How a temporary separation saved our marriage

When our oldest boy was one we went through a temporary separation. It’s not something I’ve spoken about much here for obvious reasons. I’ve alluded to issues, but I’ve never been completely open about it in this little online space of mine.

In the spirit of being more honest in my writing this year, it’s something I feel I want to write about it. (Though I have to admit I’m a little terrified about hitting publish.)

temporary separation
There were many times during our separation where I thought about it – to reach out to this online community for support. But I couldn’t find the words that both expressed the pain I was feeling, while still respecting our marriage. I didn’t know how to tell you what we were going through while also being mindful that Eamon may one day be reading this in the future.
More than anything I didn’t want to write anything that would hurt anyone, myself included.
Now that we’ve made it through the shit storm that is a temporary separation, I’m ready to share.
The last 6 months have been the steepest learning curve of my adult life and I feel that’s worth acknowledging. I also want to acknowledge that while a temporary separation was unequivocally the thing that helped us to find our way back to each other, this will not necessarily be the case for everyone.  

Will a temporary separation save your marriage?

I’d love to tell you it absolutely most definitely will. But I can’t pretend to be an expert on your marriage (or even my own for that matter).  
I can only share our experience of a temporary separation and what we learned to save our marriage. 
Time apart taught us so much about ourselves and each other.  I hope that by sharing them here with you it will stop you needing a temporary separation in the first place. 


What a temporary separation taught us.

A strong relationship takes daily effort from both of you.

Not only do you both need to put effort in daily, but it needs to be in their ‘love language’.    We weren’t completely neglectful of each other prior to the issues that bubbled up for us, but looking back we were both trying to give each other what we personally needed in terms of loving behaviour.


I was trying to give him the attention I wanted, rather than giving him what he needed. Our temporary separation forced us to re-learn what each other needed to feel loved and respected. We went back to that ‘dating stage’ where you are attentive and listening, rather than how we often become in a long-term relationship; complacent. 


Ask for what you need.

Prior to our temporary separation I felt resentful that I had no time to myself, but I also didn’t ask for what I needed. Time away from our marriage taught me that I am responsible for me.

This probably sounds entirely obvious, but I honestly used to wait for Andrew to offer me a break, rather than just taking one. This also applies to all the work I was doing in the home. He helps, but in that first year with our first baby, I was overwhelmed with how much there was to do.

I needed him to do more, but I also needed to ask. He didn’t know how I was feeling because I’d never told him.  He just thought that I didn’t like him very much anymore because I was always so snappy and short with him.


Space can give you perspective (and realise not everything is negative). 

In the thick of any relationship tension we tend to get caught up in the trap of thinking the worst. We hear the messages we want to hear, rather than how it was intended.
So many times our arguments have escalated purely out of misunderstanding. I’d hear what I thought he was saying rather than taking the time to really hear him.
Taking space and having time away from each other helped us to become less defensive.  We started taking time to clarify what the other person was saying. The space helped us to notice when we were becoming triggered and get curious about why, rather than just directing our anger at each other.
Being married does not mean we have to agree on everything.
I used to take disagreements personally. As someone who is particularly fond of words I would happily go round and round on an argument for far too long.
In some ways I think Andrew learnt to not disagree with me, to save creating unnecessary tension. But this only built up to resentment.
Our temporary separation taught us that it’s okay if we actively disagree with each other and that we don’t need to get defensive about it.  I don’t have to try and talk him into my way of thinking and he doesn’t have to shut down his opinion to avoid an argument. We can disagree and not have any negative feelings toward each other because of it. 

You NEED to make time for couple time once baby arrives. 

Even the easiest of babies make relationships hard.  They’re all-consuming. They’ll trigger your anxiety. You won’t sleep well and you probably won’t feel like yourself for quite a while.  
You MUST find the time to reach across the baby divide to maintain your connection. It’s so flipping hard to do but it’s SO IMPORTANT.
Date nights, social events and shared interests are all great. But even more importantly it’s about finding a connection within the daily moments. An in-joke. A knowing look. A belly laugh.  All of it counts. 
During our temporary separation we went back to dating. (Not at first. It took us a few months of arguing to realise we needed to reset and see if there was still something there).  Dating again showed us that we did genuinely enjoy being together. We’d just let the struggle of learning how to be parents get in the way. 
Now, we make sure to have regular couple time regardless of how busy our lives as parents get. 


Time apart is absolutely essential.

We’ve both always had plenty of interests outside of ‘us’, but we haven’t always managed that well.
I tended to plan my hobbies and social events around his work so that when he was home we had maximum time together. (Most likely as a reaction to watching my Dad work the same shift work hours and knowing how little time this left for my parents to spend together).
But while I planned my time that way, he didn’t. I started to view his hobbies (which obviously encroached on ‘our’ time) as a choice over me and the resentment crept in.
My over-planning also meant he never had to and that made me feel even less important. Stepping back from each other forced us both to look at how we plan for and spend our time.
Now after our temporary separation, he does more and I do less and within that we have found a better balance.

