“Separate or stay under the same roof?”
I’m often asked whether or not a couple recovering from an affair should separate for a while or stay under the same roof.
My answer varies.
Here are some possible ways to look at it:
If the woman is a victim and her husband has been steamrolling her and disrespected her for many years, separation can be a good step. In this scenario, the husband needs to earn her respect in a comprehensive way. He needs to show her that he really wants her and that he is repentant from the heart. He will need to have shown growth as evidenced by therapy, addiction management and a lifestyle that earns her trust. This may take months, even years. She in turn needs to be in her own therapy and work on her personhood, adult voice, self confidence and assertiveness. When the playing field begins to get more level, they are in a much better place to rebuild a healthier marriage.
Separation is definitely the easier route in that the grieving process of the offended party is not fully witnessed by the transgressor. To watch a person get angry, become depressed, rage, cry, or melt into an anxious puddle is never easy or fun. I had one man say to me that when his wife was in a “bad mood or angry” it made him feel bad too and he didn’t like feeling that way. I looked at him and said, if you leave her, you will miss all the pain. If you really want your wife back you need to prove to her that you will stick with her through thick and thin… for better and for worse. Yes, separation is easier because you can skip out on the pain of the grieving spouse.
Except for abuse or serous mental illness, my policy is that repair of the rupture under the same roof is the harder and higher road. It forces the offender to witness the pain and face the consequences of their actions. It also allows them to offer understanding, apologies, explanations, answers, empathy and eventually comfort when the injured party is at a softer place.
One of the problems of separation, is that both parties inadvertently get used to being alone and living as a single person / parent. Once the cat is out of the bag, kids, friends and family know the truth and once the initial shock is over, people eventually adjust to the new deal. Eventually this can backfire and one or both of the partners begins to like the single state and reunification becomes even harder…especially if they let their guard down and allow another person to enter the picture (and the vultures will circle).
Thanks for listening,
Love and Blessings,
Milan & Kay