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Advice on Temporary Separation? How to Structure Time Apart

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WaywardRecoverer posted 9/7/2020 18:58 PM

Hi all,

I am fairly new here and recently posted my story, as well as my first thread. I receiving some difficult perspective and advice, did more reading, and had some difficult conversations with my BH. In addition to my story on my bio, here is my thread for more context on my situation: https://www.survivinginfidelity.com/forums.asp?tid=648501

I have come to realize I have a mountain of addiction problems (many noted in my bio), but I have most recently realized I have an addiction to sex, love, and relationships. The love I've felt, expressed, and given has been dangerous, selfish, and toxic.

My BH and I agreed that a temporary separation, for him to have some breathing room and for me to work on myself, is necessary for both of us. My paternal grandparents, whom we are both extremely close to, will be travelling for 7 weeks, and have offered for us to stay in their home while they are away. We agreed that it is best for me to go live there while he stays in our home.

Does anyone have any advice, research, suggestions, books, articles, videos, etc. on how to structure this temporary separation? What should some of our goals be? How will we know it was successful? We anticipate texting each other, but should we have Zoom dates from time to time, or visit on the weekends? Or should we avoid contact? Should we try to extend this for longer than 7 weeks? Does anyone have experience with this and would be willing to share their story with us?

As a follow-up question, I am not sure if I should talk to our grandparents about what we've been through. They have been married for 40+ years and we both look up to them. They are mentors and spiritual guides. I am ashamed to tell them but feel I need their guidance. My BH is okay with me talking to them about what we've been through. What do you all think of me discussing this with them? If I do chose to discuss this with them, I could extend our separation from 7 weeks to up to 12 weeks. Does that seem advisable? If so, what should I talk to them about?

We will discuss this with our individual therapists and marriage counselors as well this week. Thank you all for your input and advice.

MrCleanSlate posted 9/8/2020 08:27 AM


I never separated with my BW but I can offer a few good suggestions which may help:

-If you value your grandparents advice, and think they may be helpful, then do share with them what is going on. I bet they have some sense that all is not good.

-Since you are separating it may be best to have some time with no contact at all. This could be good for both of you to work on yourselves. The key is for BOTH of you to commit to doing some IC and self evaluation during this time. The time apart may help.

-It may help for you to start working on a timeline of your affairs that you can provide to your BS. The timeline will also help you start to see the issues.

WaywardRecoverer posted 9/8/2020 13:24 PM

Hi MrCleanSlate, thanks for all those tips. I think I will talk with our grandparents about it. I appreciate your help.

gmc94 posted 9/8/2020 17:18 PM

What does your BS want?

There are lots of resources on line - google therapeutic separation and you should get some guidelines.

I think it's helpful if you have some sense of what you would like to see during this S.....

BUT (yeah, I know, there's always a "but" ), I would probably defer to BS on anything about which you two disagree.

WH and I had a 6-month S (long story as to how we ended up living together again, but bottom line is Covid and not bc my WH has become "R material" ). Original plan was NC during the week with a Sat date night. After a trigger/argument on the 1st date night, I went full NC and stopped the dates .... probably lasted 6+ weeks before I agreed to resume the Sat night thing. TBH, I really needed that period of NC and think it can be beneficial for many. If you are only talking 7 weeks, I think a period of NC may be helpful (but that's just the opinion of some stranger on the Internet).

"Goals" of S can be hard to nail down. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and IMHO, the goal should be PROGRESS for both parties. The BS may need to learn to regulate the trauma response..... while the WS needs to learn empathy. Just an example - every situation is different.

[This message edited by gmc94 at 5:48 PM, September 8th, 2020 (Tuesday)]

WaywardRecoverer posted 9/8/2020 17:34 PM

Hi again gmc94! Thank you for your reply. Thank you for sharing your story as well. I'm sorry about your experience - it sounds less than ideal. I hope things are going better for you now that you're living together again!

As for what my BH wants... Overwhelmingly, he has told me he wants me to get better. And ultimately, that's what I want. I want to get better. I am very clearly re-enacting a cycle that I feel trapped in, and I want to break the cycle. I had a session with my therapist today and he told me it sounds like I need spiritual nourishment, so there's that.

What does NC look like? Is it always an absolute no-contact, or is there room for a quick text to check-in? Like a "how was your day?" Or do you find the absence of those daily reminders to be more therapeutic?

