Can a Marriage Survive a Separation?

BY: - 10 Nov '10 | Relationships

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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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.

About the author

Tiya Cunningham-Sumter wrote 630 articles on this blog.

Tiya Cunningham-Sumter is a Certified Life & Relationship Coach, founder of Life Editing and Author of A Conversation Piece: 32 Bold Relationship Lessons for Discussing Marriage, Sex and Conflict Available on Amazon . She helps couples and individuals rewrite their life to reflect their dreams. Tiya has been featured in Essence and Ebony Magazines, and named one of the top blogs to read now by Refinery29. She resides in Chicago with her husband and two daughters. To find out more about Tiya, and her coaching, visit and


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46 WordPress comments on “Can a Marriage Survive a Separation?

  1. Divine & Debt Free

    I have never been married but I am a STRONG advocate of separation, but not under the definition the world gives. As you stated most people who say the word “separating” thinks it means on the way to divorce when it should mean the exact opposite. Problem is people aren’t separating to fix the marriage they are separating so they actually can divorce.

    Under the right conditions I think married people should separate early and often if needed. For me if i separate it will have everything to do with the love i still have for my husband. It will bring light to our situation and alert people that we are having an issue that can’t be resolved by me continuing to cook for him, give him all my loving and take care of our children. It will serve to let him know the minute he acts a fool on me I will be gone (not divorced just on a vacation hopefully for a day or week at the most)

    problem is people wait way to long to separate and by the time they do it usually no body cares if they stay together or not. which is why people aren’t really really trying to “fix” anything while they are separated.

    If more people understood what the point of separation was for they would do it more often and be more successful in marriage. Forget “Talking it out a billion times” talking to the pastor behind closed doors” and praying (even though im for that) instead Im leaving (probably going to moms) Im going to tell you why im leaving, and also let you know that i wont be back in the house if the issue continues.

    im sure i was babbling on but its 7am lol

  2. Ronnie_BMWK

    Thanks for writing this Tiya. I see so many couples separating…and instead of taking the time to work on what needs to be repaired (#1)…they are taking the time to act as if they are Single (#6). Separation does not = Single and Dating…..but I see that happening a lot now-a-days.

  3. Cassandra

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve always thought of separation as the first step to divorce based upon the behaviors I’ve seen in those who have been separated. I never considered separation in this light. I definately agree with Ronnie on this one.

  4. April

    Thanks for this article. I know from personal experience with my 1st marriage that both people have to be on the same page during the separation period and as stated in #6 not allow outsiders to muddy the waters of your decision making skills. While I was at home trying to repair and prepare myself for the renewal of my marriage. The ex was getting more and more deeply involved with another woman. This caused irreparable harm to our marriage from which we were never able to recover. I learned a lot during that time and am very thankful that I was given a second chance; currently happily married.

  5. sunt97

    Yup, I know several couples that have bounced back from a separation. In some ways it was exactly what they needed to find their way back to one another. Apart they could appreciate he person even more and I think it may have even strengthened their bond.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate

  6. Little 'Ole Married Me

    Lol Divine! I hear you, but…

    I hope you seriously reconsider this approach before you get married. Seperating whenever there is a problem does two things; detracts from the power and gravity of being absent in your spouses life, and undermines the security of your relationship. If people walked away everytime their spouse pissed them off, we’d all be separated or divorced. Marriage is bigger then you. Seriously, you are a unit, and inviting the world to see all of your struggles is the last thing that is going to help you through. Love and marriage is not demonstrated in doing just the things that are easy and fun to do, but about digging deep and putting egos aside and doing things that benefit “US” more than “ME”. I’m in no way saying that you need to put up with disrespect or bad behavior, but saying that you are going to walk everytime you need to address a big issue is very dangerous territory indeed.

    You might disagree, but as a married person who is 7 years deep with my man, I have never once walked out on him, and I am very aware of the damage that it would cause if I did. Just my .02.

