You might feel like you have reached a dead end. You are tired, burned out, hurt, broken and have totally lost the desire and will to try and make this relationship work. It is what has lead to your separation. Usually separation comes after months or even years of tension and turmoil in a marriage, or perhaps after an affair that has left you completely heartbroken.

Some of my clients during this time ask me: “after all this hurt is it still possible to save this marriage?”, “isn’t the fact that we have gotten to this point an indication that it truly is over?”. Sometimes a separation is a very needed wake up call for both parties to re-evaluate their priorities and the commitments they once made to one another. It can give you both time to think and reflect and look within.

Here are some tips for you to navigate this period of time productively:

Take your time: A change of heart is something that has to come from within. Give yourself and your spouse all the time you both need to truly get clear with your feelings towards one another. The biggest mistakes I have seen people make is either rush to back to quickly, which backfired, or push one another away as a form of emotional protection. Take time to just be, be with yourself, be with the discomfort of being lonely, uncertain and afraid. Sit with your feelings, but do not act on them.

Look within and avoid pointing fingers: When things go wrong we often tend to look for something or someone to blame. If you are looking to reconcile your relationship with your spouse it will be counterproductive to point fingers and spew hatred and anger towards him/her. If you are hurting and need to share your pain, seek a counselor or write a journal where you can safely express your emotions, but understand that going into attack mode and pushing all the blame onto your spouse will only increase your resentment and hostility towards one another. This is a good time to really be honest with yourself and turn your attention within and ask yourself what your share in your marital issues is. It is important to recognize the changes you need to make if you really want to give your marriage another shot. Remember, it takes two to tango.

Clearly communicate: It is crucial that you both sit down and establish clear boundaries. I have seen so many couples either get hurt or sabotage the possibility of reconciliation, due to a lack of boundaries or a lack or respecting them. It is best to refrain from sexual intimacy in order to maintain clarity and give yourself the time to deal with your emotions. Make up sex can be very tempting and a feel great, especially when you are separated, but it will NOT resolve the core issues and will only confuse both of you.  Another important thing to discuss are finances, which is something most people seem to avoid. Either communicate directly or sit down with a third party (mediator, mentor, coach, counselor), who specializes in relationship coaching to help you establish a clear understanding of how the financial responsibilities will be handled during the separation time.

Protect your children: If the separation is hard for you and you have children, imagine how hard it must be for them. Be respectful of your spouse and never badmouth or involve  your children. You children love BOTH of you and hate being put in the middle. It is traumatizing and unfair to them. Have a clear visitation plan and don’t withhold your children from seeing, or talking to your spouse.  Remember, your children need to know that they are loved by both of you, so do your best to maintain some sense of normalcy during your separation time. Be sure to explain to your children that mom and dad are going through some difficult times, but are trying to work things out. Set an example of how differences can be resolved in a healthy way. Remember children learn best through modeling, so teach them valuable lessons for life by handling this situation with grace and respect.

Get clarity and work on the core issues: One of the biggest benefits we can get during a separation trial, is renewed perspective. Often when we are in the midst of a crises it is really hard to think and get clarity.  Taking a few steps back and viewing the picture from a distance can give us greater insight. Take this time to really reflect on your marriage and identify what the core issues are that have caused for things to get to this point. Even if the cause is an affair, or an addiction, know that behind these behaviors there are always several underlying root causes. For many of the couples I work with it is often rooted all the way back to childhood experiences or traumas which have never been dealt with. If you are clear on the root causes and you are both willing to work on these issues, seek out to a professional marriage/relationship counselor or coach. You both need to be willing to do the work it takes and own your issues. If you are both willing to open up to forgive each other and take this difficult challenge as an opportunity to grow together you are on the right path. Many of my clients face the problem that their spouses do not want to go for counseling, and give up.  In situations like that, it might be more challenging to create the necessary changes and shifts, but not at all impossible. Sometimes, all it takes is for one person to start doing the work needed which then spills into the relationship.  As Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.

Date again: I am a big believer in dating again. Back in the day when I got separated and we were thinking of reconciling I had requested two things that I knew where MUSTs in order for us to re-build our relationship. One was counseling again, the second dating. I felt strongly that I wouldn’t be able to help him resolve his addiction, and that we needed time to learn to feel safe around one another again. Sadly my ex was unwilling to try this approach and eventually after years of trying we gave up. That being said I have since counseled many couples who have rekindled their marriages and been able to re-build their love, by doing just that. Date again, remember what made them fall in love in the first place. So if you are ready for closer contact and want to get your feet wet again, start going on occasional dates with your spouse. Be kind to one another, focus on the good, remember what made you fall in love, and implement what your coach or counselor has been teaching you.

Remember to take it slow, it’s all about baby steps. Time heals all wounds. Take the time you both need and be kind to yourself in the process.

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Going through a divorce is hard and painful, to say the least, but going through a divorce with kids takes this challenge to a whole new level.

