I sometimes hear from folks who are starting to feel very discouraged because their separation has gone on for so long or things have been so volatile that it is starting to feel as if there is no hope. Sometimes, people recount situations where they feel disrespected and mistreated by their spouse.  Or, they indicate that the separation is starting to weigh heavily on him.

I might hear from someone who says: "when my husband left me, I admit that I didn't help myself very much. I cried and begged. I became overly emotional. And I believe that I sort of pushed my husband away with my desperate behavior. He eventually started up a relationship with someone else. Some of his friends told me that he actually started seeing this woman before our separation, but he denied it. I refused to accept this and made a fool of myself. Things got so bad that my husband and I were fighting every day and I just got tired of it so I stopped calling. Weeks went by and I really thought that this was the end of my marriage. But then my husband called me and said that he was wrong and that we should try again. I was thrilled. At first, things were wonderful. It felt like our marriage was better than ever. But after about four months, things deteriorated and we started to fight again. He stormed out again. And now he is seeing someone else. Of course, I'm trying to maintain contact with him, but part of me feels like I am being silly and that this is a roller coaster ride that I just need to let go. How do you know when it's time to just give up?"

This Is A Decision That You Have To Make For Yourself With Your Own Instincts: I have to tell you that I asked myself this question many times during my own separation. And I wish I had an answer for you. But honestly, this isn't something that I can decide for you. This is an important decision that you have to make for yourself.

I can tell you my opinion, but quite frankly, if you don't agree with me, then I encourage you to listen to your own instincts. Only you know your own situation, feelings, and wishes.

That said, my inclination has always been to suggest that you back away if this process has become unhealthy for you. I've had people email me and tell me that their spouse is cruelly critical of them, says or does things meant to hurt them, or disrespects them in a number of ways. I understand that emotions are high and that sometimes people say things that they really don't mean in the heat of the moment. But I am talking about repetitive behavior here. I suspect that you would know in your heart if you are at this level. There is a difference between being sad about the state of your marriage and feeling sad about the way that you have been repeatedly treated when you see no end in sight.

By no means would I ever tell anyone to give up on their marriage. This isn't my place. But I would suggest that if your spouse is doing something that is in direct contrast to what you know is your own well being, that you step away from the situation and reevaluate.  I'm not saying to step away forever.  I'm just saying that maybe it would be beneficial to step away for a bit and reevaluate.

Evaluating If You Are Dealing With Impatience Or An Unhealthy Scenario: In my own situation, I was being hurt daily by my own impatience. It hurt me that we weren't together. But our inability to work through our problems was not because either one of us was disrespecting the other. And that's why I didn't give up (although I did take a bit of a break.) I knew that my husband was a good man. I knew that I was a better person for having been with him. I knew that being married to him elevated me most of the time. You have to determine if this is true in your own situation.

No marriage is perfect. Things go wrong. Misunderstandings make people do or say things they don't mean. Separations are rarely fun or without pain. But there is a difference between couples who need a break and who still approach each other with respect and couples who continuously set out to hurt one another and tear one another down.

When You Can Use A Pause To Your Advantage: Sometimes couples get in a very destructive cycle where they were hurting each other and then reconciling so that they maintain a sense of control. If you find yourself in this place, I would gently suggest either making a decision to stop the cycle or to step back. I would never encourage you to stay in something where you're being hurt or your spirit is being diminished.

I can't make the call when or if you should give up. If I had listened to people who told me to give up, I wouldn't be married today.  But my pain was due to things not going my way and not due to my husband being cruel or disrespectful.  My rule of thumb has been that if it was a previously healthy relationship that you still feel invested in, then all is fair game, as long as you're not being injured by the process.

But it's important to know when you are holding onto something that can potentially be healthy once again or something that has become unhealthy and can't be changed. I can't make that call for anyone, though. This is something that you have to be honest with yourself about or get input from someone who knows you well and loves you unconditionally. Or, if that is not possible, I'd highly recommend a neutral, professional third party such as a therapist.

When I took a break from my husband, I wasn't sure how long the break was going to be.  But my mental health deteriorated when things went very wrong. So I chose to just live my life and see what happened.  But, in the back of my head, I knew that there might be a chance for us one day.  It wasn't giving up.  It was turning my attention to myself.  And it was the right call at the time.  If it helps, you can read the whole story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com

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