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Separation Can Be a Jarring but a Healthy Choice
Written By: Mark Smith

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Eric and Susan worked so hard on their therapy together. The most difficult marriages to salvage arenít the couples who fight with great but misguided intensity, or the couples who suffer from addiction related issues, or the even the couples who are trying to recover from one of them having an affair. No, the marriages that are tragically extremely difficult to salvage and re-build are the ones where either the initial chemistry was weak and lacking to begin with or that chemistry has shifted extensively due to mid-life issues.

While Eric thought that the chemistry between he and Susan was passionate enough and quite genuine on his part, Susan knew that for her there had been something missing from the very beginning. As the years went by the missing part just kept getting bigger and bigger. After 15 years of marriage Susan had changed. It was no longer enough for her to just talk on the surface with Eric about their shared passion for the practice of law. Something deeply creative and overwhelmingly needy had been kicking around in her for some time. She had taken to writing poetry. It was as if her world had become four dimensional Ė that extra layer of reality being the sensual energy, magic and depth that good poetry fed her soul with. Eric was quite satisfied in his three dimensional world though. He worked long and hard, he worked out, he enjoyed his children, he had friends Ė everything was great except the bedroom. Due to the fact that Susanís soul hungry need for intimacy and emotional connectedness was not being met at all with Eric, her body had all but completely shut down. The less available she was to him that more miserable he became. He had gone back to his old addiction of smoking pot in order to deal with his sexual frustrations.

Susan was solid and sure about her decision. She could not see anything that would ever improve the chemistry between her and Eric. Many people sleep walk through life with distant sexless marriages, but she was determined that she would not be one of them. While it was difficult to finally tell him of her decision she eventually got the courage to do so. At first he pushed for a reprieve, but when he heard right from her lips that the chemistry had been flawed from the beginning for her he became extremely sullen. He also wanted a passionate marriage in which he could be adored. He ultimately saw that it probably wouldnít be Susan who could provide that for him.

They say that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, evidently it also takes a village to authorize a separation. When family and friends heard the news Eric and Susan were bombarded with all sorts of pressure and judgment. Although they has not asked for any feedback they suddenly were swamped with books, tapes, articles, CDís and therapistís business cards. The community voice was loud and unwavering in their message that the separation was an unacceptable failure that would not be tolerated.
Eric and Susan noticed that each well meaning amateur marriage counselor seemed to have their own agendas motivating their outreaches. Family members loved both members of the marriage and they could not imagine life without both of them fully in the family. Religious people were motivated by their need for everyone to embrace and experience the way that they did. They seemed to feel a strong calling and even responsibility to turn the marital tide by themselves. Obviously their kids of 13 and 10 just didnít want their world to change so drastically and sadly.

Ultimately Eric and Susan felt the safest talking about their issues with their most accepting and truly loving friends Ė the ones whose only agenda was hearing and empathizing with their friendsí pain. The move went smoothly. Ericís new apartment is both comfortable and convenient. The change has fit both Susan and Eric. They were ready to explore life without being under the same roof. They arenít ready to pull the plug on their marriage yet and who knows, it still might be saved. It just feels right to them to back up as far as their current relationship required them to in order to be congruent with their feelings. Everybody else will need some time to wrap their heads around the change. Eric and Susan patiently and kindly spent time with all of their family and friends basically to help them process their own losses. Happily ever afters arenít always the way that we hope for them to be.

If you have an Eric and Susan in your life let me encourage you to give them some space early in the separation and then offer all the empathy, acceptance, listening and affirmation that you can supply. You actually might do more good for their marriage that very respectful manner anyway - just a thought.

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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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