  7. MoniLove

    Tiya, what a wonderful article! I too assume that when people separate it’s the beginning of the end. Wouldn’t it be great if we shifted our thinking towards separation and used it as a time to evaluate the past and consider the future for not only ourselves as husband and wife but the children involved as well. I used to always think “nope, I’m not puttin up with no mess, the second he messes up, that’s it! I’m outta there!” Of course, that was before I got married. Now, 11 years in, I cannot imagine my life without my husband. I will do whatever it takes to make it work. I feel confident in saying this because I know he puts 100% in too!

  8. Keeshab2002

    Personally, I’m against separation because I feel I’m going to do EVERYTHING I can to physically stay together, once I reach the point of leaving, unfortunately, I think it’s headed toward the “Big D”. I tell my husband if it ever came down to it, we’d separate right here in this house, he would live in the man cave (basement), and the children and I would still sleep in our comfy beds. One of my concerns is I understand that we’re imperfect humans, with desires and physical wants and needs. Example, my husband and I laugh whenever he or I see someone walking by who we just KNOW look good to our spouse. We’re cool like that, and give each other a “hurry up and look” pass so the other doesn’t have to try so hard not to look. Well, if we separated, these same individuals are still out here and the Devil is good at placing temptations conveniently in your path (whether it’s a boss, an ear to listen, a waitress, or a deacon/prophetess!!!LOL) I just know as humans we fall and me and my hubby will continue to stumble over each other right here at the same address! Separation requires love, trust, and commitment to the UPMOST for it to be successful, and if you can be that disciplined during separation, why not just pour it into the marriage when the problems arise. We should try to be a little more proactive and head off some of this neglect by communicating (I know I know, if it were only this easy!!) These are just my thoughts and opinions, don’t kill me, we all have them!..My name is Keesha, and I approve this message!

    1. Cbartley4

      I agree! I don’t believe in separation. Whatever problems, issues we have, we gon’ work it out right here in this house. To me once you separate, you start to learn how to live a single life whether it be intentional or unintentional, that’s just facts. So now you go from living a “single” life and have to come back and get readjusted. It’s just too much extra for me. If my spouse or I have to leave in order to “regroup” then we might as well not be together. So does that mean at any given time if we become disconnected for whatever reason, are we suppose to separate each time? Yeah right. Just my 2 cent.

  9. Arnitafields

    This was a great post for today. My husband and I went through a 3 year separation 10 years ago and have now been married for over 13 years. I agree that sometimes separation is good when hearts, motives and attitudes are being put into check. In our case I went through a spiritual transistion at the same time.

    In this day and time we have some many books, videos and support groups available to help couples get the help and assistance they need without going through a physical separation.


  10. Aja Dorsey Jackson

    Great post Tiya. I think that most couples view separation as the step before divorce and not an attempt to work it out. I do know a few couples though that were able to separate and come back stronger than ever. I think the ability to survive a separation lies solely on the mindset of the couples involved and whether they are able to see a future for their marriage.

  11. HarrietH

    I think separation should definitely be mandatory in cases of physical abuse. The abuser needs to successfully complete some type of counseling prior to the two individuals getting back together.

    To anwer the question, YES, I think marriage can survive separation under the conditions you outlined. Separation shouldn’t be the intial action a couple takes, though. It should be used to soul search and do self checks as opposed to making it a declaration of independence/divorce.

    Great article, Tiya!

  12. Divine & Debt Free

    good discussion indeed thank you for sharing your point of view. Of course Im limited to what I would “ACTUALLY” do if i was married since Im not. But the way im thinking seems logical to a point. Maybe I was being a little to harsh (hey it was in the morning lol) Honestly I will “Talk” and counsel at first” but if thats not working (which i sincerely hopes it does) im gonna be leaving so he gets that this isn’t a game.