Listening more is always a good thing.

And so in that vein I asked Andrew what was the most important lesson he learnt from our temporary separation.

His answer?

The good things are really worth working hard for.

Amen to that hey?


Where to now?

If you’re struggling with overwhelm and resentment after having a baby, talking to someone can help. Book a 1:1 session with me here. 


**Originally published on January 18, 2014**

27 Responses to “How a temporary separation saved our marriage

  • Lila Wolff
    10 years ago

    I think it’s wonderful that you’ve shared this. It’s such an important thing to share the hard times as well as the good. Each and every thing you wrote is a good reminder no matter where we are in our relationships/

  • Tracy Fullagar
    10 years ago

    Amen! Nice Blog Bettina, great advice / life lessons here xo

  • Bec | Mumma Tells
    10 years ago

    Brave post. Looking back on things and knowing that they’ve passed is a great place to be. I think there is something in this that we can all take on board. And good things are really worth working hard for. Absolutely. X

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    Thanks Tracy. Xx

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    Thanks Bec. I hope others can get something from it. But mainly it is for me to remember and not forget these important lessons. X

  • beautiful, brave words. Thanks for the food for thought, a lot of what you have written here has been floating in my brain lately 🙂 It really is an ongoing effort, isn’t it? Ever-changing, too, as we all are. Have a gorgeous day, Sarah.

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    Thanks Sarah. I really appreciate you saying that. On-going and ever-changing definitely. x

  • Great post! Thank you for sharing your lessons. I’ve definitely learned that marriage can be A LOT of work… But it’s definitely worth it. 🙂

  • MotherDownUnder
    10 years ago

    I somehow missed this post before…so glad that you did hit publish.
    I have so much I want to say! Marriage is hard. And combining marriage and parenthood whist still nurturing yourself is even harder. But I agree…it is so worth working hard for!

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    We definitely need a catch up. Let me know when suits, I’d love to come down and you’re always welcome up here. x

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    Thanks Erica. I’m really glad that I shared, despite my hesitations. x

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    Thanks Lila. Yes I need to stop thinking that I can only share the good. Its a new year and a new change for me. x

  • Oh! Wow. I agree with Caitlin. Marriage is hard! Very hard. And yeah, babies are all consuming! I am with you on the often being hurt by my husband disagreeing with me. I feel like it is some sort of personal slight! Thanks so much for sharing this. I think we almost all go through times like this and whether we actually separate or almost do or whatever, it is so true that it is worth working at.

  • Maryandlil
    10 years ago

    It is so very hard but so rewarding when u stick it through the hard times. Thanks for sharing xx

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    It’s funny that we feel that way isn’t it? We don’t expect everyone else to agree with us but we feel that they should. I guess it’s just about recognising that as individuals it is unrealistic to expect them to agree all the time, and us with them. Thanks for your support. x

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    And thank you for stopping by. x

  • I personally think too much and bottle too much up inside. I agree with every point you have made. Your words echo so many of my own actions

  • I couldn’t agree more – introducing children into your relationship sure does change things. It is stressful at times when the men go to to work and have no concept of what it takes to look after a child. Even though it may not be physically demanding, it sure is emotionally. Good on you for being so brave and hitting publish.

  • Maxabella
    10 years ago

    Amen to that! This list is good for all couples, Bettina. Happy and not-so-happy.

    I hope it all works out well for you. x

  • Jordan | Berlin by the Bay
    10 years ago

    I just discovered your blog, what a great post to read first. Adding kids to any marriage is so stressful, its something we struggle with all the time!

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    Thanks for stopping by Jordan, and thanks for the compliment. x

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    Thanks Maxabella, I do too. x

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    Thanks Peta, I’m really pleased I did, everyone has been so supportive. Yes they don’t understand but that’s ok, we have lots of other Mama friends who do. x

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    I’m a definite ‘bottle-er’ for sure. Slowly learning its best to just get it out and move on. x

  • Ingrid Krisann
    10 years ago

    Only just got to read this and so well written We read it together and it was like you had taken the words right out of Rod’s mouth. He recognised every point you made and I think that I too have to take a leaf out of your book and approach things differently. Thank you 😉

  • littleoldsouls
    10 years ago

    Thanks so much for this comment Ingrid. I really appreciate it. I’m so glad it is helping others and it certainly helps me to know that a lot of others feel and think the same way. xx

  • I loved this. especially after my post 🙂 I think the one about the words hurting but not being intended is so true. I have to remind myself that I know chris wouldn’t say things to purposely hurt my feelings and that a lot of times it is just miscommunication!

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