For where we are now, it is painful to be together, but also painful to be apart. We are discussing extending the temporary separation but would really like to be together for December.

Thank you for that phrase - "Therapeutic separation!" It can be so hard to do research if you don't know what that critical key phrase is! Reading about it now

gmc94 posted 9/8/2020 18:01 PM

Personally, I think NC is NO contact other than kids or the "biz" of the relationship (did you pay the electric bill kind of thing).

I say see what your BS wants and prepare yourself for it changing. I felt perfectly OK with the one night a week thing, but once my WH started in on a subject I'd REPEATEDLY told him was killed by his A, I no longer had the bandwidth to deal with him at all. For me, that (albeit relatively short) period of NC was the catalyst to really let go of the outcome and to start working on myself more proactively.

I think all BS who don't immediately file for D want their WS to make the changes necessary to even consider R. I sure did. Alas, my WH has repeatedly demonstrated that he's likely not capable of that kind of change. However, the BS also needs to figure out how to shift the focus to themselves and their healing. S & NC were helpful for me on that front.

WaywardRecoverer posted 9/8/2020 19:04 PM

I just added 2 weeks to the separation so I could talk to grandparents before they left for their 7 weeks of travel, so that is now over 2 months total. I think I will need all the time I can get.

That's really helpful, gnc94. Thank you. I appreciate the insight. I will talk to my H and do more reading.

secondtime posted 9/8/2020 19:29 PM

I'm married to a recovering SA. Therefore, getting better is a life-long process.

I would encourage your husband to start digesting the resources for partners of SAs in the I Can Relate Forum, and then come back to you and define what "getting better" actually means.

FWIW, my husband one three year stint of sobriety, and he's now been in recovery for 3.5 years. Both periods separated by 7 years of a gradual march to full relapse.

Because of my poor understanding of SA, I thought he was getting better during his first go around and acted accordingly. I have a much different opinion now, of whether or not he is getting better.

I would also wait to discuss things with your grandparents. You have enough on your plate without also having to deal with outside relationships.

Have you considered finding mentor-ship and guides in a 12-step group?

secondtime posted 9/8/2020 19:29 PM

Deleted. Duplicate

[This message edited by secondtime at 7:30 PM, September 8th (Tuesday)]

WaywardRecoverer posted 9/9/2020 19:49 PM

Hi secondtime, thank you for your reply and sorry for the delay in my response. I'm sorry to hear about your husband. That sounds excruciating and drawn out. I hope you're both making progress, and thank you for sharing your story.

I will see how my husband feels about exploring more resources. He did a lot of reading and diving into forums like this one (although not this site) in the fall-out of the ONS for my A#3. I think he is fatigued. He tried to talk to me and I refused to listen and understand back then. He told me last night he wants me to become strong, confident, to respect and love myself, to stand up for myself, and to set boundaries with others and myself. I think that's a good starting point.

I think my husband must have felt similarly about my recovery. A4 was just a few weeks after the ONS of A3, but we had a lot of tough conversations that year. He thought I was changing, taking things to heart, and doing the work. Our conversations did change and impact me, but clearly did not sink in enough. Then I had A5. I did not tell him for another year about that incident because I felt so much shame over what I had done (What a huge regret). Back to square one. Now he is unsure what recovery, growth, and change really looks like in me.

What was your understanding of the addiction at the time? How has it evolved? What was your husband's understanding of his addiction? How has his understanding changed? If you don't mind sharing some of that info.

I have arranged to tell my grandparents. I think the shame of hiding this is too great to bear. My therapist suggested I seek out spiritual community so I think my grandparents will be able to provide that.

Thank you for suggesting the 12-step program. That option has been recommended to me several times, and I deflected it. I wanted to let you know that you telling me this was the final signal I needed, and you made me really consider it seriously. I just sent a message to my therapist asking to help me get started. So thank you so much for that.

ChamomileTea posted 9/10/2020 06:37 AM

Have you considered that maybe you're a round peg trying in vain to fit into a square hole? Maybe monogamy is not for you?

Cheaters cheat because there's a gap between their stated values and their actual deeds, a flaw in character when those two things are out of alignment. So, you get down to basics with what you TRULY believe. Do you really value HONESTY? How about INTEGRITY? FIDELITY? etc. When you find the core values which reflect your true self, you then build boundaries around them. Say, you find you really do honor fidelity. That means you don't get drunk or high enough at a party to lose control and you don't allow potential interlopers to feel so comfortable with you that they make passes.. BOUNDARY, BOUNDARY.

