Can I Save My Marriage? Advice for Separated Couples

It’s scary and overwhelming to realize that your marriage is falling apart.  You might be clear on why the relationship is in crisis. If you’re like most couples, though, you can see that you didn’t get there due to one thing. Most couples separate after many twists and turns or a series of bad choices.

There are many reasons to consider saving your marriage. When relationships have problems, it’s common to fantasize about leaving. To believe that starting over will be easier than making repairs. Getting divorced brings its own pain. Everyone involved has a lot to lose in a divorce.

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Now that you’re separated, how do you fix things?

No single set of instructions is guaranteed to win your spouse back. You will have to use what you already know about your partner to focus on the right actions. After many years working with couples in crisis, here are some of my tips:

1.  Be your best self

Take good care of yourself so that you can be your best self. You need to stay grounded and calm to make good choices. This is not the time to check out and to fall apart. You will feel upset, but you still need to take care of your life.  

  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Exercise.
  • Refrain from drugs and alcohol.
  • Find support to talk through problems.
  • Be a responsible and engaged parent.
  • Handle the finances and your other responsibilities.

2.  Fix your own problems

There are ways that you have let your partner down. You have hurt your spouse and neglected issues. Now is the time to change your behavior and attitudes in a long-term, sustainable way. Deal with the problems that you ignored or avoided, especially the ones that led to this crisis. Quick fixes that wear off within a few weeks or months won’t cut it. Figure out how to really fix the problems and get to work!

3.  You have the information that you need, so put it to use. 

Your partner has told you what the problems are many times. If you are confused or uncertain, now is a good time to review the relationship. Arguments are where you will find the issues that you didn’t take seriously. Turns out those problems were a pretty big deal. Don’t frustrate your spouse by making them tell you one more time what you need to do. Figure out what the problems are and develop a plan to deal with them once and for all.

4.  Honor their requests

If your spouse asked for space, give it to them. They asked because they need to figure some things out. They need this break from your thoughts, desires, and insecurities. Respect the boundaries they ask for. Stick with the parenting plan and meet away from the house if they ask you to. Communicate in ways that they’ve requested. They are trying to heal from the things that have happened in the relationship. Listening to them is one of the first things you can do to start fixing the relationship.

5.  Don’t make it harder to get back together

Even if you can’t fix everything, you can make things worse. These actions will make it harder to get back together later. They break the little trust that your partner has in you.  


  • Text multiple times a day.
  • Call repeatedly.
  • Start dating or hooking up with others.
  • Drunk call your spouse.
  • Check up on their whereabouts.
  • Make up problems to get them to talk with you.
  • “Accidentally” bump into them.
  • Make pleas to reunite.
  • Send lengthy texts, letters, or emails.
  • Tell the kids that the separation your spouse’s fault.
  • Put the kids in the middle.
  • Threaten them if they don’t immediately reconcile with you.
  • Threaten to harm yourself or others.
  • Blame them for all of the problems.
  • Break into their email, social media, or phone.
  • Bug the house or their car.
  • Contact their family or friends to plead your case.
  • Close their accounts.
  • Cut off their access to funds.

Now that you’re separated, how do you fix things?

No single set of instructions is guaranteed to win your spouse back. You will have to use what you already know about your partner to focus on the right actions. After many years working with couples in crisis, here are some of my tips:

Don’t try to convince them that you have changed. They will notice changes when you have changed.

6.  Manage your own fears and emotions

If you dwell on your worst fears, you will continue the troubling things you did that led to the separation. Practice talking yourself down so you don’t let your emotions hijack your behavior.  Your spouse can’t reassure you or hold your hand through the separation. That’s your job.

7.  Re-evaluate your own priorities and choices. 

Chances are you ignored or minimized your contribution to the problems. Take a good look at yourself. You need to give up the things that blocked you from hearing your spouse’s frustrations.

What gets in the way of repairing the relationship?

These are hard requests, especially when your worst fears are coming true. If you act only on your emotions in this situation, you will head to divorce court instead of fixing things. The well-meaning advice of your friends is usually confusing and biased.

There are some frequent arguments for why you can’t follow any of the above suggestions. You’ve probably heard or said a few. Here are a few of the most common ones and why they make reconciliation harder:

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Excuse 1: “I’m falling apart, and I can’t stop it!”

  • This may feel true. It may even be true that it feels like nothing matters. However, this is the same thinking and behavior that got you into this mess. If you continue acting the way you always have, your partner will be less likely to reconcile.

Excuse 2: “If they are not around me, they won’t know that I have changed.”

  • If you become the person your partner always believed you could be, they will notice. It might be your silence that helps them see the change. Treating them differently will get their attention. Use that time to work through your own crap.

Excuse 3: “But they bear part of the blame, too!”

  • This is true. However, it isn’t the most important part if you want to save the relationship. During your separation, they are responsible for dealing with their own issues. You need to trust them and leave their work to them. It might take them a while to take responsibility for their contributions. Give them that time.

Excuse 4: “How do I know they won’t go out and sleep with someone else?”

  • That could happen. You are separated, which gives them the right to move on. They won’t return to you if you keep tabs on them or remind them that they need to be faithful to you.  In fact, it is more likely to push them away.

What you do during your separation matters. You can move things in the right direction or blow them up. Repairing a relationship when you are in a crisis is hard work. To save the relationship, you need to be crystal clear on what matters most. 

Many couples get back together. Even after a divorce is final, up to 15% of couples reunite. If you want to save the relationship, you need to commit to making yourself a better partner. That means stepping up your behavior, even if your partner doesn’t.

If you don’t end up getting back together, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you became a better person. You’ll be a better partner in the next relationship. You will be a better parent for your kids. And you’ll handle problems better in the future. Your work will be valuable.

If you need help navigating the difficulties of separation or you want to explore how couples counseling can help you to reunite, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation today.


Meet Cheri Timko!

She is a seasoned Couples Psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience. Certified in Gottman Couples Therapy and Relationship Enhancement, she’s dedicated to helping couples overcome challenges and cultivate extraordinary relationships.

Cheri’s passion lies in providing a personalized roadmap for each unique couple, instilling hope, and equipping them with the tools for lasting success. Discover the transformative power of a great relationship.

Want help for your relationship? Schedule a free phone consultation to learn how Couples Therapy can help you.

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