When you’re separated from your spouse, you may think it’s the beginning of the end for your marriage. But despite the pain you feel, there’s hope. You and your estranged spouse stand at a crossroads between divorce and reconciliation – and God wants to lead you down the road to healing.

Here’s how you can find hope when you’re separated:

Decide to work on your marriage. Although you may be so discouraged that you don’t feel like working to improve your marriage anymore, don’t give up. Remember the dreams you had on your wedding day, the vows you made, and the values in which you believe. Know that trying to reconcile is definitely worthwhile, no matter what has happened. Trust that God has many blessings in store for both you and your spouse in the future if you’re willing to work on your marriage. Ask God to give you the courage to choose to do so, and the strength you’ll need along the way.

Analyze what went wrong. If you are the one who left, try to identify your reasons for leaving and list them on paper. If you are the one who was left behind, try to identify the reasons your spouse left, and list them. Then, no matter which position you’re in, consider which of the listed reasons could be corrected if you or your spouse chose to do so.

Be positive. Honestly acknowledge your negative feelings, but don’t let them control you. Instead, ask God to help you consistently choose to embrace positive attitudes and actions. Realize that your spouse won’t want to return if you make your time together depressing. Try to see the good in yourself, your spouse, and the world around you, and focus on that much more than on what’s bad.

Refuse to have an affair. Don’t begin a romantic relationship with anyone else while you’re still separated from your spouse. Remember that your goal is reconciliation, and dating another person places you on the road toward divorce. Spend your time and energy working on your relationship with your spouse rather than someone else. If you’ve already begun an affair, break it off immediately, realizing that doing so is best not only for you, but also for the person with whom you’ve been having an affair. Understand that divorce doesn’t lead to happiness; your greatest chance for real and lasting happiness lies in doing what’s right rather than following your changing emotions.

Understand how you’ve contributed to your marriage’s failure. Realize that failed marriages are the result of the sins and weaknesses of both partners. Even if you’re not the one who left, know that you surely made some mistakes from which you can learn. Even if your spouse is having an affair, understand that an outside person didn’t cause your marital struggles. Rather, your marriage eroded to the point that it became vulnerable to an affair. Don’t play the blame game; realize you can’t control other people, but you can choose to make changes to how you live yourself. Think and pray about how your attitudes and actions contributed to your marriage’s failure, so you’ll know what issues to focus on as you work to reconcile.

Move slowly to complete legal separation papers. Avoid the time and expense of drawing up legal papers if you can. Remember that your goal is reconciliation rather than divorce.

Treat your estranged spouse with dignity and respect. Understand that fighting with your spouse, insulting him or her, or trying to get revenge will only place you on the road to divorce rather than reconciliation. Remember that God created both you and your spouse in His image, and that He loves you both deeply. Ask God to help you treat your spouse with true respect as you deal with challenges together.