One minute you’re leading a blissful married life (not!), and the next you’re officially “separated.” What the hell is that supposed to mean, exactly?
What are the rules to being separated? More importantly, what are the pitfalls? You need to learn the separation skills every man needs to know.
Every Couple Does Separation Differently
Separation means different things to different people. If you’re like most men, though, most of the rules of your separation will be dictated by your spouse, even if the separation was originally your idea.
So, the first order of business, after collecting your things from off the front lawn, is to sit down with her and figure out how you’re going to do this. There’s no right way or wrong way to do a separation, so technically everything’s on the table.
Respect Her Privacy
Separation skills every man needs include respecting your spouse’s privacy. That means no skulking in your car down the street, staking out the house to see what she’s up to. If she wants to have guests over, that’s her prerogative, even if you are still paying the mortgage. If she wants to have “adult sleepovers,” that’s her choice, too, as much as that might pain you to realise.
- Respecting her privacy means no checking the call log on the landline account or cell phone bill. (Really, you’ll be a lot happier if you don’t do that, anyway.)
- Don’t drive past her work to see if her car’s in the parking lot.
- Don’t interrogate her co-workers and friends when you “accidentally” bump into them at the grocery store.
If you question whether something you’re thinking of doing is an invasion of her privacy, the answer is likely YES. Consider how you would feel if she did that same thing to you.
Don’t Use Your House Keys
Assuming you’re the one who got kicked out of the family home, try to retain a set of the house keys. If you promise not to use them unless it’s an emergency, you’ll probably be able to negotiate this for yourself. Once you’ve made the agreement, don’t renege on it.
Ringing the doorbell to be allowed entry into your own house is going to take some getting used to. But if you go barging in using your keys, you may find them taken away. Worse, your spouse may change the locks or decide she needs to take out a restraining order on you, which you’ll want to avoid at all costs. The more space you give your spouse during your separation, the better things will turn out for you.
Until your divorce and any parenting arrangements are finalised (and really, after that, too), avoid badmouthing your spouse. The less you talk to people about your relationship, the better. That includes your drinking buddies, your coworkers and that cute little number who lives next door in your new apartment building.
The thing is, if you’re a father, whatever you say could be used against you in custody and parenting proceedings. And what you say is likely to be inflammatory and possibly libelous.
Yes, chances are slim that her lawyer will be able to dig up witnesses that say you made drunken threats. But play it safe. If you need to let out some steam, confide in your paid therapist, who is sworn to confidentiality.
Lay Off Social Media
Speaking of comments, you might want to disable your social media accounts, at least until the divorce and parenting agreement are finalised. Social media becomes a torture platform when you’re separated.
Do you really want to see pictures of your estranged spouse with another bloke? Or read all the sympathetic comments from her friends (that used to be your friends), telling her she’s better off? You’ve got better things to do than check her relationship status.
The best part of disabling your social media accounts is that you won’t be able to leave comments on her page that you’ll regret later.
You May Need to Establish a Co-Parenting Relationship
If a child or children are involved, your relationship with your now ex will have to continue in some form. Above all else, you want to communicate in a way that avoids conflict.
No-conflict communication with your ex will help you agree on a custody schedule and parenting plan. If you aren’t able to agree immediately, lack of conflict is important in the family court. Judges are inclined to not go for shared parenting, means she could have the kids nearly all the time, where parents are seen to be constantly battling.
Some of the strategies to minimise conflict are to (i) communicate only when required (ii) not use your child for sending messages (iii) be open-minded and non-judgemental (iv) keep your ex informed as appropriate and (v) respect the parenting style of the other parent.
Put Your Ducks in a Row
During a separation, there’s a chance that you and your estranged spouse will get back together. That would be great. Maybe. But on the off chance that things continue to go south, this is a great time to put your ducks in a row.
You’re in your own place (or in your parent’s spare room), and have the time and privacy to make arrangements for a worst case scenario. Don’t think of this as setting things in stone. You’re just putting things in place to make it easier if the relationship moves on to divorce.
Here’s a list of what you should plan, depending on your situation:
- Make a shortlist of divorce lawyer candidates, based on reputation and known abilities
- Research how to do a DIY divorce
- Organise your finances
- Gather tax records
- Gather business records if you own a business
- For fathers, start thinking about how you’d take care of your kids for sole or joint custody (babysitter, sleeping area, extra-curricular activities, etc.)
- Review ownership records (bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, etc.)
- Think about the family pet situation. Would you want the pets? Shared custody?
- Organise contacts (school, sports coaches, in-laws, accountant, spouse’s work, etc.)
- Redo your will, Medical Proxy, Living Will and Power of Attorney
- Review and or change your life insurance beneficiaries
Get on With Your Life
Surprisingly, separation skills every man needs include learning how to get on with your life. For whatever reason, guys often take separation and divorce harder than women.
If you aren’t careful, you could let your life stall while you’re in this sort of limbo state, wondering how the rest of your relationships are going to pan out. Don’t let that happen. It’s more important now than ever to keep things moving along in your life.
Keep in motion whatever projects and plans you had going on before the separation. If you can’t continue with a certain plan because it involved your estranged spouse, come up with an alternate plan. Don’t go into “waiting mode.”
Keep moving forward. If you do that, you’ll be in a much healthier position to deal with whatever comes next as far as your relationship.
No one expects you to be a perfect angel if you and your wife have separated and are legitimately on the road to divorce. The temptation to date might be too strong to resist. You’ll have to decide for yourself if dating is something you should do while you’re technically still married, but also technically separated.
But the separation skills every guy needs to know include understanding the dangers of dating while separated. Carefully consider the potential ramifications of your actions. You could accidentally impregnate the other woman. You could jeopardize any chances you ever had for reconciliation with your estranged spouse.
In some parts of the United States, your dating activities could be used against you during the divorce if you live in a ‘Divorce Fault’ state. In Australia, though, we have “no fault” divorce legislation that applies nationally.
Your spouse might resent you exposing your kids to your girlfriend. You might develop deep feelings for another, which would cloud your feelings about your marriage. Your girlfriend could develop a dangerous jealousy of your estranged spouse.
Any number of scenarios are possible. If you must date, be cautious about it. Consider the risks as well as the rewards.
Learn to Take Care of Yourself
Marriage can be a comfortable place. You may have become used to having many things done for you, like laundry, cooking, cleaning or social obligations. If so, you’ll have to learn to take care of yourself.
Even if you end up getting back together with your estranged spouse, you’ll be better off in the long run learning more basic life skills. If you do, you’ll be a lot less inclined to rush into another marriage for all the wrong reasons, just so you’ll have someone to take care of you.
Focus on your health — both physical and mental — to get through this stressful period successfully. That includes avoiding alcohol, substance abuse and other vices, which inevitably cause more problems than they solve.
Separation Skills Every Man Needs
These separation skills every man needs will help you to navigate the rocky road of separation. Occasionally, you may find yourself in a very dark place emotionally. Remind yourself that this situation is temporary. Being separated is trying for anyone, so give yourself credit for getting through it as best as you can.