If you’re currently separated from your spouse, you have to take action.
And not just any action—because the wrong ones may push them further away.
Here’s a summary of what you need to do to fight for your marriage:
- Set goals and boundaries for the separation that you and your spouse agree on
- Create a safe space for your spouse to explore their identity and emotions
- Identify the root of your marital issues and do the work to fix them
- Stay calm and rein in your emotions
- Learn how to communicate effectively
- Work on yourself and changing for the better
- Show you are committed to rebuilding your relationship from the ground up
If you’re considering a do-it-yourself program to save your marriage, use caution.
There’s a lot of advice out there, and much of it is not supported by research or guided by a professional with expertise in marriage counseling and therapy.
If you want a program to reset your marriage that you can start doing now, we recommend marriage expert Dr. Lee Baucom’s Save The Marriage program.
Click the link above if you want to check it out, or learn the steps to get back your marriage below.
Table of Contents
How Can I Save My Marriage When Separated?
If you’re currently separated from your spouse, you need a clear path to save your marriage.
And yet, you have an uphill battle ahead.
Research estimates that around 80% of married couples end up divorcing once they’ve separated.
But that leaves about 20% who do turn things around—so what’s different about them?
If you ask therapists, the same advice keeps popping up: separation can work with proper planning.
Give the separation structure, expectations and boundaries, and it can actually make your marriage stronger.
For couples who don’t, the separation is treated more like a trial divorce, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Below is an outline of critical steps to structure your separation in a way that can lead to the results you want—getting your spouse back.
Read Next: How to Save Your Marriage
1. Avoid rash decisions
Emotions are running high when a separation happens.
The situation may feel desperate, but it’s important not to act out.
It may be tempting to drown your sorrows in unhealthy habits.
Or, in the heat of the moment, to tell your spouse you’ve reached your limit and you might as well get legally separated or divorced.
But these behaviors are counterproductive and will not get you any sympathy.
Your ultimate goal should be about creating a stable, healthy environment for your spouse to share with you.
It may feel good to blow off some steam, but you’ll need to avoid doing anything you’ll regret later out of anger or sadness.
2. Set the goal(s) of marriage separation
One of the most important things you can do is define the goals of your marriage separation.
It should be more specific than “we are separating to see if we want to get divorced.”
Vagueness is the enemy of separation because it robs you of a starting point for any constructive relationship work.
A more specific goal might be to use the separation to evaluate your marriage and where you are in your lives individually.
Keep in mind, the best goals have the relationship as their ultimate focus.
As well, both of you need to be on the same page about the goals of the marital separation.
If you make assumptions or have different goals, you will end up working against each other.
3. Set a time limit
While you’re setting the goals for your separation, include time limits as part of your strategy.
For example, you may decide to separate for six months.
And at the end of that period, you’ll conclude your evaluations and share your feelings.
This is an critical aspect of creating structure and evening out control in the separation.
With agreed-upon time limits, neither party will be left in limbo, waiting for a conclusion.
4. Create boundaries
It’s a good idea to set boundaries for the separation and state them clearly so that both you and your spouse acknowledge and understand them.
Essentially, you’ll need to define what you’re not comfortable with (such as dating other people or rules regarding your children).
By establishing the rules of your separation, you can start to create mutual trust and work on your relationship.
It’s also a good psychological “hack”—having boundaries creates mutual respect and reminds your spouse that there are lines they can’t cross without consequences.
Read Also: How to Regain Trust in Marriage
5. Don’t break the rules
Once the ground rules of the separation are in place, honor them.
If your spouse decided they need a no-contact period, stay within the bounds of your commitment outside of an absolute emergency.
Showing that you can do what your spouse asks of you demonstrates your ability to follow through.
This is important, because it’s common in a separation that trust has eroded and expectations have sunken to all-time lows.
So show your husband or wife that they can count on you to do what you say.
6. Stay in touch
If you and your spouse set a no-contact period, be sure to get back in communication once it’s over and stay in touch.
You can’t pester your spouse, sending endless texts.
