When is it better to separate rather than stay together?

No-one goes into their relationship planning to separate or divorce. We all dream of being able to stay together for the long haul, through good times and bad, hopefully growing together rather than apart through the process. Especially where we have children together, we strive to make it work. So when is it NOT a good idea to stay together? The most obvious situation is where one partner is violent towards the other - this may not be only physical violence, but may include emotional abuse (including verbal put-downs etc), or controlling what the other is able to do socially or financially. In this case - things certainly can be worked on and relationships can survive - but only where the person using violence is willing to take full responsibility for making the changes that are needed. If s/he is not willing to do this, the relationship cannot be healthy, and it may be necessary to leave, not just for the adult who is affected, but for the children's sake as well. A less obvious reason that it may not be a good idea to remain together is where both partners have very different values, and/or do not want the same things in life. For example, one may really want children; the other may feel strongly that they don't. Sometimes couples are able to reach a place of acceptance and agreement about these differences; at other times this is not possible. It may be better to separate than for resentment about unfulfilled needs to slowly poison a relationship. It's not easy to work through issues, in order to decide whether it is possible to remain together in the face of what may remain unresolvable differences. The key is - if these can be discussed in a reflective rather than a reactive way, decisions can be made that are right for all concerned. Sometimes counselling may be required to help couples achieve this. After all, when core needs and values are up for debate, emotions can run high. Attempts to find resolution can be derailed when we are not in good control of the way we express those emotions. Where children are involved - it is much better for their development and health when they are not exposed to heightened conflict that remains unresolved. Children do well, even where parents decide to separate, as long as they know that both parents love them, that they can still have a meaningful relationship with each parent, and that their needs are still being kept uppermost in both parents' minds.

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