The first step though is getting REALLY honest about who you are. Maybe you're not that person. Maybe that's just who you think you ought to be. And maybe it's who you eventually want to be. If so, change is possible, but it's hard work.

I do agree with a 12-step program if you are diagnosed SA. But don't assume that you're SA. Get a well qualified CSAT to make the diagnosis. Read through a copy of Not Just Friend by Shirley Glass for help with developing boundaries. THINK about your core values and what is truly meaningful to you. You can't fool yourself. You can grow into a person who truly honors fidelity, but not if you don't learn to really value it. Once you know who you really are and you genuinely honor your own belief system, you'll build meaningful boundaries around those core values to protect them. It all starts with being blisteringly HONEST with yourself.

gmc94 posted 9/10/2020 11:20 AM

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ this!

WaywardRecoverer posted 9/10/2020 17:43 PM

ChamomileTea, that was a really great response. Thank you so much.

As far as SA, I feel I need to clarify that my issue is really with p*rn addiction... My therapist identified this as a subset of SA (but admits it is not his specialty). I have asked him to help push me towards resources and groups that will help me with that.

Boundaries have been one of the biggest topics my H and I have discussed. That's one of his biggest concerns - that I will fail to learn how to set boundaries. I liked what you said - "let someone get comfortable around me" - I need to defend myself. I have always been a people-pleaser and wanted everyone to like me. I am actually reading through Not Just Friends now! My H recommended it. I'm reading some other books about boundaries as well. I never thought about it the way you said it though. What am I building boundaries around? On what lines am I drawing those boundaries? I just vaguely know I need boundaries around myself and my marriage. But I really need to think harder about it, it seems.

And then the meat of your response... values... This is so hard to talk about and think about. I don't think I'm totally ready to have that conversation. I need to do this deep diving during my separation. To be real, I want to value monogamy. I want to honor fidelity. But my H actually thought the same thing... Maybe I am not cut out for monogamy... I don't want to have a poly-amorous lifestyle though! I want to have a life partner!

One issue I am scared to tackle... When cheaters like me are asked, "how would you feel if your spouse did that?" - I want to say I would be upset... but I am not sure if I really feel that very deeply... Part of me thinks, well, I wouldn't be that upset... But I don't want to think or feel that because it feels wrong... I don't know... It tears me up really.

Growing up, I was often baffled by concepts like "loyalty" and "honor" and "integrity." I kind of partially thought that was just stuff people talked about in movies and books... I realize now those things are real and deep and that I need some of those in my life. But they still feel somewhat foreign to me. What does "honor" really mean? What does it look and feel like? That is just a rhetorical question as I realize I need to find my own answer to it and actually FEEL the answer, not just memorize the dictionary definition.

I feel that I need to totally tear myself down. Break my bones and break my foundation and tear down the house of myself. I need to rebuild it from scratch. I hope I can do that in separation.

Thank you for your tough and thoughtful response. I really appreciate it. And thank you gmc94 for affirming it!!

JBWD posted 9/10/2020 20:24 PM

I was exceedingly proud of how my BW and I approached trial separation. We took the time to really hammer out exactly what the desired results were and what we would expect of the other. IIRC you don’t have children, which helps simplify your BH’s problem of limiting interaction to whatever degree he sees fit.

I think that putting any timeline on it can be hazardous- Especially one that is somewhat close, because it
1) Places implicit pressure on him to give you an answer
2) Potentially lulls you into less constructive changes because you can “see the finish line.”

I would propose that you all come to some agreement on how it should look. I would additionally propose that one task to occupy your time is finding a means to extend this separation if it seems to provide something positive to either/both of you. I’ll also tell you that this is the ONLY time I support MC this early on- Ours was a very useful facilitator in ensuring the terms and outcomes we envisioned were understood and not distorted by one side or the other.

Bottom line is I advocate a more enduring separation for sure, it helps “un-stick” your thinking from the kinds of questions you’re getting to already.

In addition to the relational issues, finding those core values is potentially challenging- I was absolutely dead set against this until I realized that was exactly a reason to look into it: “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey. I misunderstood “effective” to be somehow construed as “useful,” when the author in fact means integral- A person who does what they mean and means what they do. It’s exactly the challenge before you, and I found it exceedingly useful in helping get closer to the discrepancy between who I said I was and what I did.