At the same time, you can’t lose all contact with your spouse. As they say, out of sight, out of mind.
What’s more, losing contact is dangerous because your spouse will feel better being separated due to the fact that you’re no longer triggering each other daily.
But they may attribute feeling happier to being away from you, as if you—and not the complex dynamics that led to your separation—are the real problem.
A key way to stop this from snowballing is to stay present in your spouse’s life during the separation.
It’s easier to avoid becoming a symbol of all that has made them unhappy when you’re checking in, reminding them that you’re human.
7. Let your spouse explore their identity
Your spouse may ask for a separation to “find themselves.”
It could be a quarter or midlife crisis—whatever the case may be, your partner needs to discover who they are, apart from your marriage.
You don’t want to appear to be standing in the way, so make space for your partner to do it.
Suspend your judgment.
As long as your spouse is not breaking the rules, they may need to scratch the itch, or it will never go away.
Cultivate an accepting atmosphere for your spouse so that once things have calmed down, they see that they can be who they are and pursue their goals while also being married to you.
Read Also: Why Won’t My Husband Fight for Our Marriage?
8. Demonstrate your commitment to the marital separation
You need to go through with the marriage separation and show you’re committed.
Your spouse shouldn’t be worried that you’re just going through the motions or not taking it seriously.
Because really, commitment to the separation means commitment to your spouse.
It means learning valuable lessons through this painful experience and developing new relationship skills that will heal your bond.
9. Control emotions
Some partners make the mistake of thinking that if they show enough passion and emotion, their spouse will be moved to end the separation.
Others simply let their emotions get the better of them.
But the truth is, you can’t control your spouse’s decisions with an emotional response.
It tends to just beget more and bigger emotions, until you and your spouse are either fighting or crying.
10. Learn effective communication
No relationship can survive without good communication.
That is, communication should be clear, collaborative and non-confrontational.
If you’re getting defensive, conversations will devolve into arguments or icy feelings.
Don’t fight—you want to avoid negative emotions at all costs.
If your spouse is not interested in communicating, it will be on you to try to open up that channel.
It’s possible, as long as you do it the right way—which we’ll talk about in our next tip.
11. Stay on neutral topics at first
If your spouse isn’t really talking to you, neutral ground is where you want to be.
There are some things you’ll need to communicate about, such as shared finances and the kids, if you have any.
Remaining open, easygoing and respectfully impersonal during these interactions will make it so that your spouse doesn’t dread them.
Eventually, conversation can evolve, starting with pleasantries like asking about your spouse’s day.
Little by little, you can create a safe space for your spouse to once again share their thoughts and feelings with you.
12. Get to the root of the problem
The separation itself is not going to fix what’s broken in your marriage.
It’s what you do during the separation that matters.
So use the time apart wisely and figure out what’s at the heart of your marital problems.
Is it a trust issue? A lack of emotional closeness and affection?
If you’re struggling to identify and change problematic dynamics in your marriage, a helpful resource is Dr. Lee Baucom’s Save The Marriage.
Painful as the process can be, you will need to dig down deep and pull it out by the root.
13. Listen to your spouse
When is the last time you sat down and really listened to your spouse?
No interruptions or excuses—even if what they’re saying hurts—but just listening to their grievances and accepting what you’re hearing?
Show empathy and compassion for your spouse.
Acknowledge how they’ve been hurting, what they’re angry about and where they want to go from here.
By listening, you’ll learn about the action your spouse is waiting to see.
14. Go to marriage counseling alone
Many people assume they need to see a marriage counselor together.
But you can—and may want to—go to a marriage counselor by yourself.
Seeing an experienced couples therapist for solo sessions is supportive not only for your mental health, but also for learning how to change your relationship.
Therapy can help you:
- Examine unhealthy patterns that are hurting your marriage
- Understand your own unconscious behaviors that may be contributing to relationship patterns
- Develop communication with your partner
- Deescalate arguments and resolve conflicts
These are valuable skills you’ll need to move your relationship forward.