    If it helps I will take the kids with me lol. All jokes aside I would only do it under severe conditions but i seriously won’t be suffering longer than a week or two before i LEAVE. Im talking cheating, coming in all hours of the night, being abusive ect…. not you forgot to take out the trash kinda things.

  13. Tiya

    Thank you MoniLove. I used to say the same thing about being outta there, as I have matured, that is no longer a real option for me, we are going to make this work.

  14. Kenon Girl

    My husband and I have been seperated reunited seperated reunited.. and now im tired of going through this for 2 years waiting for him to decide what he wants while the kids and I live another life.. I have learned that you cant make people change and definitely DONT seperate to fix things go to therapy or counseling but remain together in the same home.. seperation means end.. period

  15. Gentle Lamb

    What if there are children in the marriage and they are no longer toddlers, but well aware of the discord in the marriage. Can the children survive the separation, or would you rather stay in the home when provisions are there, but the couple are on limited speaking terms? If all chances of a reconcile is not emminent, for you can’t change someone, yet moderately peaceful conditions exist and no immorral behavior on the part of either mate is evident. What would you do?

  16. Reggie Williams

    Divine & Debt Free these are your words

    “It will serve to let him know the MINUTE HE acts a fool on me I will be gone.”
    “im gonna be leaving so he gets that this isn’t a game. ”

    Your words and your tone is alarming. First you made the assumption base on your writing that the problem in the marriage can only be him, IT WILL SERVE TO LET HIM KNOW THE MINUTE HE ACTS A FOOL or SO HE GET THAT THIS ISN’T A GAME.
    This lead me to believe that you some how don’t think that you could possibly be the one acting a fools. And if you are entering your marriage with that mindset I can tell you with surety that you should also prepare for the divorce date because it will happen.

    Marriage, other than one’s personal relationship with their creator, is the highest level of a relationship that two people will experience. To have a happy, healthy marriage that will stand the test of time and arrive at the finish line (til death do you part) you need two people who are mature, who know how to deal with difficult situations with exemplry maturity.

    Abusive and infidelity should not be tolerate not even one time, but anything other than that falls under “For worse” in your vows. If you’re not willing to deal with a “for worse,” (even in wonderful/beautiful marriages there are those “for worse”) maybe you might want to decide against marrying.

  17. Divine & Debt Free

    I have no intention on ever being divorced, I understand vows mean for life. I also after reading more than one comment that on a blog my sentiments regarding separation can’t be accuracy conveyed without making me sounds extremely childish. Thats not the case at all. I see a lot of failed marriages and I see a lot of things people do that don’t work. So the separation i am referring to obviously goes against the grain and im ok with that.

    As far as “me” becoming the problem in the marriage….. statistics show its usually the woman who files for divorce and not the man im just sayin lol . My point behind what i was saying what basically regarding my lack of understand why people sit in poop and they clearly know it stinks?? I am fully aware that the worse can happen in a marriage and I plan to be there through it all however I will not be pushing dirt under the rug until someone trips over it. However we decide to deal with whatever issue it will be dealt with ASAP whoever the problem comes from.

  18. LC

    I made the decision to seperate from husband earlier this year after many years of unfulfillment, prayer, infidelity and a stint in counseling. My decision was not made lightly and it was not with the intention of divorcing; but needing to re-establish myself as the person that I knew I was capable of being that had become lost in trying to be the perfect wife and mother. I have a six year old (who took the seperation alot better than I did) and we have been married for over twelve years (will be 13 next June). I have to honestly say that I was prepared to file for divorce if necessary but I’m happy to say that it has not come to that. After four months, my husband realized that he wanted to be with his family and put in the work to make our marriage work. I signed a years lease and I will finish it out; but in the mean-time we are back in counseling (and he is serious about it this time) and working on the issues that lead to the seperation in the first place. When people were told that we had seperated, their first reaction was that we were doomed; but I didn’t. I think that seperated couple have to be willing to work – BOTH parties or the seperation will lead to a divorce. I know couples that seperated like us and never recovered, but again that was because someone was not serious about working on it. At the same time don’t make the decision to seperate lightly…pray about it first.

