She didn’t know anyone whose marriage had survived separation, but here it was, staring her straight in the face. The woman, we’ll call her Wendy, had only been married a few short years but it was obvious that things were getting stale.
He wanted out. Separation. Relationship halt.
She didn’t see that coming. Aside from things being stale in their young marriage, there wasn’t anything major going on. No affairs or big fights. Nothing that would indicate that her husband was particularly unhappy with her. So when he wanted to move into another apartment, she was in shock. Now what?
When married couples contemplate such a move, it can be scary. Being separate typically means there are big problems, and big problems can lead to divorce. Separation just prolongs the questions. Will this work out? Will we find our way back to each other again?
Wendy kept their separation a secret save for a few who were closest to her. Mostly, she cried alone at her house, or at her desk at work. She cried a lot. Likely she thought about all the things she should have done while they still lived together. Regrets loomed.
Was it all too late?
They had tickets for an event a week after the start of their separation, and they decided to go together. Many couples who separate still agree to meet regularly to gauge how the other is doing and to see how the feelings are between them. Wendy hoped for the best, but got the worst. He still didn’t think he wanted to stay married to her. Ouch. They ended up going home early from the event.
She started to think the worst, and she wanted to be prepared for what things would look like if her marriage did end. She Googled. She cried some more. More questions plagued her. Would he get used to living without her? Was he happier without her? Could she ever find love again?
Somehow, though, she got out of her funk. Instead of staying in a cycle of negativity, she climbed out.
Wendy tried to look on the bright side. What if she did end up single again? There were things she would feel more free doing if she wasn’t married anymore. Travel. Shopping. Controlling the remote. Those thoughts got her a little happier, but they also helped her reflect. Were those things really worth ending her marriage over? What did she need to do in order to be happy, whether she was single or married?
What Wendy did
Since marriage is between two people, and Wendy could only control her half, she decided to focus on what she could control—Wendy. Suddenly, she took charge of her own happiness. She realized that before, she allowed her husband too much control in dictating her emotions. She had allowed that to happen, and it wasn’t a good thing. In the end, she realized that she really was the master of her own story, of her happiness.
Hard things happen along the way, be it divorce, or death, or some other heartache. What matters is how you choose to handle it. If something big were sprung on you, what would you do? How would you change? Could you still be happy?
In total, Wendy and her husband were separated for three weeks. It was a rough time for her, and for him too. She will never forget the day that he came back. He asked if he could move back in and they could start from scratch. He did whatever thinking he needed to do, and he realized that he did want to stay married to her. It was great news for both of them. But not easy news.
They had to re-learn how to live together again, but not the same as before. This was a new beginning. They both had to work hard, give of themselves, and also take charge of their own happiness. Now, they share the remote, but Wendy doesn’t feel obligated to watch just what he wants; she does her own thing. Not being a martyr anymore felt really, really good.
She also kept her dreams of travel, and maybe a modified version of shopping. Overall, the changes were good. After a while, Wendy and her husband had a more natural flow between them, and things were better this time around. They knew that the path of separation was not a fun path, so they worked to avoid it. They went to marriage therapy, and they made a conscious effort to change and grow together. They appreciated each other more.
Wendy realizes that not all separations end well. She worried for a while that hers would end in divorce. But thankfully it didn’t, and while she doesn’t recommend it to others, she can tell you that it doesn’t always lead to an end, but sometimes a new beginning.
Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples in therapy. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is currently associated with Marriage.com, a reliable resource assisting millions of couples to resolve their marital issues. She holds a Master’s Degree in Arts (Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy).