I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself During My Marital Separation

By: Leslie Cane: When many of us have been in a relationship as important as our marriage, we can begin to define ourselves by it, at least in part. We come to identify ourselves as a wife, or as part of a family. So when that coupling is questioned or is paused, it can literally feel as if we have lost a part of ourselves. And frankly, when we’ve always had our spouse around to be a part of our daily lives, we can feel the void very deeply when we are separated and now have to do everything on our own. Frankly, we can feel downright lost and unsure of how to fill our days in a productive way.

Here is the thought process that someone might have: “my husband and I are going through a trial separation. It was more his idea than mine, but even I have to admit that things were very tense and probably not great for either of us. The problem is that we have been married for eight years and I have placed most of my focus on my family. I have good friends, but obviously my family came first. My husband and I try to split time with our kids equally during this separation. So when he has the kids, I honestly do not know what to do with myself. I feel so lost. I feel worthless because I don’t have any other way to fill my time. Normally, when the kids were away, I’d spend time with or talk to my husband. I can’t do that now. I’ve gone out with friends, but it’s awkward. Mostly, I just watch TV or read a book, but it makes me feel like a total loser. I almost want to reconcile with my husband just so I don’t have to face such horrible loneliness anymore. How do you figure out what to do with yourself during your separation?”

Why It’s So Important Not To Become Isolated: I struggled with this also. I felt very lost. And in the early days of my separation, I found myself becoming very isolated and depressed. Luckily, I had people who cared about me and who tried to drag me out of my house and out of my funk, but I resisted this. They kept at it, though.  Most of the time, I’d go with them very reluctantly, but I always felt somewhat better afterward. Eventually, I made it a point to get myself out there. It was better for me and it was ultimately better for my marriage. I told myself that I might as well take advantage of this time and to rediscover myself again. I honestly think that this was a blessing and made me a more interesting and complete person, although it didn’t feel that way at the time.

I had a girlfriend go through something similar when her child left for school. She’d been a stay-at-home mom, and she struggled. Her self esteem took a huge hit, because she’d always identified as a mom and suddenly felt like she wasn’t herself anymore. She had to start identifying as an individual who was still a mom, but who had to craft her days in a different way. She volunteered, she worked out, she learned new skills. She took on a hobby that eventually became her career. She’s very happy when her son comes home, but she’s not dependent on him for her happiness anymore.  Isolation is dangerous because it feeds on itself and makes you dwell on what you do not have – not on what you do have and on the future possibilities.

Finding Opportunity In New Circumstances:  I think that finding balance and making the best of the situation is always what you’re going for. Of course you want your marriage to work out, but you also want to take this opportunity to work on yourself and to try to make the best of what lies in front of you. If you’re not happy with how things are right now, get out, see friends, volunteer, see extended family, or do whatever will make the days go by faster and will feel more productive. I always found it beneficial to help others. Even when I felt a little down and didn’t want to see anyone, I would make crafts for charity. This was soothing and I was still being productive and helping someone else, rather than wallowing in what I didn’t have. I was focusing on what I DID have and on how I could help someone else.

I know that things are difficult right now, but there are so many things you still have – your health, your strength, your extended family. You may as well use this time to your advantage so that if you do reconcile with your spouse, you will be a stronger, and better, version of yourself. And if you don’t, well, at least you will be in a better position to handle that.

I also think that you have to take things one day at a time. I spent many a night in front of the TV. I’m not altogether proud of that now, but sometimes, we need a few nights to lick our wounds so that in time we can come back stronger. Don’t beat yourself up too badly for reading a book or watching a show. Just don’t make a habit of isolation so that you never venture out. In my experience, the more isolated I was, the easier it was to be sad and to dwell on the separation. The busier I was, the more quickly time passed and the more quickly the reconciliation became possible. I honestly believe that the reconciliation was possible in part because of the changes I made to myself during it.  You can read more at at http://isavedmymarriage.com

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