Consider this nugget from 1703’s Athenian Mercury, a British periodical:
“If I am thinking of committing any great and enormous crime and sin (as adultery), but do not personally and actually commit it, am I guilty of the crime and sin?”
You will have to wait until the end of our little say to hear the sage advice from 314 years ago. Many Virginians today are shouldering emotional burdens brought on by separation from a spouse.
The Big One
A marital separation is The Big One; it has a dreadful sense of permanency to it, since it leads to two possible outcomes:
- Rekindling a marriage
- Getting a divorce
You can take a little comfort during a separation by knowing Virginia has the nation’s ninth lowest divorce rate, according to Statistic Brain, at 9.6 percent (the lowest, North Dakota, is 8.1 percent; the highest, Nevada, is 14.2 percent).
Your separation may actually cause a reconciliation.
Coming in at Number Six: Be Hopeful.
Day By Day
Consciously practice self-care, say the experts at Paired Life. Think about yourself, choosing deliberately to bathe, eat, drink water, and breathe evenly and calmly.
If you can afford to, take a day off from work. Sleep may be disrupted, but try to get a cumulative eight hours’ over a full day and night, even if it means an afternoon siesta. Avoid junk food binges, beer guzzling, and self-pitying plates of nachos.
Coming in at Number Five: Return to Basics.
Remember the Children
Take care of yourself first before trying to deal with your children. When you are ready, say the thoughtful advisors at Mental Health America, talk to your kids in general terms:
- Reassure them — Your separation and possible divorce is not the children’s fault
- Listen to them — Use active listening to hear them, not prepare your response
- Keep routines going — Milk and cookies at bedtime? Do not skip a night
- Be consistent in your discipline — If 16-year-old Beatrice ignores your 10:00 p.m. curfew and you do nothing, eventually Beatrice will be coming home past 2 a.m.
- Be reliable — Avoid promises you cannot keep
- Avoid putting them in the middle between your wife (their mother) and you — Your children are not spies or psychologists
Coming in at Number Four: Let Kids be Kids.
Too many proud Virginia men think stoicism is somehow manly (and far too many also do not know what stoicism means). Going it alone, brave pioneer stock, stiff upper lip, holding it all in, being stoic, resigning yourself — those attitudes are all paths to a heart attack.
We are not medical professionals, but we know some, and the medical professionals at Share Care advise that you can permanently damage yourself by keeping stress and anger in. Express your feelings to a neutral party, like a psychologist, therapist, or life coach.
What, you say, about my local bartender, social club, or hunting buddies? They are not substitutes for trained, dispassionate, expert guidance.
Number Three: Get Help.
Psychology Today reminds Virginia men that a separation is a death, of sorts: the death of future possibilities, of a relationship, of a commitment. While hope for a better future is always present (see Tip #6), give in to grief, even if you instigated the separation. The fluid, continuous steps are:
- Shock and denial
- Great emotion
- Acceptance, reorganization and integration
You will not emerge reorganized and reintegrated if you do not go through the first two phases. The second phase, which slips unannounced from the first, is key to good health. You may relive vivid moments that make you angry, happy and tearful all at once. You may churn over decisions and conversations and project all sorts of “what ifs” that lead nowhere. But you must do it, and before you realize it, you will slide into the third and final phase.
Number Two: Grieve with Intention.
The Harder You Hold
Perhaps the most sage advice separation and divorce attorneys can give our clients is to learn to let go. We, and experts at the Good Men Project, do not say this flippantly. We know your separation is painful, but for your own good, you have to let go, because “One of the greatest sources of hurt is holding on to things that are trying to let go of us.”
The marital separation is a signal that one part of your life is simply gone. Even if, as you may hope, you reconcile, you will never have the same marriage. The most difficult moment in your separation is at your last opportunity to hold on or let go. But you must let go (of the relationship, anger, frustration, denial, fatigue, sleeplessness, fear, doubt, sense of betrayal — all of it), and in ridding yourself of that burden, you will find a new path forward.
Our Number One Tip: Let Go!
And that advice column? The Athenian Mercury’s response:
“Though our thoughts generally proceed from the habit of our minds, upon which account we are the more guilty if they are disorderly, yet our inclinations likewise having great dependence on the temperament of our bodies, a bare disposition is much less culpable than an act; but where… there wants nothing but an opportunity to complete it, the crime is the same in the sight of God Almighty.”
As attorneys, we can assure you thinking of a crime and committing a crime are not the same.
We may not be a newspaper’s advice column, but we at The Firm For Men are here to help, before, during and after your separation. We’ve been protecting the men of Hampton Roads for over a decade, so from Norfolk to Chesapeake, Newport News to Yorktown, we’ve got you covered. Please call us at 757-383-9184 or contact us online.