by Tiya Cunningham-Sumter
Recently hearing word that a couple I just adore was considering a separation was devastating to me. I immediately started to wonder where to place the blame. Who did not do what they were supposed to do? Who hurt who and who asked for this break first? I wanted to know where to channel my disappointment. If the marriages around me struggle, I take it personal. I always feel I could have helped, if only I had known. GOD has to constantly remind me that I am unable to save the world. But through my sadness, I was able to see a silver lining once I asked myself the following question “can a marriage survive a separation?” The answer, for me, was a resounding YES IT CAN!
As I tried to make sense of the news I had heard, I came to the conclusion that this doesn’t necessarily have to mean the end of the marriage. Couples can and do come back from a separation. Separation does not mean divorce. The first step is to determine what lead to the couple down the path toward separation. What caused them to want to walk away or take a break? What are their expectations during this break? What do they both hope will change? When the word separation is mentioned it usually makes the majority of us married folks cringe. Normally, we think it is the beginning of the end. A couple has not failed because they decided to separate. This article by no means condones getting a separation. But marriages are not perfect and when reality sets in as well as our human nature we make decisions that comfort us and create a space of peace.
If couples have exhausted all the other methods in saving their marriage (i.e. prayer, pastoral counseling, couples’ coaching etc.) and still decide to separate, all hope is not lost. A marriage can survive a separation if:
- Each spouse in the marriage takes time to review what part of the marriage needs to be repaired. The key, which is what most people often overlook, is the need for each partner to look at their individual contribution to the challenges that the relationship is facing. Ask, how did I assist in getting us here and what could I have done differently? What buttons of mine did I allow to be pushed and why?
- Each partner reflects on the good qualities their spouse possesses. Not being able to see the person everyday and being removed from the environment that caused so much stress allows the person a chance to see the situation differently, hopefully a little more clearly.
- The time is used for each partner to take a personal inventory. Asking specific questions can be beneficial. Why isn’t this marriage going the way we planned? What did we actually have planned for this marriage? Why have we been so unhappy? What made us happy in the beginning and why is that missing now?
- Each partner acknowledges what needs to happen to restore the marriage? Asking what changes need to take place for both of us to return is crucial as well as knowing how much we are personally willing to give and change to save the marriage.
- Each spouse learned something from past mistakes. Understanding how our spouse feels and being able to see the situation from their perspective can lead to a new, healthy dialogue.
- There aren’t any other intimate relationships developed or continuing during this time. How can a relationship begin to heal if outsiders are involved and clouding the person’s ability to make decisions regarding their marriage?
- Each partner is committed to the marriage and willing to try again.
There are often rough patches in marriages and occasionally a couple is unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As much as it is not preferred, separations do occur. If we are able to do any or all of the above during this difficult time, the better chance the marriage has of survival.
BMWK, do you think a marriage can survive a separation? Has your marriage survived one and how did you and your spouse do it?
Tiya Cunningham-Sumter is a Certified Life & Relationship Coach, Founder of Life Editing and creator of The Black Wives’ Club. Tiya was featured in Ebony Magazine in the October 2008 and November 2010 issues. She resides in Chicago with her husband and two children.
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