proven over time and in both good and bad situations.

DO try to compromise. A real compromise enables two people to agree to something that neither may like but both are willing to consider. You may not be able to come to a compromise on separation, but it is important to try. Each time you return after a break in the conversation, bring something of substance that includes SOME of what your partner really wants and something that you want.

DON'T appease. Appeasement is giving in to something you don't agree with and really resent and is often misconstrued as compromise, where both parties may not like the agreement but they don't carry resentment either. Don't give in to anything with the expectation that you will win over your spouse. They will not feel they owe you anything at this point. This is most likely what you did in your marriage that has you on the eve of separation.

DON'T LIE. All people lie. Now is not the time. Be truthful or say nothing until you are ready. A common thing people say when wanting to separate is, "I no longer feel like myself in this relationship." The only way you can "feel like yourself" is when you are being real and honest about how you really feel and what you really think with your partner. When you tune out of your relationship or you are constantly resentful, you are tuning out of your relationship to your own self. Asking for a separation can feel rejuvenating, though painful, because you are starting to be honest with your partner again.

DO be prepared for a squadron of friends and family to bombard you with advice.  Best to remember that everyone cares and everyone is scared. Try to reduce upsetting conversation with extended family members. Tell them that this is really between you and your spouse, and that you understand that everyone is concerned. You have enough on your plate to handle as it is.

DON'T broadcast your feelings or what is going on with your spouse to your children. Try to keep these conversations away from children. If you decide upon a separation, try to get to a point of action before you tell them. This is hard and can't always be done, but try nonetheless for everyone's sake.

DO remember that ACTIONS or INACTIONS got you to this point, not how you feel or what you think. Your partner knows how serious you are by your ACTIONS or INACTIONS, not by your imaginary conversations in your head. REAL conversations with REAL people make imaginary ones go away. Real actions with real people make them take you more seriously than anything you can say.

DON'T broadcast or campaign on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Be cautions about discussing the situation with your spouse by email. This can often lead to confusion and hurt. Control your impulses by waiting until you are calm before clicking the send button. Slow down all responses to emails, texts, and phone calls. Only respond when your intensity level is fewer than 2 or 3, even if it means awkward pauses. 

Marriage counseling and Individual counseling can be a great help to sort out the emotional waves, the needs, the wants, the wishes, and the reality of what is possible in your marriage, your separation or your divorce. Working to be a more honest and more mature person, no matter what direction your situation takes, allows you to start liking yourself again. Only then, can you really like anyone else.

Can grief stop you from starting, developing a better or a new relationship?

QUESTION: Can grief stop you from starting or developing a better or new relationship?

Don: Grief can stop you from being present to the relationship you already have, as well as stop you from starting a new one.

The pain of grief keeps a portion of your attention and awareness preoccupied until the loss is faced. Though you can push grief down, to the side, or ignore it, in reality there is no getting around it. You have to, at some point, experience it. Until then it is a part of you, keeping you unavailable to those around you. This is often expressed with the phrase, "He is here but he isn't."  

When you experience great loss (change) of any kind, especially family members to death or divorce, the grief process begins and occupies quite a bit of your attention.

Until the emotional and physical realities that the loss has caused are acknowledged, FELT (experienced), accepted and to some degree forgiveness has happened, you are simply not fully emotionally present in your life. Your mind is fighting the reality of the loss.

The positive outcome of going through the action steps of grief recovery is that you begin to experience more of the present moment and are better able to tend to what is actually going on in your life now. Imaginary conversations in one's head, as if the loss has not happened, are gone or at least only appear now and then when triggered by something that reminds you of the loss.

So the experiences of grief happen without your control, consuming, for a while, most of your attention. 

If you are already in a relationship and you have a significant loss, you will be less emotionally available to your partner until the grief is experienced. If you are not in a relationship, grief could keep you from making efforts to begin one until grief is faced. 

This is true both with death or the broken heart of a divorce.  However, some people actually start a new relationship to avoid and cover up the pain of the grief experience. If grief is not faced well, the relationship you begin will start on a very unsteady footing, because you are not fully emotionally there and not able to really be close. The new relationship will be based more on the thrill of hormones and the relief of avoiding the grief. Eventually, the grief will have to be faced in this new relationship. 

The same is true with pets. Many people quickly replace the pet to avoid the loss experience only later to regret bringing a new pet in so quickly. These actions cover up, delay, and make grief more of a problem instead of a process to go through. However, with the right corrections, grief recovery can happen even when it has been massively avoided. There is hope.

Should I date while separated?

Question: Should I date while separated?

 

Don: No.