  19. Tdtaccounts


    Sister, You made a awesome realistic and workable reply. I would like to add from experience, remember you and your husband committed to be together for life. You have a life time to do what is necessary to bring your marriage to what and where it needs to be. Continue to correct the changes in peace. Be realistic about the changes you need to make and the ones he needs to make. Should after the one year separation you nor your husband are ready for an reconciliation—-don’t. Do not reconcile because if what needs to change has not replaced the problem and now become a habit. Once you are back together, it will bloom, come out, present itself in the marriage again. DON’T think about the money you could save by getting back together. Don’t use any reasons, but the reasons you separated in the first place to reconcile together again. Should the unfulfillment not be filled from the heart. Not because he or you just want to present yourself on good behavior. Test the marriage before you go back in and see if it will truly fulfill all your emotional needs and be standing on your original values and morals you brought into the marriage. Don’t let being a wife and mother define you. Let your values and morals define you. Then let that define your goals for yourself, your marriage, and your children. Then place the activities in place to reach where you want your family to go. And prayer and allow Jehovah to put in place your desires. Gentle Lamb

  20. Cynthia

    This thread topic was interesting to me as I am getting married in the new year. My fiance’s parents have been married for 30 years. My parents were married/separated but remained married until my father’s death.
    My fiance and I talked about it and we aren’t going to have the traditional wedding vows since neither of us are practicing Christians. We both love each other and want our marriage to last however, we want to have a quality marriage not just a long marriage. We won’t be using that ’til death do us part’ in our marriage vows.

    I wonder if that is realistic in this day and age for people to stay married until they die? We are both under 30 and still in grad school, and will be finishing next fall. Although I would like to spend the rest of my life with my husband, I have to admit that my happiness comes first. If I’m ever in a situation where I’m not consistently ‘happy’ (meaning I’m exposed to negativity that will wear me down mentally/physically/emotionally/and tear down my spirit and self esteem, that’s too toxic of an environment for me to tolerate. It doesn’t matter what that environment is be it a job, friendship/or even a marriage. Who knows what would happen 10, 15 20 years down the line. But my vow to me is to always put my happiness before anyone else’s. If’ I’m not happy then no one else will be.

    1. Tiya

      Cynthia, I just wanted to add to your comment that in marriage, unfortunately or maybe fortunately depending on how you look at, there are going to be some hurdles to get over. I find they make you stronger as a couple when you are able to overcome and not run away at the sign of trouble. It won’t always be smooth sailing. And that’s where the opportunity comes for you to love harder and love stronger, that may be where your real test comes in. Marriage is going to take some work and having a realistic expectation helps. Prayerfully, someone wouldn’t marry someone that has the potential to tear them down or bring anything toxic into their lives.

    2. Tiya

      Cynthia, I just wanted to add to your comment that in marriage, unfortunately or maybe fortunately depending on how you look at, there are going to be some hurdles to get over. I find they make you stronger as a couple when you are able to overcome and not run away at the sign of trouble. It won’t always be smooth sailing. And that’s where the opportunity comes for you to love harder and love stronger, that may be where your real test comes in. Marriage is going to take some work and having a realistic expectation helps. Prayerfully, someone wouldn’t marry someone that has the potential to tear them down or bring anything toxic into their lives.

  21. Dawn_fussell

    Hi april
    i hear you. I am in a separation mode, which my husband has given up on any repairing and wants out. His take on it is that he will find it better on the other side. I struggle with this,but God is bringing me thru this. Thanks for your comments all, I am not alone.

