Physical separations alone will not necessarily change old patterns, which require a deeper look into your self, the relationship, and investment and commitment to change. Whether or not one of you actually moves out, there should be a psychological component to your separation. In fact, sometimes a psychological separation—a shift of focus back to yourself for a while—is all you really need. When we’re feeling stuck in nonworking patterns or in the grip of some kind of power struggle with our partners, we often don’t see our options anymore. We lose our ability to detach. This is when a psychological separation can be particularly useful.
Individual psychological separation
- Psychological separation involves looking at and working with your part of the pattern. This means temporarily withdrawing the energy you’ve been putting into a relationship pattern that has not been working and being willing to disengage or let go of any sense of righteousness, the feeling that you’ve been wronged, or any other complaints you may have. This isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.
- People often resist psychological separations because they’re sure that it’s their partner who needs to change and that they have no part in what’s going wrong. They may also fear that if they withdraw their energy, the relationship will surely fail. They continue hanging onto a sinking ship in hopes that someone or something will save them.
What to expect
What actually happens during the process of psychological separation?
- As one or both partners withdraw their energy from a pattern that has not been working, some new space and energy can open up for individuals and perhaps the relationship as well. Imagine that you are in a tug-of-war with another person. After near exhaustion and nobody winning, you decide to let go of your end of the rope. You are now free of the struggle and the other person is holding a limp rope. “Dropping the rope” is the first step in stopping the struggle in your relationship.
- Many couples become so dependent on each other that one or both believe that only their partner can provide what is wanted or needed. They’ve lost sight of their ability to validate and care for themselves.
- Psychological separation involves strengthening your own identity and sense of self. It is a process of getting to know, understand, be, and express your inner self as well as understand your role in your relationship. It may be a time for looking deeply at how you were shaped by your family of origin.
- Becoming aware of how we relate to ourselves, learning better ways of meeting our own wants and expectations, and strengthening our sense of self can be very empowering. Ironically, realizing that you really can take care of yourself often allows your connection with your partner to change and even improve. At the very least, refocusing on you can help you gain insight and clarity into your wants and expectations and how your partner does or doesn’t meet them. This, I believe, should be one of the goals of all separations: as you start to know yourself better and become more OK with yourself, only then evaluate whether your relationship is working for you.
Taking Space – How to Use Separation to Explore the Future of Your Relationship
Available in paperback and ebook editions
Audio Course: How to Structure and Manage a Separation
Available for download or in CDs
The Separation Agreement
Available for download or as a hard copy