The In House Separation: Tips On Making It Work When You’re Separated But Still Living Together

I sometimes hear from wives whose husband is pushing for a marital separation. Because today’s economy is a tough one, I’m hearing a lot about “in house” separations. What this means is that no one moves out of the house. The couple typically agrees to try a trial separation in which one of them moves out of the master bedroom. They give one another the space to live separately. But no one is having to pay additional rent until they figure things out. Some wives see this as preferable to the husband actually moving out and some get pretty panicked at this scenario.

I recently heard from a wife who said “our marriage has been on the rocks for the past eight months. My husband is very direct in telling me that our marriage isn’t making him happy. I’m not all that happy either, but we have two kids to think about, so separating or divorcing is just not a viable option for me. However, my husband is caught up in wanting his space. So he came home and told me that he had read about an ‘in house separation.’ What this means is that he would move into our basement while I keep the master bedroom. We would both let each other be and he would have that the space that he thinks he can’t live without. He has warned me that he doesn’t want me questioning him or making demands of him. I suppose this is preferable to him filing for divorce. And it’s clear that neither of us can really afford to pay for someone else to have an apartment or another house. I guess what I am wondering is should I agree to this in house separation? Do these ever work to save marriages or do they just delay the inevitable which is a “real” or legal separation, or worse, a divorce?” I have a definite opinion on in house separations, which I will share with you below.

When Done Correctly, I Think An In House Separation Is Preferable To A “Real” Separation, Especially If You Might Want To Save Your Marriage: I actually sometimes encourage wives who want to save their marriages to suggest an in house separation. I know that there can be a lot of anxiety and awkwardness about the boundaries of the separation when you are living under the same roof. But frankly I find this so much preferable to trying to figure out a way to get a husband who has already packed up his things and left the house to change his mind and come back that same house.

Please believe me when I say that it is often easier to reform the marriage that you still hold under one roof than to save the one that is now living somewhere else. Will you have hard work to do during the in house separation? Absolutely. Will things be awkward and weird? Most probably. But is this easier than trying to lure your husband back to the house? Most of the time, there is not even a question about this.

If you have the choice between an in house separation or allowing your spouse to “try” moving out, I almost always encourage you to keep your spouse in the same home as you. It will make your saving your marriage easier, though none of this is easy. Many people worry about the circumstances. They will tell me that since it’s only finances keeping their husband under the same roof, that they really consider this to be a “real” separation. You can call it what you want, but there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of the circumstances that just might work out in your favor. With that said, in order to give your in house separation the best chance of being successful, it’s important to set boundaries and to set things up correctly, which I will discuss now.

Making The In House Separation Work Well Enough To Save Your Marriage: I want for you to be very clear about what your husband wants right now. Most husbands will tell you that they want space. This is their way of asking you for uninterrupted time alone to clear their head and determine what they really want. I know that sounds easier than it actually is in real life. But please understand that if your husband doesn’t perceive that he is getting that time, he may eventually think he needs to divorce you or distance himself from you more in order to get it.

Often, your best bet is to respect the boundaries. Give him that time alone. You know where he is more of the time anyway. I know that it’s very tempting to want to know what he is thinking and feeling all of the time, but sometimes a little time apart and mystery can be a good thing for your marriage. I often tell wives that you need to give your husband the time to miss you. As best as you can, give him that space but make sure that when he does see and interact with you, that you make the encounter as positive and as easy as you can possibly make it. You don’t want for this process to be difficult. In fact, you want for it to go so well that he eventually doesn’t need the space anymore and he wants to move back into the master bedroom.

Don’t Think You Need To Solve Every Problem That You Have During The Separation: Many wives feel a sense of panic when they are in this situation. So they will try to figure out what needs to happen in order to get their husband invested in the marriage again. As a result, they will figure that they need to solve all of their problems before they can ask him to end the separation. Although I understand this, I know from unfortunate experience that it isn’t the best call. Doing this will often make things more awkward between you so that your husband will want to avoid you. The goal is to make things better and easier between you, not more awkward and forced. I suggest working on reconnecting before you even venture into the territory of your problems. Couples often can’t really successfully solve their problems until they are both committed and connected once again.