15. Work on yourself
Now is the perfect opportunity to take some “me time” and work on yourself.
First of all, it’s important for your self esteem and mental state.
Moreover, for your spouse to desire reconciliation, you need to show a personal metamorphosis.
Your relationship problems don’t exist in a vacuum—make sure to take responsibility for your your own behavioral patterns, too.
16. Maintain normalcy with the kids
If you have children, never use them against your spouse or for some type of leverage.
Maintain their schedules to the best of your ability and don’t refuse your spouse time with them.
At the same time, don’t try to insert yourself into time spent with the kids in an attempt to get closer to your spouse.
It can be great to do family activities together for your relationship, but forcing the situation will make it worse.
Read Also: How to Survive in an Unhappy Marriage
17. If possible, see a family therapist together
At some point, you and your spouse may decide to go to a family therapist together.
It’s great if this happens at the beginning of the separation, as a family therapist can help you outline the goals and rules of your separation.
However, your spouse may need to warm up to the idea.
You can help them get there by taking steps such as working on yourself and creating a neutral and pleasant environment for your spouse to interact with you in.
Ultimately, hearing an objective third party’s analysis can give you both confidence and peace of mind, while also uniting you in your efforts to patch up the relationship.
18. Start rebuilding your relationship
If you want your marriage to work, you and your spouse will need to work hard to let go of the wounds that have been festering in your marriage.
Create a new beginning for positive feelings to blossom.
To help this along, make the effort to check in with each other and treat one another with kindness and generosity.
When you feel you’ve gotten to a better place, spend more quality time together.
At first, it can help to spend time together in public, like having coffee at a cafe.
It’s neutral territory, and you’re far less likely to argue in public than at home.
19. Take it slow
Being separated is agonizing. You want your spouse back―but you still can’t rush it.
Don’t guilt them into coming back, even if they’re having a hard time on their own.
You’ll need to take the pressure off, or it could scare your spouse off.
Bear in mind, if you come back together before your issues are resolved, you will likely end up in another marriage crisis.
20. Don’t engage in arguments
If your partner starts finger-pointing or blaming, don’t fire back.
Be the one to rise above engaging in negative communication cycles.
Because never letting go of the triggers that cause bickering and fighting will drain you and could move your spouse toward permanent separation.
If you want to make your marriage functional, start practicing now.
21. Talk about the changes you’ll make together
Your partner needs to be able to visualize the future together—not just how to mend the past.
Whatever it is that you and your partner want, talk about it.
Then talk about how you can make changes to lead the life you want, together.
This is important because your spouse may have no idea if you’re on board with what they want.
At the very least, sitting down to carve out a path that leads to your partner’s happiness as well as yours shows flexibility and compromise.
And of course, compromise is the key to a harmonious marriage where both parties feel their needs are being met.
22. Learn your spouse’s love language
Do you know what your spouse’s love language is?
Maybe you assumed you shared the same one, but that might not be the case.
Think back on your relationship. Ask your spouse what makes them feel loved and cared for.
Then do the things that show them that you love them.
Sometimes, little gestures are actually huge to your spouse.
And they can change the game in winning back their affection.
23. Show a new you
Change is absolutely necessary for your partner to want to come back.
But your focus shouldn’t just be on changing the things you think your spouse didn’t like.
In addition, you’ll want to bring something new to the relationship.
In short, show a different side of yourself.
Unleash your creativity. Show more sensitivity and tenderness. Surprise your partner.
By embracing a new side of yourself, you give your spouse a chance to engage with you in new and completely different ways.
Not to mention, it will make you intriguing in brand new ways.
If you’re trying to save your marriage from a separation, you know you have to take action before it turns into permanent separation or divorce.
Putting a plan into place for your separation that includes goals, time limits and boundaries is critical to success.
Then you can work on yourself as well as the issues that led to the separation.
You’ll also want to stay involved in your spouse’s life, but not to the point of becoming controlling.
Listen (really listen) to your spouse, and eventually you can start spend time together that’s meaningful.
Be consistent and trustworthy, and prove you’re capable of change.