When I first got separated the hardest challenge for me was how to help my daughter navigate this difficult time.  I had to deal with the damage of my ex moving out without first having a conversation about it. The first few weeks were very hard, especially since I didn’t quite know how to break the news to her and how she would react. After covering up for three weeks that her dad was late from work, I decided it was time to tell her the truth. I explained that Daddy and Mommy are going through some hard times and need time for themselves, and that we love her very very much. She right away asked if she did something wrong, which is what most kids think (they think it is their fault), and I kept on reassuring her that she did nothing wrong and that sometimes adults sometimes go through changes and need time for themselves.  She wasn’t terribly sad, but she did start feeling anxious and was afraid to leave my side. She moved into my bedroom and slept next to me.  She was only five at the time and the sudden separation was hard for her to process. I immediately send her to a therapist who specialized working with small children to help her cope with her feelings of abandonment and started reading and inquiring how to best deal with helping her through this difficult time.

Here are some of the things I learned and adapted during that time which I hope will help you as well.

Create a relaxed setting: Many parents make the mistake to have a real formal conversation when talking to their children about the divorce. It is the number one reason why children shut down. If you want to discuss anything that pertains to the divorce make sure to find a place and time that is relaxed and casual, such as driving in the car, grabbing a bite, or during a walk to the park. Find a time where it your child is relaxed and more open to talk.

Allow your child to feel their feelings: One of the hardest things for a parent is to see their child in pain, so we instinctively go to protecting their feelings and by doing so deny them them permission to have any. When a child is hurting and we tell them “everything is going to be OK”, we mean well because we want to take away the pain and hurt they are feeling, yet we don’t realize that by doing so we shut down their feelings and we don’t give them permission to express themselves.  I had  client who told me that her daughter came home in a rage one day and said: “I can’t believe you and dad would do this to me, and ruin my whole life”. Her daughter was clearly in pain and needed her feelings to be validated. My client feeling sorry for her daughter responded :”we did it for your best interest, so you can grow up with two loving parents who just live separately”. Although the response had all the good intentions, the message to her daughter was “you shouldn’t be feeling this way”, which leaves the child thinking that their feelings are wrong and no one truly understands them. The last thing we want to do to our children is shutting them down.  What she could have said instead was something like: “ I am so sorry you are feeling so hurt, this must be so so hard for you” allowing the child to continue to open up and help them deal with their emotions.  See the difference?

Understanding their feelings: We all experience life through different lenses and never exactly know what the other person feels like. Yet when someone gets how you feel, and validates your feelings, you feel totally understood and less alone in your problem or pain. When we as adults are going through the divorce adjustment we are often so overwhelmed with our pain that we struggle to get in touch with what our children really feel. It is important that you put yourself in their shoes, that you go down to their level and try and experience their reality.  If you are able to say something like: “It sounds like you are really sad, and maybe kind of mad that dad isn’t around” or “it sounds like you really miss dad, this must be so hard for you”, you give them permission to have their feelings without making them feel judged.  In turn they will actually open up more and say:” Yah, I do feel that way…”.  The most important thing for your child is to have a safe haven to be able to open up about his or her challenges. You can’t change their new reality, but you can help them adjust to it.

Initiate conversations: I have a parent that came to me a few weeks ago and shared that she is really struggling with her 10 year old.  Her son avoids her and doesn’t seem to come forth and talk to her about any of his feelings. When we explored deeper how she approached the “Divorce topic”, she told me that she told him ”come to me if you want to talk”, hoping this would be invitation enough for him to open up to her. She was afraid to express something that may not be true out of fear that if he isn’t sad or mad, she will actually make him feel that way by bringing it up. You don’t have to worry about making your child feel a certain way. If they don’t feel that way you opening up a dialogue wont necessarily make him feel that way. One of the ways I find very effective in helping children open up is by saying something like: “I know you must be feeling very sad, or mad or … I know I would feel that way”.  Let them know that it is normal for them to have these feelings, and keep talking trying to truly put yourself in their shoes and think of how they might be feeling. Eventually they will open up and start talking.

Embrace tears and emotions:  I think one of the most painful things for me was to see my daughter cry and share her pain with me.  A part of me felt guilty and responsible for causing her this pain, so I was almost looking for ways to escape from it. However the most important thing your child needs in order to heal from this life changing event is your understanding and compassion, so don’t let your feelings of guilt get in the way of creating a safe space for your child to cry and express themselves. Time heals, and love and connection will help your child overcome this challenging chapter in their life.

Seek Guidance: Having had my parenting mentor during that time was a lifesaver for me. I believe that I wouldn’t have been able to manage the challenges as effectively without her. When we are in the problem and struggling with our own pain it is really hard to have clarity and the resources within to know how to handle every situation. That is the beauty of having the gift of outside resources, guidance and support. Find a parenting expert who deals with divorces and will be able to give you clear guidance and advice. I also strongly advise for you to get your child/children professional support such as a therapist, since children sometimes feel they can’t share everything with their parents and it gives them a place to offload safely.

Be aware of potential setbacks: It is normal for children who are going through the initial phases of the divorce, to act out, regress or withdraw.  Notice the behavioral changes and be very supportive and avoid criticism. They need more time to adjust and deal with the their new reality. I know one of my clients children started bed wetting, she was devastated and her reaction made her daughter feel very ashamed and bad about herself. Prepare to deal with some setbacks, and be sure not to make your child feel bad or ashamed. Time will help them heal, and eventually the symptoms will dissipate as they start adapting to the changes.

For more tips and suggestions on how to help your child navigate this difficult time, feel free to reach out to me by setting up a free Breakthrough to clarity session with me. Select a time from my calendar that works for you, if you can’t find a time that work for you feel free to email me @ and we will try to assist you with a more convenient time slot.