Can a Marriage Be Saved by Moving Out? My Opinion Based on Experience

I recently received a question from a wife who wanted to know whether she or her husband should move out in a last ditch effort to save the marriage.  They had apparently reached the point where the relationship was only going backward rather than forward and things between them were rapidly getting worse.  The wife wondered if perhaps some time apart would be beneficial.  Perhaps this would give them both the time to calm down and to see things more objectively. 

The danger with one of them moving out, of course, was that the person who left would never come back and that the moving out would only be the first step towards a divorce.  This was something that needed to be fully considered and weighed with the fact that, as it stood now, nothing was really changing or getting better.  In the following article, I’ll discuss ways to strike a balance between taking a calming break and allowing moving up to be the first step toward breaking up the marriage. I’ll also share my experience and opinion on the subject.

Why Moving Out Can Work To Save Your Marriage, But Often Doesn’t:  My husband actually moved out for a time.  But, soon thereafter, as it became obvious that nothing was changing or getting better, he filed for divorce.  So, we were off to a really bad start and we fell right into the trap that many couples who try the move out strategy fall into.

The most important thing to accomplish in one of you moving out is to allow the pause to make the situation a bit more clear.  The hope is that the break in fighting, disagreeing, or going round and round in circles is broken so that you aren’t repeating the same negative cycles and never making any real or positive change.   The hope is that, since you aren’t putting all of your focus on just engaging, you are able to be more objective and proactive so that you can work on the issues rather than working on butting heads with one another.

This is the idea anyway, but many couples never even get close to this.  Why? Because they don’t clearly define their goals and desires before one of them actually move out.  Maybe the leaving was done in anger or haste and there was really no time to do this.  Maybe no one really wanted to have this awkward conversation.  However, if you don’t at least try to set clear objectives, then you run the risk of just sort of wandering along and leaving each other to your own devices.

And, often what happens here is that you’ll sort of wander along aimlessly just waiting to see what happens. Then, when nothing really does one or both of the spouses will assume that this is “just not working” and one of them will pull the trigger on formalizing the separation or filing for divorce.  This is so typical but so avoidable.

Walking The Line Between Making Progress And Trying Too Hard: As if I haven’t already given you a lot to think about, here’s something else.  One of your objectives should be to create an environment in which your spouse will begin to perceive that you are desirable and worth fighting for or coming back to.  Many people know this deep down, but they will go about accomplishing this in the wrong way.  They will “check in” or cling too much.  Their actions will make it very clear that their main focus right now is to just get their spouse back home as soon as possible rather than putting in the effort to really change anything or to bring about any improvements.  Most spouses will see right through this and will then resist even more. This is exactly what happened to me.  My clinging and following only made me seem more unstable and therefore unattractive.

The better tactic to take is to really and truly try to improve both the marriage and YOURSELF during this break.  Don’t just tell them that you are out and handling things actually do it. I know it can be very difficult and I know that most days, you just will not feel like this.  But, you want for your spouse to see that you are capable, you are strong, and that you think enough of yourself to place yourself as a priority.  And, this will often show your spouse little images of you as they used to know you – active, engaged, and exciting. I lucked into this method and I truly needed an instruction manual to remind me to stay on track.  But, once I got the hang of this, it worked beautifully.

Accomplishing The Same Thing As Moving Out Without Any One Needing To Leave:  I will admit that sometimes it does reach the point where one of you moving out is the only reasonable alternative. But, other times, you can take a crack at one of you going away for a few days, or visiting family or friends.  Or, you can both vow to put all of the conflict on hold and just focus on yourselves for a while.  It really is advisable to take a break to place calm in this situation.  And, it can also help to allow them to have the time and the distance to miss you. 

But, I always advise you to try the alternatives first – giving space while no one leaves – before one person actually leaves the home.  There is certainly risk involved with this.  But, sometimes it is worth that risk when it’s done correctly and actually saves the marriage rather than ends it.