WaywardRecoverer posted 9/10/2020 21:26 PM

Hi JBWD, thank you for your reply! I appreciate the advice. That's really amazing.

As for the timing... I am reading that it should be longer. This is hard because my H doesn't entirely want me to go - he says he will miss me. Roughly 2 months feels long for us. But he also knows this is what I need. We want to spend December together. But I am also seeing articles about this recommending at least 90 days. One thing that might work is doing this run now, coming back together, and then doing it again in January for an extended time. Does that seem unwise to break it up?

I think for the "deadline" he is more on the side of wanting to make the relationship work right now, but needs to see proof I am changing. He wants me to assure him that I will make this right and that we can rebuilt the relationship. For me The time-frame helps push me to do the hard work and make every single day of that separation count. But I understand what you're saying too. We haven't gotten to bring this up with our couple's therapist yet but will be able to next week.

Thank you for the book suggestion. I will add it to my list. I think that will be a good one for me to focus on building myself back up after feeling totally broken down. Could you elaborate on what you mean be getting "un-stuck" from the questions I'm getting to already? Do you mean the questions of what I value and prioritize, or other kinds of questions?

JBWD posted 9/11/2020 04:53 AM

My unstuck comment is the same as CT’s- Stuck being allowing the momentum of conventional decision to keep you in a position to continue harming your BH and yourself because you simply refuse to accept any alternative.

The hesitation to be “all-in” on an undefined, long period of time is, at its most basic, the worst kind of stuck- Comfort. You are both facing the loss of a very reassuring, and reliable source of comfort in even discussing separation. That’s natural and fear of solitude is a powerful beast. But I think it’s the best source of growth when we understand that we haven’t yet corrected our harmful behaviors with our BSs there, and it’s a part of most dynamics, and virtually all A dynamics, because cheaters are manipulative- We adjust responses based on what we want and from whom. (That’s certainly normal human territory but not when it comes to the stakes we laid out.)

Given that fear of losing comfort and security, I almost feel that tells you in and of itself to use that in determining the important question- It’s gotta be long enough for you to know you’ll return home honest. And that’s a tall order- It was for anyone here.

You also have to approach his fears about the separation- While he may not have articulated it, he is almost certainly afraid that you’re going to be playing the field while separated. And if it has been articulated, I’d bet you told him that’d never happen, and that’s not what this is about. But he doesn’t know what to believe. I know you know that, but that reassurance he’s craving will be even harder to get if/when you’re away- I’ll tell you that the more skeptical BSs on SI would pretty quickly ID this process as a fairly protracted Exit A.

Solitude has been great for me- It also feels like it’s taken years off my life. I started to ID corrosive patterns in my life 6 months after DDay, which was when I put out the final TT and removed R from the table. And then one year later I got started on 12 Steps, which aligned all the patterns throughout my relationships. I’m spelling that out to emphasize my final point once again- It’s a real disservice to the process to put a timeline on it. That’s reason 800,000,000 why this is unfair to your BH. The best compromise will be, in my opinion, implementing some honest assessment points along the way so you all can communicate, but he can trust you to communicate straightforwardly, and with no intent to influence or coerce.

Tallgirl posted 9/11/2020 13:04 PM

I don’t have time to read all the suggestions. Sorry if I duplicate.

I would like to share my experience with a trial separation as a betrayed.

First of all it became permanent. I had a lot more healing to do than I expected. It took a long time and my stbxh became discouraged. He claimed he wanted us for over a year. but he detached while I recovered.

When we talked about trying again earlier this year he rejected me and it felt like an again. I was very hurt. Much of the anger returned.

We agreed to be married during the separation. I don’t know if he was faithful. This was stressful. Trust was at an all time low.

We also agreed to date each other. I started to want more breaks. And when I Finally decided that I wanted to be closer he pulled away.

It was lonely. It was sad.. I did survive as will you both.

I don’t know if it was wise or not. It did give me room to start to recover. It gave him room to let go.

Go in with your eyes wide open. There is a good chance that you don’t come back together.

No happy ending for me, but at least an ending.

[This message edited by Tallgirl at 1:06 PM, September 11th (Friday)]

WaywardRecoverer posted 9/11/2020 15:51 PM

Tallgirl, thank you for your reply. I'm so sorry about your experience. That sounds heart wrenching and painful.