  22. All Around The World

    Sorry, but as a single woman let me tell you that most men separate NOT to sit around and work on their marriage but to date and have sex with single women as their wife calms down or gets scared enough about being a DIVORCED WOMAN to let her man come home again. There is no such thing as separation. Your either married or your not. Period. As a single woman, over the last few years this separation trend has gone CRAZY. Wives, your man is not thinking about you, real talk, if he tries the separation crap to “find himself” divorce his arse.
    He either stays in YOUR HOME and works it out or your divorced. There is NO separation. Thats all!

    1. Tiya

      I agree with you that unfortunately some men are using a separation as a way to see what his other options are. That’s why I was so motivated to write this article. I am praying that our marriages can survive even a separation if it comes to that.

    2. Tiya

      I agree with you that unfortunately some men are using a separation as a way to see what his other options are. That’s why I was so motivated to write this article. I am praying that our marriages can survive even a separation if it comes to that.

  23. Mrs. D

    It is interesting to see the mindset of the single people here. Marriage is a covenant agreement, you are no longer just dating until something goes wrong and then you’re out. A marriage can survive separation and separation should only be used during extreme situations such as infidelity and abuse (physical, drug, etc.).The best advice I ever got was from my husband’s grandmother who told us, “Don’t you ever walk out of your house. Sleep in separate rooms and work out your problems but don’t leave your house.” In twenty years of marriage, we found physical separation necessary but it gave us an opportunity to see that marriage is much larger than just one individual. Selfish and self-centered people don’t do well in marriage because there will always come a time when you have to put another person’s needs above your own. As another reader said above, one’s hearts, attitudes and motives must be examined to determine the outcome of a separation. Great post Tiya.

  24. LaTasha C

    One comment Divine – Ever think that the woman usually files for divorce because she can’t look at herself and find HER contributions to the problems? We are so quick to point out imperfections in men but how many of those imperfections stem as a reaction to something that we as women did…the one thing I have learned after one failed & 13 yrs of marriage is that both parties always have a percentage of the blame for the problems…nothing is ever one persons fault fully. I believe that is why there are so many divorces, instead of asking God to search & change us, we are focused on the other person. I have since apologized to my ex husband & thank God that he taught me that lesson with the husband I chose for myself to prepare me for the husband that He created for me.

    I also don’t advocate separation at ALL…it is very hard to work on unity while being apart..and all satan needs is a crack to work in…this is why most separations end in divorce. And if you run to your moms or on a vaca when the going gets tough, when will you begin to build the character that your marriage needs to truly become ONE…just my humble opinion.

  25. Ray

    It’s amazing how you have some women who give good moral support and some that don’t.
    I am a christian man who loves my wife dearly and gave 20 years to my marraige to find out all she wanted to do was party and hang out with here miserable girl friends, that have no men in there lives but were willing to ruin ours. As the saying goes “misery loves company” I have been seperated now 1 monthn and it’s been hard. I don’t want a divorce I want my family. She says she doesn’t love me anymore I pray everyday for strength and for God to soften her heart. I have not recieved a call yet. But you know what I don’t want to see if the grass is greener on the otherside I don’t go looking for other woman or even go out to clubs or what ever, I respect my marriage.
    She on the other hand parties Thursday thru Sunday. I’m getting stronger everyday with Gods help. What do you think should I stay seperated or try to reconcile with someone you can’t make love you back?……Ray

    1. hopeful

      Ray you are right to respect your marriage! you are correct to hope that your wife would see that her family your marriage is what will matter and that love is what will last.

  26. Hopeful

    My husband left 2.5 years ago after 30 years of marriage. My adult children and I are still in dismay. My husband states it’s too hard to mend what he has destroyed. (he has been unfaithful and left the ministry as a full time Pastor). He is a janitor now and I got promoted to Vice President at a hospital. Yet I still hope that our family unit can be saved….

    What you do you think out there…do I give up? My faith says nothing is impossible with God…by I have to live.

