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The "Healing Separation"

A Healing Separation is a structured time apart which can help a couple heal a relationship that isn't working. It can also help revitalize and renew a relationship that is working. The Healing Separation is designed to transform the basis of a love relationship ? moving it from neediness to health. A successful Healing Separation requires that both partners be committed to personal growth, and to creating healthier relationships with themselves and each other. Such a framework will allow them to carve out a new and more fulfilling relationship than they've known in the past.

The Healing Separation, like the old-style "trial separation," involves living apart for a while, with the decision as to whether or not to end the relationship put off until some future time. Unlike unplanned and unstructured separations, however, the Healing Separation is a working separation, in which you and your partner dedicate yourselves to investing in your own personal growth. If you can create a better relationship with yourself, that can allow different and healthier relationships with others.

Sometimes your work during a Healing Separation may be on "the old relationship," and sometimes it may be on "the old you." The Healing Separation is a creative way to strengthen both partners and build a new relationship without dissolving the partnership. Each partner agrees to the following goals for this separation:

  • To provide time and emotional space outside of the love relationship so I can enhance my personal, social, spiritual, and emotional growth.
  • To better identify my needs, wants, and expectations of the love relationship.
  • To help me explore my basic relationship needs, and to help me determine if these needs can be met in this love relationship.
  • To experience the social, sexual, economic, and parental stresses which can occur when I have separated from my partner.
  • To allow me to determine if I can work through my process better apart than I can in the relationship.
  • To experience enough emotional distance so I can separate out my issues, which have become convoluted and mixed up together with my partner's issues in our relationship.
  • To provide an environment to help our relationship heal, transform, evolve into a more loving and healthy relationship..

Some structure and awareness can help improve the chances of success of the healing separation. Unplanned and unstructured separations will most likely contribute to the ending of the relationship. This healing separation agreement attempts to provide structure and guidelines to help make the separation a more constructive and creative experience, and to greatly enhance the growth of the relationship rather than contributing to its demise.

Key Elements of the Healing Separation Agreement

  • Length of separation (Most couples have a sense of how long a separation they will need or want. It may vary from a few weeks to six months or longer.)
  • Time to Be Spent Together (A healing separation ideally should include some quality time together on a regular basis. creating a new relationship.)
  • Personal Growth Experiences (Ideally a healing separation would include as many personal growth experiences as feasible, practical, and helpful.)
  • Relationships and Involvements Outside of the Relationship (Ideally a joint decision and compromise should be made concerning social involvement, romantic, and sexual relationships outside of this relationship.)
  • Living Arrangements (Experience has shown that the in-house separation, with both parties continuing to live in the family home, results in a less creative experience. It seems to dilute the separation experience and keeps both parties from experiencing as much personal growth as is possible with separate living arrangements. It may not give enough emotional space to the person who needs it.)
  • Financial Decisions (Some couples will decide to continue joint checking accounts, savings accounts, and payment of bills. Other couples will completely separate financial aspects of the relationship.... If there is any chance for [significant] disagreement, each person could take out half of the assets and open separate accounts.)
  • Motor Vehicles (It is suggested ownership and titles not be changed until a decision has been made about the future of the love relationship.)
  • Children (It is important when a couple does a Healing Separation to minimize the emotional trauma for the children involved.)

Adapted from Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends, by Dr. Bruce Fisher and Dr. Robert Alberti. Available at online and local bookstores or directly from Impact Publishers, Inc., PO Box 6016, Atascadero, CA 93423-6016, or phone 1-800-246-7228.

Reviewed by athealth on February 8, 2014.