How To Maintain Your Self-Respect During A Marriage Separation (Especially If You're Hoping To Get Back Together)

It's all about self-love and self-respect.

How To Maintain Your Self-Respect During A Marriage Separation (Especially If You're Hoping To Get Back Together) unsplash / Tiago Almeida

Chances are that when you got married, a marriage separation was the last thing you envisioned for you and your spouse.

We all want a healthy marriage. Nobody gets married thinking that one day, they will end up in tears yelling, "It’s over!" before filing for a legal separation or, god forbid, a divorce!

Yet, at least half the marriages in the United States end up in divorce at some point.

Some forever, some for a while.


RELATED: 5 Ways To Set Clear Ground Rules When Separating From Your Spouse

The good news is that divorce is on the decline. The bad news is that marriage is on the decline, too. So, the new statistics might only be a false artifact of these new trends.


Either way, unfortunately, you have about a fifty-fifty chance of one day living apart from your beloved spouse or significant other.

If you love your person and you want them to love you back, how can you get to that happy place again?

It’s all about self-love and self-respect.

What is self-respect? And how do you continue to respect yourself while separated?

When a marriage breaks down, it’s a symptom of a breakdown of respect. We start losing respect for ourselves and for each other. Then, the relationship begins to crumble.

Can you identify the erosion of respect in your relationship? What better place to begin to build respect than toward yourself?


And what better place to learn to love unconditionally than learning how to love yourself?

There’s a famous quote going around that goes, "If he can’t handle me at my worst, he doesn’t deserve me at my best."

Now, take a good look in the mirror. No joke. Walk over to the mirror and take a good look.

Do you love that person, deeply, fully, and without reservations? Do you love and respect yourself at your worst? Or do you repeatedly beat yourself up?

Until you love your spouse — warts and all, as the saying goes — you won’t respect them. When you get to that place, then you will know that anything you want in the world is yours.

So how do you maintain your self-respect while separated or divorced?


There are 5 ways.

1. Stay fabulous

You are awesome. Take this time to remember what makes you... you! Somehow along the way, you lost your mojo.

Imagine your life is a big pie. Choose your favorite or, if you’re like me, each slice can be different — one is apple, one is cherry, one is peach, you get the idea. Your pie has an infinite number of slices, but for today we will count up just a few.

There’s the beautiful home slice, the work slice, the relationship slice, the friends slice, the hobbies slice, the travel slice, the altruism slice, the physical exercise slice, the kids slice, the extended family slice, the animal lover slice, the shopping slice, the learning to quilt slice... you get the idea.


Right now, your relationship slice is missing or unappetizing. But, that’s okay because all your other slices can be awesome.

You have the ability to make them the most delicious pie you’ve ever had. This pie is magic and can be re-baked at any time and in any form and flavor you want.

You get to decide about that relationship slice. While you’re working on figuring it out, make sure that you are enjoying every single crumb of the rest of that pie.

Remember, every slice comes back exactly as you want it the next day!

2. Don't blab

That’s right. Your life — including your struggle — is nobody’s business but your own.

As much as you might want to talk to your friends and family about your situation, the minute you start complaining is the minute your self-respect goes out the window.


Worse, the people who are supposed to love and care for you are going to start losing respect for you, too.

In this day and age of instant information and instant opinions, think hard before you announce your situation on social media.

Everyone is going to have an opinion. You might want to be part of the 13 percent of couples who reconcile after separation. You might even want to be part of the 6 percent who reconcile after divorce.

But once you start telling people your story, the party line is going to be that your "soon to be ex" is a "narcissist", "psychopath", or another trend of the day.

Remember, this is the man you loved with all your heart, the man who could finish your thoughts without you ever saying them aloud.


The guy you did sexual things with that you could only imagine before you met him. The father of your children, who watched you give birth.

Think hard before you let the opinions of others toss him to the curb for good.

If the person telling you that it's "for your own good" because this man is a "psychopath/narcissist who has to go" is a therapist whom you pay for these words, then the person who has to go is that therapist.

Only you get to make that decision.

RELATED: 5 Things To Know Before Separating From Your Husband Or Wife (That Could Save Your Marriage)

3. Don't jab at your partner

Yes, whatever happened had hurt you. Often, it’s tempting to lash out and hurt back.


If you ignore the tip above and start blabbing to all your friends about what happened, you will find yourself "supported" by your well-meaning friends and relatives who will say things like:

  • "I never liked him."
  • "I never thought he was good enough for you."
  • "We never liked the way he treated you."

