Separation, Sabbatical or Stay the Course

PictureRev. Larraine Forrester is co-founder of A Relationship Ministry (ARM).   Along with her husband Rev. Larraine has for over 12 years counseled couples either helping the engaged to establish a strong foundation for their union or the married to enhance their relationships. Rev. Larraine also works as a Wife Coach and shares wisdom gained during the past 28 plus years of marriage and Seminary.  You can learn more about the Forrester’s by visiting:



When communication turns to conflict, love turns to loathing, respect turns to resentment.

Marriage can be one of the most fulfilling relationships a person can have in life.   In a marriage a couple has opportunity to increase their own value by sharing with, caring for, giving and receiving true love.

However, as with all aspects of life, marriage has ups and downs.  Those who remain married for any amount of time can attest to the fact that marriage can be challenging.  When a couple decides to become one, the process is similar to merging two households.  Some things can stay but some things will have to be thrown out.  Couples will find that even when they have discussed and planned, there will still be many matters, scenarios or possibilities that weren’t considered. People change or perhaps they realize their visions of marriage are drastically different.  Inevitably communication turns to conflict, love turns to loathing, respect turns to resentment and on and on.

When a couple reaches a point where they seem to disagree in too many areas and are not willing to compromise it’s necessary to make some changes.  The question often becomes “Is divorce the answer?”   The “D” word is mentioned quite a bit in marriages as each individual contemplates whether they would be better off single than to remain in a marriage that isn’t fulfilling, but instead failing.

Before one makes the decision to divorce and disregard the commitments made to one another, couples often consider either Separation, Sabbatical.

Separation is usually done with little to no rules with the exception that the couple will change their living arrangements usually one moving out of the home.  The idea is that “time heals all wounds”.   Some separated couples choose to continue living together but in separate bedrooms with no real communication or togetherness.  During a period of separation one or both may decide to see other people.  Unfortunately many separations result in further distance between the two.

A Marriage Sabbatical can be successful as couples determine all the rules before separating.  Each person’s goal is to re-unite in the near future. Before taking a Marriage Sabbatical, Cheryl Jarvis, author of The Marriage Sabbatical, encourages preparation which includes the consideration of:

1. The Wait – Be sure not to leave suddenly.  “Slow change can be the best kind of change.”

2. The Logistics – Consider and plan how the household will be maintained and sustained.  Consider childcare, errands, routine house maintenance, financial obligations etc.

3.  Load Lessening – Try to lighten the load for your spouse: make list, leave detailed written instructions, important contact information etc.

4.  Goal Setting – Determine what you two want to accomplish during the Sabbatical…. Self-help concerns, learning to communicate effectively and taking time to determine one’s own desires.

5. Leave Taking – Try to make leave a smooth process.  Be sure to talk to children and others who will be affected that this is a temporary arrangement.  Try to make the leaving process as smooth as possible.

During a Sabbatical it’s very important that the couple communicates often and that each are accessible.

The third option for couples in crisis is to Stay The Course.  With this option the couple decides to stay together and actively work on themselves and their marriage.  When a couple decides to Stay The Course they both commit to doing the work necessary to make personal changes and changes in the marriage.  In this option the couple benefits from the help of a third party who is experienced and trained in marriage counseling, this person could be a Licensed Psychologist and/or a Spiritual Advisor.   This person should not be a friend nor family member of either.

To Stay The Course requires accountability and that positive progress can be noted.  Each day the couple will make it their goal to implement habits and routines that will foster a true friendship and a sincere love for one another.  As long as there is positive progress and commitment by both the husband and wife, the couple can expect a fulfilling marriage.