There is no such thing as anyone enjoying or being happy going through the process of separation because even for the party not at fault that person is still grieving the loss of that relationship. Moreover, the separation process is definitely not an easy one, especially for the children, and, more so, if it is not an amicable one.
The worst and most difficult part is perhaps when one party is adamantly seeking separation and the other party is not.
What are the best interests of the family and of the children? Should this couple give their marriage another go?
Or has the marriage been so irretrievably broken down that nothing can save it?
It is obvious that a united couple is better than a separated one for the good and benefit of the children.
But, nonetheless, there are instances where, for the good of the family and the children, the parents need to separate, such as when one of the parents is abusive, whether verbally, physically, emotionally or even financially. However, what if there is none of that and one of the parties simply wants to end the marriage because s/he has found a new and perhaps a more “compatible” partner?
To save a marriage, the marriage has, first of all, to be worth saving.
For example, in the case of infidelity, is the faithful spouse willing to forgive and forget his/her spouse’s sporadic infidelities and to take him/her back?
And is the unfaithful spouse ready to change the way of life and start respecting his/her marital vows again?
If one is going to harbour grudges or one is going to keep a partner on the side, then that marriage is doomed because more pain and heartache will keep mounting on the family and the children.
The phrase, “it takes two to tango” and other similar phrases mean one thing: that marriage is not one-sided. However, unfortunately, one cannot force the other spouse not to separate. Marriage is not something static. It is not a commercial contract entered into and that’s it. It is something living and needs to be cultivated by both parties. Marriage is more like a seed in a flower bed with the spouses being the sun and the rain. If the sun stops shining and there’s only rain, the seed will not grow into a flower and bloom and, vice versa, if there’s just sun with no rain, there will be no flower.
If one of the spouses decides for his/her own good or bad reasons to stop working at the marriage, that marriage cannot survive with just one spouse trying to keep it alive irrespective of how hard s/he is working.
However, if the marriage is worth saving, then one should do one’s utmost to reconcile the parties and encourage them to go to family therapy, marriage counselling etc.
But the cardinal rule is that this cannot be wanted by just one of the spouses; there must be the willingness of both spouses.
Having said that, if reconciliation is wanted by only one spouse, should one try to persuade the other spouse to try to reconcile?
The answer is certainly yes but, ultimately, the decision has to be taken by that unwilling spouse only and no one can impose the decision to remain in the marriage, because who will ultimately benefit from this kind reconciliation? Is it the family? The spouse who wanted the reconciliation? The children?
If reconciliation was imposed or done half-heartedly then, sooner or later, the unwilling spouse will file for separation once again. Why?
Because the decision to reconcile was not taken by her/him but was influenced by external factors: emotions, relatives, friends and so on.
If there is to be reconciliation, a lot of thought and effort must be put into it. One must make sure the decision one is going to take is the one that really and truly one wants and not something that is externally imposed.
Separation does not mean the end of the marriage. Marriage still subsists. It is only spousal cohabitation that ceases to exist. Therefore, during mediation/amicable separation, proceedings and even after separation is pronounced, the spouses can at any time go back and live together again and, from that very moment, separation ceases to exist.
Marriage is composed of two spouses, therefore both of them must be willing to cultivate that marriage and make it work. If the will of one of the parties is lacking, then, unfortunately, that marriage cannot work.
Dr Mangion is a lawyer and a published author with a special interest in family and child law.