It was one of those terribly sad phone calls that I receive far too frequently at The Marriage Recovery Center, the woman crying and distraught.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“My husband has left me,” she said. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Tell me what has happened,” I said.

Jeri proceeded to explain that she and her husband of seven years had been having problems for some time and he had left. However, he hadn’t recently left—it had been several months ago. In the meantime, they had talked several times but he was not interested in reconciling. Jeri wanted to know if there was anything she could do to win her husband back.

“Actually, there are many things you can do to try to save your marriage,” I said. “There are many things you must not do as well,” I said, and agreed to send her some information I’ve written about previously on the subject. For now I wanted to share about the Therapeutic Healing Session that many have found so helpful in these situations.

A person leaves a marriage for definable reasons. While it may seem “out of the blue,” this is rarely the case. Additionally, they leave because they are usually trying to get away from pain. They may be running to something, but more often than not they are running away from something.

“We need to determine what he is running away from, address those issues and then invite him back to discuss those issues. Before we can invite him back,” I said, “we need to ensure that you have taken care of any issues you have brought into the marriage.”

“There are a lot of those,” she said sadly.

“That’s okay,” I said. “You probably have time even though things may look bleak now.”

I spent the next week walking Jeri through the process of taking a Fearless Relationship Inventory, where she works on what she has been like to live with—the good, the bad and the ugly. I also explained to her the specific invitation we would be offering her husband—the Therapeutic Healing Session. 

“What is a Therapeutic Healing Session?” Jeri asked.

“It is an opportunity to talk to your mate about what went wrong in the relationship, free from any judgments or criticisms, and talking about them in a healthy way, moderated by a marriage specialist.”

“He will just get mad,” she said.

“Maybe so,” I added. “We will invite him to share his complaints, mindful that every complaint is an opportunity for change. We want to hear his complaints, the reasons he left, and let him know you are ready to listen and understand. This can be a very healing process, and you will have a chance to really hear him and respond effectively.”

“What if he doesn’t really want to talk to me?” she shared.

“We will invite him into a healing process, with no expectation for any outcome. We will make it clear that this is a time simply for healing, no matter what he decides. It’s a win-win for everybody. You learn more where he hurts, you listen to him and respond effectively. I’ll be there to assist in the healing process. That leaves the opportunity for possibly getting back together.”

Jeri was quiet on the phone. I allowed her to digest what I had said. I reminded her of a Scripture that would be very therapeutic in interacting with him: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Here are some more specific instructions on the topic of therapeutic healing during a separation:

First, there are often layers of problems leading to a separation. Very few leave a marriage because of a single problem. A separation occurs after a lengthy process of problems unresolved. It is critical that you step back and recognize this being a ‘wake up call.’

Second, take time to manage your emotions while you consider those problems. Solomon says, “When times are good, be happy; when times are bad, consider” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Take time to calm your emotions, reflect and fully understand the problems that led to the separation.  

Third, take a Fearless Relationship History. Sit back and take an inventory. What have you been like to live with? Avoid the temptation to focus on him, but rather focus on your part in the problems. Make a list. What have you done to help and to harm the relationship? What does he need most from you now?

Fourth, get involved with good, in-depth counseling. You need to find someone who will help orchestrate this process. This person needs to be incredibly skilled in marriage counseling as well as helping you understand and effectively deal with your issues. They need to help you understand what may be your issues and the impact they have had on him and the marriage.

Finally, invite him into a Therapeutic Healing Session. This may be done by you or by the marriage counselor, with the clear instruction that this is not to put pressure on him to come back home. Rather, it is a time for healing, regardless of any longer term decisions. In this Therapeutic Healing Session, issues are addressed and healing occurs. We simply want to provide a healing forum, suspending judgments and making relationship decisions later.

Many marriages can be saved even after a separation. We are here to help. Please go to our website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and discover more information about this as well as the free downloadable eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, including other free videos and articles. Please send responses to me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

Publication date: February 10, 2014