Not until you clearly define with your wife the purpose of this separation. There are no rules for it except the ones you make or don't make. Dating is one of the first issues that need addressing from the very first moment of the separation. Here is why:

Marital separation can have many different purposes.

1. It can be a cooling off period. You and your wife have wisely called “Uncle”, and now you need to use counseling to get to the underlying conflicts that fueled your relationship 

problems. It doesn't mean you will stay married and reunite in one home, but it will be a time to see what is actually possible before taking the next step. It can be a time to slow down and find clarity about what each of you really want.

2. It can be a warming up to the reality of divorce. Some couples have things happen that are not repairable, and a separation is just a step to take for the children and for each person to be able to face the end of a marriage.

3. It can be a time to step back, to work on the relationship issues, and to reconnect and rebuild the friendship that has been lost.

Whatever the reason for a separation, it is best to get the dating option out on the table and clearly decided. If you don't make a conscious choice, you are creating a potentially volatile situation if one spouse thinks one way and the other spouse thinks another. The rumor mill is very active now, especially on Facebook. If left vague, your children could end up in the middle when you or your spouse is spotted in public being affectionate with another person.

So, if you want a cooling off period to work on your marriage and to see if a future is possible, then DO NOT DATE. Talk with your spouse up front. If she wants to date, then it is very unlikely you will be able to focus on the trouble in your relationship and repair it successfully. As long as either of you dates or has a romantic friend, neither will be honest about the issues between you that need to be faced. You will end up sharing more with your date or romantic friend than you will with your spouse. You will compare her--who knows your worst side--with someone who is trying to impress you. Don't mix apples and oranges. Get clear about what you want.

If either of you want to date, agree that dating is okay. Agree to keep it far away from the children and not in each other's face. See your separation as a time to take thoughtful steps forward but know that the dating makes divorce more inevitable. See the separation, in this case, as a transition to divorce. Work on getting along for the sake of the children, not to rekindle a possible relationship. Start thinking about child custody, visitation schedules, and creating a parenting partnership for your children, not remaking a marriage. That will soon be over.

Good for you for asking this question! Many people don't realize the consequences of dating during separation until it is too late to take back what has been done. This is a line that once crossed is hard to recover from. The breach of trust and hurt that results is hard to undo, no matter what was assumed.

So, don't assume. Discuss. Decide up front. If your old high school girlfriend wants to go out to revisit old times and maybe create some new times, don't go, if you want your marriage to last. If you don't want the marriage, then be upfront with your wife about wanting to date, otherwise you will be ignoring this advice. Instead, you will need to visualize your children seeing you holding hands and kissing your high school sweetheart in a public place. Visualize your wife finding out on Facebook that you are dating without her knowing it, while she has been in counseling with you for weeks. Visualize how this will affect her attitude in the divorce settlement. Often people will do exactly what you expect in order to burn bridges, and end a marriage in a way they don't have to be upfront. Be kind to yourself and don't add more suffering to the pain that is already happening to you and your family. That you want to date is a signal that you believe that your marriage is already over. Talk to a therapist before you act. Give yourself some room to make a decision to be honest with yourself and your wife.

Know that you are not the best catch right now. You are wounded. No matter who you meet a big part of yourself and attention is devoted to your painful marriage and family situation which you will most likely use your new girlfriend possibility as an ear to support you through you real life istuation instead of creating a new possible relationship with someone you care about. 

Give yourself time before you jump into another committed relationship. You are not emotionally available to your next relationship until you heal from this one. If you must date, keep it very light, don't mate until at least year or so after the divorce is final. Give you and your children a chance to adjust, heal and recover from this unexpected turn that life has brought. But if you want to try and work things out with your spouse, bring your whole heart to the matter and do whatever is possible to bring the best of you to the hardest issues that you and your wife are having. If you don't want this marriage, bring that same heart to end it with clarity and respect with a parenting partnership in the future.

Is A Separation Healthy When One Person Insists On When To End Separation?

Question: Is separation healthy if one person wants to decide when it will end?

Don: It is healthiest when both people are ready and willing to re-enter the relationship in a more skillful way.

Not just get back together with the same attitudes and point of views that created the situation and fueled the need for a separation.  When it is forced or pressured by either party, the person feeling pushed will feel resentment toward the partner wanting to control the timeline to re-start the relationship.Resentment is the number one indication of both unhappiness and probable divorce, or at least a mental divorce, if it continues to grow.  