    1. Jazzi or Jaz

      @ Hopeful….I’ve not been married but I do believe the word of God when He says nothing is impossible!! Your little faith of a mustard seed can and move mountains when other’s think it’s impossible. Your husband’s faith has to build up to that point. God is a forgiving God if we turn to Him and repent for GOOD and for the Good. Keep praying but have an open ear to hear God in the mist of this. You may have to turn to the word as it says in

      Proverbs 3:5-6-

      5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

      6In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

    2. Martha A. Snowden

      Do not give up hope , my husband and I are back together after having actually at one point went through divorce oly to find out 2 yrs or so later we never were divorced. In the meantime I has movedon as had he and I had a son. Through the love of God we are continuing to build and strengthen our relationship , it takes counseling, it takes work and it takes committment and fervent prayer. IDK what will happen for you but nothing is too big for God to heal . I will pray for your marriage

  27. Cathyl549

    mu husband has walked out after 30 years, mu cildren are in their early teens, still living at home. he is anry,a control freak thats his way or no way. i do not want a divorce, but after 3 months it is so difficult emotionally. all my friends r our couple friends, and at this stage of my life i do not want to join a single group.

  28. Yana

    I think God can heal anything, but both parties have to be willing to let him. I think if one half of the couple has completley thrown in the towel (2.5 years of separation screams that he has thrown it in) than the marriage most likely can’t be salvaged. I am all for reconcilliation, but what I don’t agree with is one person doing all the work to make the reconcillation occur. What I don’t agree with is trying to infuse life into something that is clearly dead. If it’s clear that it’s dead then move on and let it rest in peace. Relationships do die and all the hope and prayer in the world won’t resucitate some of them, if they aren’t meant to be resucitatted. Once a relationship is completely dead all it can do at that point is decay. Staying in a decayed relationship is far worse then just picking up what’s left of you and moving on . Look at your situation dead on and be honest with yourself about what it is and where it is, then proceed from that point. I suggest that you google search “the gift of goodbye” By TD Jakes and accept the possibilty that you may be at the goodbye phase of the relationship. Stay encouraged sis!

  29. Rubygriffin36

    Yes!!!! a marriage can survive a separation…I have been there,and done that…It took a minute,for my husband to put his hat back on right,it took more effort to get the contaminated out of the bunch…but overall,it took the love of God within ourself,to want to unite back ,as a marriage couples…nothing come easy,nor free,so you just put your best foot forward,and pray,you stepping in the right direction.

  30. bronxdiva

    Oddly enough, my husband and I are at this cross road.   After 15 years togethr, I just discovered that he has been chatting with women online sometimes flirting.   As hurt as I am,   I am afraid of losing him.   I think we need some time apart. Some time to rebuild my trust that I had for all these years but,we also have 4 kids that will be affected.   I have been asking myself this question for the past 2 weeks because although I have told him, he needs to find someplace to stay. Can we survive this. will we be able to get back what we had?     This is not an easy decision, because it seems to final, it feels like this is the path to divorce but I dont know if I am ready for that…….

    1. HOPEFUL


  31. jennifer697

    I am in need of advice on if a separation to gain perspective on my marriage of almost 15 yrs is going to help my marriage which as had affairs both mental & physical,repeated breaches in trust,being repeated disrespected,parnter never gives a real apoloizes & thinks if he tells me what he thinks I wanna hear that it done & over with it,but it’s not b/c I still have to deal with my pain trying to figure what I am not doing or saying for him to do what he does. Over the years I be broken completely down by this man & now I @ the point where I am DONE!!! I have held the marriage together through everything I have forgiving him over & over & once I forgiven him I don’t bring it up every again. My heart says stay & lay everything out on table & deal with it,but my head telling me to take a stand for myself ,b/c I know I deserve better & that’s where our children come in the picture I grew up in a single parent household,he did not but he grew up shelter & was told wrong about alot of things. I am not staying with him b/c of our children he knows that,but i dont know if our marrige will last if i decide to separate… Needing advice & any kind of help. PLEASE

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Conditioned Response vs. Emotional Investment

BY: - 12 Nov '10 | Relationships

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by Harriet Hairston

A few weeks ago, E. Payne posted an article entitled, “Investing in an Emotional Letdown.”   It was about how many people attach emotions to plans, and when those plans are changed or cancelled at the last minute, how that becomes a liability to their psyche.