Just remember, you can’t rush it.
Take your separation seriously so that you can maximize this time to examine your relationship, change your behaviors and rebuild your marriage.
Marriage Rebuilding Resources
If you need help, a great resource to rebuild your marriage is the Save The Marriage program by Dr. Lee Baucom.
His expertise is in restoring and strengthening your marriage through re-targeting your relationship goals and correcting false perceptions that perpetuate negative cycles.
Can a marriage survive separation?
In short, yes.
But a marriage can only survive a separation when given structure, rules, goals and an appropriate amount of time to succeed.
Can separation save a marriage?
Absolutely, but ultimately, the separation needs to be about the relationship, and not about waiting for a divorce.
What should you not do when separating?
- Stop arguing
- Don’t tell everyone you’re separating to keep out unhelpful advice and opinions
- Don’t jump to date other people
- If possible, avoid moving out
- Don’t sleep together
- Don’t try to speed things up be skipping steps or avoiding your marital problems
How long do marriage separations usually last?
Data vary by study, but marriage separations seem to last on average for about a year or slightly less.
Although, they typically range from as little as three months to as much as two or three years.
When should you give up on a separation?
There is no single answer to this question as it is a very personal one.
But some of the signs that you may have reached the end of your ability to keep trying include:
- Not having a desire anymore to continue trying
- Recognizing that you’re attempting to salvage the marriage for the wrong reasons and you don’t have a true desire to stay together
- You’ve given it your best shot, but nothing has changed
- One or both spouses have already moved on
- You realize you are in an abusive marriage, in which case you need to prioritize and ensure your safety (you can call 800-799-7233 for help immediately)
How do you emotionally survive a separation?
Refocus your thoughts and energy on improving yourself and your own life.
Action assists positive thinking.
Another piece of the puzzle is to have a solid support networks of friends and family to help boost your self esteem.
And last but not least, don’t get sucked into drama or harmful behavioral patterns with your spouse while you’re working through the separation.
Positive signs during separation?
- Your partner opens up and shares their thoughts and emotions
- You’re making progress in stopping old triggers from sparking arguments and healing deep-seated marital problems
- You’re communicating regularly and well
- There is tenderness and caring returning to your interactions with each other
- Your partner takes an active interest in what’s going on with you
- You’re spending more time together
How do I accept my marriage is over?
If your marriage is over, you will need to confront your feelings about it at some point.
When you’re ready to do this, ensure that you have people you trust to listen and be there for you.
Now is the time to focus on yourself, your own healing and setting new goals for your future.
Ignoring your spouse during separation?
Not a good idea.
Ignoring your spouse is different from taking time out from communicating during an initial no-contact period.
Deliberately ignoring your spouse and shutting them out is a surefire way to cause feelings of rejection and bitterness.
At worst, it can backfire and cause your spouse to feel justified in wanting a separation and move them toward divorce.
What to say to husband during separation?
There are no hard and fast rules for what you should say to your husband.
But there are some guidelines that produce better communication and responses, such as holding off on too much verbal affection.
This can cause him to go in the opposite direction.
Keep conversations in neutral territory at first, until you sense that he’s opening up to you and he makes it clear he’s ready to move forward.
Should I tell my wife I love her during separation?
You may or may not want to tell your wife you love her during a separation—it can be tricky.
If your wife wants space, respect her boundaries physically and verbally.
There will be time later, once you’ve achieved progress and you’re focusing on rebuilding your marriage, to express your feelings.
Legal separation vs trial separation
If you’re wondering how a legal separation and trial separation differ, here are the key differences:
- Legal separation is a process granted by court order that allows married couples to live apart, but remain married legally
- A trial separation is informal and doesn’t involve any legal process, lawyers or courts
- In a legal separation, the court handles division of property, debts, custody of children, child support and financial support
- A trial separation may lead to a legal separation if both parties decide they want to continue living separately but do not want the divorce process
- In a legal separation, a separation agreement delineates the responsibilities you and your spouse agree to while living separately