If you feel pressured or under a threat, speak up for what you need to happen before you consider re-entering the relationship. If that is not welcomed, get counseling for yourself to strengthen your emotional backbone. This is most likely your growing edge in and outside of marriage. Trust your gut. Find your truth (voice) and use it. And, use that new voice in a soft, inviting manner. Instead of like a “dog” command: sit, roll over, fetch; try a cat approach, “Here kitty kitty.”  This is the time to learn new skills and the impact your emotional tone and impressions are having on what you are trying seek understanding.

If there is emotional or physical abuse in the relationship, then the person who is asserting control in the timing of the separation may be feeling unsafe. They are doing it because they are scared. If they have voiced or accused you of emotional or physical abuse, then it is best to step back and get more information. You will only get reliable information if you are calm and respectful. If this is the case, then you need some professional help to navigate the situations and help you approach this in a respectful and safe manner for you both.

 

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A Sample Script To Talk With Your Kids About Separation or Divorce

Question: What is a sample script to talk to your kids about separation? 

 

Don: Separation Talk Script Guidelines

1. Start with a loving message, 

2. Then give the difficult news, 

3. Then make reassuring comments, and 

4. End with another loving statement

Suggestions:

• Spare them your feelings.

• Don’t criticize the other parent.

• Reassure, reassure, reassure.

• Listen to their emotion. Reassure, reassure, reassure.

• Show a united front.

• Both mom and dad share portions of the message.

• You tell them the practical implications of the separation.

• Don’t tell them “who did what to whom, who hurt who, etc."  That part they don’t need to know ,especially now.

• Saying how you feel, is okay, but brief. A word or two is best. Less is more.

After they are told, at some point soon after, each parent spend time with each child alone, not to tell 

them more info, but to listen more to how they feel and give more reassurance. NOT going into who did what to whom.

Here is a sample of telling your kids about a separation:

“Mom and dad have something important to talk with you about.” “Mom and dad love you very much.”

“Mom and Dad are not happy together right now and we want to take a time out from each other, so we’ve decided to live in different places for a while.”  Each of us will still be with you.

“We have some adult problems.. None of this is your fault. You did not cause our problems and you cannot fix or change them.”

“No matter what, we love you very much. The kind of love we have for you is the kind that never ends. We will always be your parents and we will continue to take care of you.”

Invite questions: “Do you have any questions? You can ask or say anything and I won’t be mad at you.”

(If child asks a question you don’t have the answer to) 

“That’s a good question. Unfortunately I can’t answer that right now. I know it’s hard to feel confused and uncertain.”

Explain living and visiting arrangements: Parent who is sleeping outside the home: 

“I am going to be staying some at ________. I will continue to take you to school, spend time together, do school work, play with you. You are going to live here in the house and keep going to the same school and see your friends. I will also be here at the house some.  I will always be your Mommy/Daddy.”

Reassuring Comments:

Try to alleviate the child’s guilt by repeatedly saying, “Nothing you did or said made this happen. You did nothing wrong or bad”

Relieve child’s pressure to get you to reconcile by saying: “You did nothing to make this happen.”

Reassure child that your sadness is not the child’s fault: “I am sure this is very upsetting for you, Mom and dad are also upset. You may see us looking upset or even crying— even though we are sad, we are OK and we are here to take care of you. I am not upset because of anything you said or did.”

Reassure child that some things will stay the same: “Some things may change, like when and how much time you spend with each of us, but lots of things will stay the same, like you will still go to the same school, and see your friends...”

Validate and normalize child’s feelings: “I know you feel _____. Whatever you are feeling is normal and OK.”

How to Handle More Difficult Situations

Many parents believe it is best to shield children from the truth, that somehow this will protect them. More often than not, the opposite is true. Misleading children, hiding the truth, or lying to them about the circumstances of the separation/divorce can do more harm than good. Here are some reasons why it is important to be open and honest with children about the details of the separation/divorce:

• If adults avoid open discussion with children, this sends the message that it is not okay to talk and children will shut down.

• It is natural to spare children from the truth by making up another explanation. However, children often find out the truth by accident by overhearing a conversation. It is better for children to be given accurate information by their parent(s).

• If children are lied to and later they somehow learn the truth their trust in you can be difficult to regain. They might think, “If you lied to me about this, what else are you lying to me about?”

• When children are given honest and age-appropriate explanations in a planned way by caring adults, it provides an opportunity to process their feelings, answer their questions, and reassure them.

Easy does it. Small steps taken often are best.

Three Bad Reasons To Separate (And One Good One)

Question: I have had it! I want a divorce! My husband treats me like I don't exist, and I have been hurt for too long. I try to tell him how much it hurts me when he ignores me, but we just go around and around the issue. I don't know what else to do but to leave. Maybe that will get his attention. Do you think I have good reasons for wanting to separate from him?

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