Is It A Good Idea To Separate After An Affair? Here’s Some Pros And Cons

By: Katie Lersch:  I often hear from wives who aren’t sure which path to take after learning of their husband’s affair.  Many experience very conflicting desires.  On one hand, they want to save their marriage, but they also want to make their husband experience full remorse and responsibility for his actions.  In other words, they don’t want for things to be completely easy for him after this sort of betrayal.  Many want him to appreciate just what he had with them and with the marriage before he nearly threw away.

I heard from a wife who said: “my husband had an affair last month.  Apparently, it wasn’t a long term affair and he swears it wasn’t that meaningful to him and that he wants to stay married to me.  But I am so very wounded by this.  I want him to be filled with remorse and I want him to be scared of losing me.  And I’m not seeing either one of these right now.  My mother suggested that I insist that we separate.  She said this would make him see what he lost and make him wonder if he’s going to be able to maintain the marriage since I will be the one making the choices.  Is this advised? Is it a good idea to separate after the affair?  I will try to answer these questions, as well as offer some pros and cons, in the following article.

Some Pros To Separating After An Affair:  Many of the assumptions that the wife was making about a separation were true.  Sometimes, separating from a husband who has cheated can scare him enough to motivate him to change.  It sometimes also makes him value his wife and his marriage more because he gets a taste of what it might be like to lose both.  Also, men who have been scared by a separation are often more willing to go to counseling or at least to communicate openly and honestly with you because it’s clear that this is going to be  a requirement for your allowing the separation to end.   So there are some pros here.  But there are also some cons, which I’ll discuss now.

Some Cons To Separating After An Affair: One of the biggest negatives that I see in this situation is that the wife will wonder if the husband is continuing to cheat or will “move on” during the separation.  Trust is one of the biggest obstacles to saving your marriage after infidelity.  And a separation can make this even more difficult than it already is.  The wife is often left worrying what the husband is doing or thinking because he’s not in her line of sight like he would be if he were still living at home.

Also, some wives worry that pursuing a separation is almost condoning the husband living his own life, beginning to move on, or to become tempted to see others.  When you are already filled with doubt about your husband’s commitment to you, all of these issues can weigh heavily on your shoulders.

Alternatives To A Separation:   Most wives are excited about some of the pros that I have mentioned but are extremely scared of the cons.  To that end, there are some alternatives that you can explore which might give you a nice compromise without some of the fear, insecurity, and uncertainty that comes with a separation.  An alternative is to set very firm boundaries while you are still living together.  You might tell your husband that since you are unsure about your future, your relationship might change somewhat while you are healing. You might still urge him to attend counseling or some form of self help as a condition of saving your marriage.  In short, you still don’t make things completely easy for him.  He certainly doesn’t get off completely free and this certainly doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have to take responsibility for his actions, but you are still living together so that you can keep an eye on him.

Remaining in close living quarters allows you to gauge how you are both feeling and acting when you are together and it is also easier to pinpoint the issues that keep cropping up that will need your attention.   In short, I believe that, when done correctly, setting boundaries at home can help to bring you close again while a separation, when done incorrectly can bring you further apart in more ways than one, by intensifying the lack of trust and the fears that likely already exists.  So to answer the question posed, I think that in some circumstances, there are some advantages to separating after an affair, but in my opinion, the negatives outweigh the advantages and often, you can obtain the benefits and advantages without needing to do something as drastic as separating, particularly if you want to save your marriage.

My husband and I had a few nights apart after his affair, but I opted not to pursue a formal separation.  I knew myself well enough to know that wondering about his behaviors, thoughts and feelings while he wasn’t living with me was going to cause a lot of additional turmoil.  I also think that continuing to live together helped our recovery process.  If it helps you can read that very personal story on my blog at

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