To hear you say you were uncertain if he was faithful, as well as JBWD saying the same thing, really opens my eyes. Do you or others have advice on how I can assure my BH that I am only focusing on myself while still trying to maintain minimal contact?

All of these posts have made me realize I really need to keep myself open to possibilities. I need to not go in with expectations and really focus on myself. It feels so selfish to be focusing on myself, after the last 4 years have been so painful because I only cared about myself. I realize this is necessary though.

Thank you again for your reply, I appreciate it. I hope you have been able to heal and build a new life for yourself.

WaywardRecoverer posted 9/11/2020 16:02 PM

JBWD, thank you for adding more. I think I am starting to understand it more deeply. I need to not put a timeframe on it because our feelings may change so much once we settle into being apart. I see it now - we are very comfortable, and very set in our day-to-day routine.

"We adjust responses based on what we want and from whom." Yes, I have done so much of that. I have tried to say what I think my BH wants to hear, to make him feel better. He is so worried I will just say that I am better and changed and it not be real. He worries I even just went along with the marriage for convenience.

You're right. The fear of leaving is a sign we need this to grow. I want to return home honest, but really don't know how I'll feel once we are apart.

Thank you for explaining that fear that I will be unfaithful while I am away. I can absolutely see how someone might view me doing this as trying to back out of the marriage. My BH thought, after the kiss of A3, that I wanted her instead of him. How can I reassure him? Do you have any suggestions for giving him more security in that? I know we need minimal contact, but also want to demonstrate that I am working on myself and not seeking new relationships. He is currently feeling that since we are in lock-down for COVID, I do not have an opportunity to be unfaithful, and he worries that once the pandemic passes, I will slip back into these old habits and mindsets.

Thank you for that timeframe. I understand. I am now really changing my mind about extending the period and not putting a timeframe on it. It has taken me a long time to get to this place of admitting what is wrong with me and committing to changing.

Do you think it is a reasonable compromise to have December as a honest assessment point, where we don't necessarily make any decisions? We are so bent on December because I have forced us into obligatory family time during the holidays and this would be our first year having a Christmas together, just us. We really want to go on a trip together. Maybe we could have just that brief hiatus and go back to it after? How can I assure him I am not trying to influence, coerce, or manipulate him?

I am creating a document that outlines the goals and plan for the separation. I think that will help us feel more secure.

JBWD posted 9/11/2020 17:42 PM

Do you think it is a reasonable compromise to have December as a honest assessment point, where we don't necessarily make any decisions?

That’s for the two of you to decide, I think. If he has strong feelings on how he’d like to proceed then that’s a starting point. You just need to be aware that if you do reconvene for that period that comfort seeking will kick into high gear, and you’re both potentially susceptible to being swayed by sentiment. And if you do turn out to be an addict in any capacity, that good feeling will be a strong potential candidate to derail personal growth: “He wants me again! I’m fixed!”

IMO, this doesn’t necessarily mean don’t do it- It may point to more regular progress checks, social calls, etc, in order to minimize a holiday “build-up.”

How can I reassure him? Do you have any suggestions for giving him more security in that?

I don’t. If there are any BSs who went through this they’d be far better to help you understand that piece of the equation, but the real short answer is this will be even more hellish for him than for you because his mind will run away- And the words you’ve used in the past have lost effect. Consistent action over time is the only way to legitimately demonstrate intent now- And I have zero personal experience in that department.

In closing I will reiterate that I’m not the only voice out here- And if you’re looking for proven success I’m the worst one to regard here. But I have learned a thing or two about self-deception and the challenge of undoing it. I was ONLY able to do it when I was forced to reflect solely on me- My BW removed any alternative but it likely in many ways saved both of us from much worse. You’re a different person and may do things differently.

ETA: I can’t see if it’s been suggested but Linda MacDonald’s “How to Help your Spouse Heal...” is a MUST. It’s practical and provides a lot of context and solid examples of those who grasp what they’ve done vs those who don’t. She has a list of “Successful Rebuilders” characteristics that might be a good lens to help you understand how your BH is viewing the world right now. I skimmed it (see my above caution about thinking “I’m good!”) and it was so much information I could have used had I actually been ready to grow...

[This message edited by JBWD at 5:50 PM, September 11th (Friday)]

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