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How to Break a Marital Impasse






Many couples, at some point in their relationship, will reach a marital impasse. In an impasse, individuals feel trapped, depressed by the thought of continuing in the relationship, but unwilling to consider divorce. Lee Raffel, a marriage counselor, coach, and mediator for 33 years, told divorcePartner.com about her experience with couples in this situation. Ms. Raffel has found many couples at such an impasse benefit from a controlled separation; as she says, "the structure of controlled separation is the missing link between marriage and divorce." These are her recommendations for taking time apart, evaluating the relationship, and breaking the impasse.

  • Think Before You Leap. Often the stress of a marital impasse can cause fights that lead to an unplanned trial separation. Instead of waiting for a conflict as a call to action, ask yourself, "Do I love him/her?" If you answer yes, or even I think so, consider marital counseling and a controlled separation, where an unbiased expert can facilitate communication and a structured separation.

  • Keep your expectations realistic. If you and your partner do enter counseling or undertake a controlled separation, do not expect miracles overnight. Years of problems will not go away immediately, but the situation can improve if both partners are willing to make an effort and use a controlled separation and/or counseling to decide what course of action is best for the relationship.

  • Be positive, affirmative, and optimistic. A positive attitude allows the couple to work together to resolve their tensions, even as they live apart. If both partners are affirmative and optimistic about the separation process, they will be able to either return to a healthier and happier relationship or divorce on good terms. An optimistic attitude goes a long way to breaking the marital impasse.

  • Wait actively. Impatience is one of the biggest challenges in a separation. Instead of passively waiting for resolution, focus on self-improvement: go to the gym, become more active in your community or faith, or take up a new hobby. Reconnecting to yourself is one of the quickest ways to reconnect to your relationship.


Resolving the tensions and conflict underlying a marital impasse is a daunting task, but in a structured controlled separation, it is possible to break the impasse and move on to a better future. For more information on controlled separation, read Lee Raffel's book Should I Stay or Go?: How Controlled Separation (CS) Can Save Your Marriage.


* NOTICE: * Any advice provided here represent the opionions and research of the writer and are for informational purposes only. For guidance relating to your specific needs, contact a professional.
About the Expert:

Lee Raffel is founder and clinical director of Awareness Counseling Services, Inc. She has counseled couples for more than 25 years using the CS method.

Lee Raffel, M.S.W.'s recommendation for Divorce Partner visitors:
Should I Stay Or Go?: How Controlled Separation (CS) Can Save Your Marriage  Lee Raffel, M.S.W. 

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