Many women commented on the topic, and most were talking about how they knew exactly how being letdown like that felt.   Here was my response:

Maybe I’m not as emotional as most women. Perhaps it’s my military training that guards me against disappointment like what you described. Sometimes, however, I wish I were more sensitive. Many times I just feel numb when disappointment and discouragement try to get beyond the walls of my psyche.

Great post, E. Payne. Maybe I need to take the risk to make more emotional investments, even if inherently disappointment is a possible byproduct of that.

Yeah…spoken like a woman with a few issues.   Let’s look at this topic from the standpoint of church.   For those of you who attend, I’m sure there have been times when the preacher got hype on absolutely nothing, yet if you looked around, everyone was praising the Lord.   Or were they?   Perhaps they were just giving a CONDITIONED RESPONSE to the culture of the church they attended.

That, my friends, is a conditioned response.   Most of the people in this HILARIOUS clip were giving a conditioned response to praise.   If it were sincere,  it would reflect more of Christ and not that crazy preacher.   LOL

What exactly IS a conditioned response?   Well, in my mind, it is:
  • Getting stuck in a comfort zone;
  • Being on autopilot and not making an emotional investment into daily actions and relationships; or
  • Doing what is normal in a zombie-like state:   no life, no zest.

That’s exactly what I find myself doing from time to time in my own relationships.   Yes, I love my husband and children, but at times, I get bogged down in the humdrum of DOING instead of BEING.   And that’s a dangerous place for a marriage to stagnate.

That said, I’ve been working hard lately on investing more of my emotions and feelings into my marriage in the following ways:

Studying my husband.   Instead of settling for the fact that I know him well, I make it a point to study the “newness” of who he has grown to be since we’ve been married.  It’s like falling in love all over again.

Enjoying the seasons instead of being annoyed by the changes.   Typically, when the weather gets colder and the leaves fall off the trees, I go about the business of changing my wardrobe and it’s business as usual.   I take for granted the beauty of the leaves and complain about having to rake them.   The same is true of marriage and parenthood.   Instead of complaining about an occasional wet bed or less time to spend together with my husband, I’m learning to celebrate the maturity of both my children and my relationship.   Whether I enjoy it or complain about it, it’s bound to change, so I’d rather be emotionally invested instead of going through the motions.

Out with the old and in with the new.   If I smell trash, I take it out, right?   Otherwise the smell will get worse and worse and take over the entire living space.   There’s no sense in lighting candles or spraying deodorizer to cover it up…the trash has got to GO!   Unfortunately, in my relationship I had let trash build up over the years, and instead of putting it out, I tried to spray good stuff on top of the garbage that was building up.   I had to emotionally rid myself of the old nasty mistakes and pains experienced in the past to enjoy the freshness of my marriage daily.

As a result, my marriage has taken on a new, refreshing light.   The windows and doors are open to love, and although the routine still exists, I’m emotionally invested in it.   It looks like the returns are going to be pretty lucrative!

BMWK, how do you get beyond the ho-hum of daily living to emotionally invest in your relationships with your family and children?

God bless!

~ Harriet

Harriet Hairston  is a woman who slips and slides in and out of labels (military officer, human resource manager, minister, mentor, spoken word artist and  teacher).   The only ones that have stuck so far are “wife” and “mother”  (the most important  in her estimation).  The rest have taught her well that only what she does for Christ will last. There is one more permanent label she holds:    author.   You can purchase her first book,  “Who Are You?”    by clicking on the link.   You can also contact her at

About the author

Harriet Hairston wrote 27 articles on this blog.


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