Stages of marriage separation

Updated February 21, 2017

A marriage separation provides an opportunity for a couple to be apart and have time to reflect on their relationship and decide whether they want to remain married. After this period, the couple can reconvene and resolve to work on the marriage or agree to permanently separate or divorce. If they decide to permanently separate or divorce, each partner will go through a period of acceptance and adjustment.


If separation is to be the outcome, ideally, both partners will come to that conclusion. Emotions can run high; however, the most productive form of a separation is to take time to seriously think about the marriage and how you would like to move forward. Avoid laying blame. Put yourself in your partner's shoes; see things from his perspective. This is time for you to do some soul searching and decide if the marriage can be saved. Consider the possible paths you can take to repair a marriage, such as counselling or doing things to reignite the romantic bond.

Decision Making

Once you have had time to fully contemplate the situation, reconvene with your partner to have a heart-to-heart conversation. Be open and honest. Let the other speak without interruption. Begin the conversation with something light; for example, talk about good memories of your history as a couple. If you make the decision to permanently separate or divorce, take the time (if not then, then soon after) to talk about the next steps you will need to take. This will include things like contacting a lawyer, establishing new living arrangements, separating financial holdings and child custody arrangements if you have children.


If you decide on permanent separation, you will eventually enter a period of emotional acceptance. Everyone reaches acceptance in different ways. You may have feelings of anger, depression, disillusionment and grief. One partner may even try to come back and bargain with the other or promise to change. Know that these feelings are natural and work through them in a healthy way. Stay active, work on your favourite hobby, go out with friends and try to think positively about new opportunities that can now open up to you. Once you come to accept the separation, you will feel a sense of relief in the realisation that it is best to move forward than dwell on the past.


The difficulty level of transitioning into a new life will be different, depending on the nature of the marriage. For example, a couple that have lived very independent lives or that were only married for a short time may have an easier time transitioning than a couple who have been married for many years. If your partner's income was supporting both of you, your energies will also be spent re-entering the job market. One or both partners may have a reduced income and will have to get used to a more frugal lifestyle. If you have kids, you will also need to be there to support them emotionally as they go through their own period of acceptance and adjustment.

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About the Author

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.