Sadly, that is a lot of people’s version of being supportive.

Ask yourself this: Do you routinely pick jerks to hang out with? What’s the probability that you married one, then? And are your friends really being respectful of you when they tell you that you picked a total jerk to marry and to be the father of your children?

No? So, maybe you might want to take to heart the tips above.


Your current situation is yours alone. You might end up choosing to leave this person forever.

For right now, you’re still married, and whatever the future holds, you don’t pick jerks with whom to populate your social circle, let alone to marry!

You are an amazing person with great judgment. Continue to respect the person you are not living with at the moment, and you will find great reserves of respect for yourself.

Not only will you continue to respect yourself, but so will everyone around you.

I’m not sure if there’s an expression for the opposite of a vicious cycle, but this is an example of one.

The more you respect yourself, the more other people will respect you, and the more other people respect you, the more respect you will have for yourself.


4. Don't let yourself go

Look after yourself — exercise, eat well, get out, and feel good. Do all the things you love to do, as much and as often as you can. Make every day the day of you.

Obviously, you still have to go to work and clean the kitchen. But, you can commute with an audiobook, clean up while dancing to your favorite music, and cook all the meals you never made because your husband didn’t like them or was allergic or whatever.

You and the kids (or on your nights alone, just you) can go to the frozen yogurt place for dinner. It is totally allowed.

Pick up those hobbies you stopped doing a long time ago. Join a theater group or a chorus. Pick up those knitting needles or dust off that sewing machine. Create something.


Dig deep into the corners of your mind and remember what it was like when you used to focus on what you loved.

5. Don't rebound to any guy or relationship that might come your way

You might be tempted to immediately replace your missing husband with a brand spanking new model. This maneuver rarely works.

There are plenty of so-called "experts" who will tell you that making your partner jealous will bring him right back to you.

In some cases, that might work. In other cases, having the attention and superficial love that you felt was lacking in your previous relationship might make you feel better for a while.

But here is the cold, hard, truth: All love relationships work or don’t work based upon how much we love ourselves. Our capacity for love is infinite, but it starts and ends with our capacity for self-love.


Inside all of us is a still, small, voice that tells us either, "I’m not good enough" or "I’m fine."

We don’t hear the voice that says, "I’m fine just the way I am" because those of us who know that — the very few — are the ones who are busy doing other things with our lives.

Many of us are capable of doing amazing things even while we believe we are not good enough because we have so much to prove, both to ourselves and the world.


But, all the outside love in the world will not make us love ourselves.

Take this time to learn how to love yourself.

You will be amazed how learning how to love yourself will lead you to a place where self-respect is automatic, the respect of others comes naturally, and your previous partner, if that’s who you want (or a new one, if that’s your choice), appears in your life.

How do we get to the place of fully loving and respecting ourselves so we can fully live our lives while separated?

We start by practicing all the things mentioned above. We practice self-love and self-respect until we start to feel it.

The famous New Thought writer and leader, Neville Goddard, created the idea of Living In the End. If we apply this concept to our everyday lives, it means that if we want something, we start to live as if we already have it.


Many of us are already familiar with this idea from the popular adage: "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have." What Goddard created was the idea to live the life you want as if you already have it.

That is how you maintain your self-respect while you are separated. You live the life you want as if you already have it.

So, if there is no partner there right now? Live as if there is one. And behave in every other way like the partner you want to be.

Treat yourself like the kind, loving, authentic, creative, amazing person that anyone in the world would want to be with.

You are allowed to be happy. Our happiness does not come only from having one person living with us and saying, "What’s for dinner?" every night.


It helps to think about all the things you’re grateful for and all the things you have been grateful for throughout your life.

I encourage all my patients to keep gratitude journals. (I admit I am not as diligent at keeping mine as I could be, but I have learned how to be very grateful in the moment.)

Write down ten things you’re grateful for every night (or another time of day that is convenient for you).

Some days you will be able to be grateful for the air you breathe and the water you drink. Other days you will have more complex gratitudes.

As you continue to practice self-love and self-respect, you will gain greater clarity about what you want in your life and who you want to share it with.


RELATED: The 5 'Golden Rules' Of A Trial Separation

Dr. Vivian Chern Shnaidman is a devoted psychiatrist who specializes in navigating the intersection of psychiatry and law. Visit her website for more information.