For How Long Should A Separation Last After An Affair? What’s A Structured Separation?

By: Katie Lersch: It’s normal to worry about what tomorrow is going to bring after your spouse had an affair.  You usually aren’t sure if you want to stay in the marriage.  And you also aren’t sure what your spouse really wants or if what is claiming now is all posturing.  Sometimes, the faithful spouse is so angry at the cheating spouse, that she will kick him out of the house, beginning a separation that no one saw coming.  But, when she calms down and starts to evaluate what she has done, she then wonders for how long she should force him to stay away.

She might explain: “when I kicked my husband out of the house, I honestly wasn’t thinking.  All I knew is that the sight of him made me so angry.  I also knew that we were fighting every single day.  Being together all of the time just seemed to magnify our problems.  The act of being together was enough to make us fight. So I asked him to stay with friends.  And he didn’t argue with this or ask me to stay.  Very slowly, we have started to talk again but we can’t even broach the topic of our marriage because this is going to certainly lead to an argument.  Last night, he asked me for how long I was going to keep him away.  I honestly don’t know.  I hadn’t considered this and I don’t know what is best.  For how long are you supposed to remain separated after an affair?”

Honestly, there are no real rules about this and I’m certainly not a therapist.  But it is often thought to be best if you wait until it’s obvious that you can be alone together for extended periods of time without it being painful for both of you.  It’s also optimal if you have at least worked through your problems enough so that the conflict isn’t the central theme of your time together.

A Structured Separation Might Help You To Define A Possible Time Frame: Many therapists today help couples dealing with infidelity to work out a structured separation.  What this means is that the couple agrees to a counseling schedule or a schedule where they will get together to talk over their issues.  They also agree to a schedule where they will talk or see one another to just focus on being together in a low stress way.  During these get togethers, you aren’t supposed to argue or try to hash out the affair.  You’re just supposed to try to have fun or at least a pleasurable time.  It’s often agreed upon that you’ll agree on a time frame to reevaluate your living arrangements as things get better.  You may decide that you’ll talk about this on weekly or monthly increments and decide what to do moving forward.

Many couples will tell you that they just knew when it was time to end the separation.  It was obvious that they wanted to be together again, had made real progress, and felt happier when they are together than apart.  And I believe that this is key because I think that if you move forward before one or both of you want that, then there’s a risk of the process going badly.  When this happens, you start to doubt if you should still be together at all.  It’s better to move at a slow pace and want more than to rush and doubt that you did the right thing.

I know that you might have been hoping that I would have told you a specific time frame. But it honestly does vary by couple.  It depends on how both people feel and the progress that has been made.

Not all couples separate, but even those that don’t tend have a period of time where although they are living together, they are giving one another space since being together just leads to arguments and misunderstandings.  Some people pass this phase relatively quickly and others take longer.  The period of time that you need is not indicative of how your marriage will fare.  Couples who rush this don’t love each other any more than couples who take their time and ensure that true healing has taken place. There’s really no need to rush the process, but it’s important to communicate and to regroup during it.  Otherwise, there’s a tendency to be suspicious of what your spouse is doing while they are away from you.

My husband and I didn’t officially separate, but he did spent time away from the home when things got heated between us.  And this did help some.  There was also a definite time period where we were giving space followed by an obvious time period where we were invested again. You can read more on my blog at

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