Chances of Reconciliation After Separation

When problems in marriage emerge, many couples decide to split. Some act rashly and file for divorce right away to cut off all the ties. Others resort to temporary voluntary marriage separation, either legally recognized or unauthorized, hoping to get some time to cool off and reevaluate the situation. It is often seen as an effective tool for getting back together. In some jurisdictions, the court will not grant a divorce until a couple completes a mandatory separation period set by the law, which is viewed as a chance for the spouses to change their minds, obtain reconciliation in marriage, and revoke their petition. Moreover, the legislature in many states provides for a legal separation procedure, which is similar to divorce in that the spouses divide parental responsibilities and property and move apart, but their marriage is still legally effective. In Indiana, it may last up to a year, during which the couple must decide if they want to divorce or if they have reached reconciliation after separation and are ready to move on as a happy family. It’s no wonder that questions like “Will a separation help my marriage?” are very popular among Google users. Indeed, is it really so helpful, and can it be a panacea for everyone? And how often do separated couples get back together, anyway? We decided to explore the issue and get the answers to these and other questions on the topic. So, let’s figure out the reasons people voluntarily separate, the chances of reconciliation after separation, signs it can happen in your case, and the average length of separation before reconciliation.

Why Couples Choose Separation Over Divorce?

Reasons for choosing separation over divorce are numerous, from personal beliefs and fears to financial benefits. To start with, separation is sometimes inevitable. In some states, the court dissolves a marriage only after spouses have lived separately for some determined period, which may serve as a chance for reconciliation before divorce. In others, separate living is a mandatory condition to prove irretrievable marriage breakdown stated as the grounds for its termination. Indiana does not set such regulations, so the reasons couples choose separation over divorce are more likely to be of personal, religious, or financial character:
  • Financial. Divorce is often financially disadvantageous since one or both parties may lose healthcare insurance, retirement, or tax returns benefits married couples enjoy. Some Social Security and military benefits increase or become possible only after 10 years of marriage. The necessity to sell the family house after divorce may also incur considerable losses for both. Besides, the legal separation procedure may be cheaper than marriage dissolution.
  • Religious. Some faiths view divorce as sinful or immoral. By choosing separation, religious couples that cannot stay together in a loving relationship may avoid condemnation from the members of their community. Moreover, the personal beliefs of some people, even non-religious ones, prevent them from violating commitments they have once given, so they would choose separation to stand by their word.
  • Personal. When spouses facing a relationship crisis are unsure they want to part ways completely, they may separate temporarily to see if they can still make it work since reconciling in the middle of the divorce process will entail an unnecessary waste of time and money. They may be treating it as a trial before ultimate marriage dissolution or even keeping hope during separation that they will get back together one day.
Indeed, reconciling after filing for divorce is not rare. However, it may come at a cost when you have already wasted so much time, effort, and financial resources to start the divorce action. Therefore, separation, either voluntary or authorized by the court, is a beneficial option to give yourself time for contemplating. But can separation save a marriage when the desire to leave the partner has already set in? Actually, it can, but not always.

How Often Do Couples Separate?

Unfortunately, national statistics on separations is rather scarce, while the existing one is rather outdated. Most data presents it along with divorce rates or centers on the dissolutions alone. Back in 2013, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that separations were ignored in many surveys and reports on marital changes due to the lack of coherent data on them provided by the respondents. According to the report released by the CDC in 2001, about 43% of all first marriages are interrupted by a divorce or separation within 15 years. The authors do not specify the percentage for the two probable outcomes and base their findings on data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth. In 2002, the CDC released a report on cohabitation, marriage, divorce, and remarriage, estimating the probabilities of marital outcomes for women aged 15-44. The findings indicate that practically all individual and community characteristics statistically affect the transition to divorce after separation. Only age and religious affiliation have an insignificant impact. Data from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth is more specific. It shows 405 first-marriage separations and 1,574 divorces among 5,534 surveyed women and 214 separations and 1,004 divorces among 3,734 men. According to the report, 86% of women and 87% of men had a separation leading to divorce within 5 years.

How Often Do Separated Couples Reconcile?

Looking at such data, you would probably ask, “How often do couples get back together after separation, and is it even possible?” Well, of course, it is possible, though this data is also quite versatile and loose.
  • In their 2013 research of dating and cohabitating “emerging adults” (people from 17 to 24 years), Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Wendy Manning, Peggy Giordano, and Monica Longmore have found out that about half of the surveyed older teenagers and young adults reconcile or continue a sexual relationship with their exes.
  • In 2022, the Ex Back Permanently website staff surveyed its 3,512 readers and subscribers to learn if they ever succeeded in reconciling or moving on after a breakup. According to the results, 14.94% of the respondents got back and stayed together with their exes, while 14.38% of them got back but broke up again in a while.
  • In her 2005 book Lost and Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romances, Dr. Nancy Kalish presents the results of her Lost Love Project to prove the power of rekindled romance. She claims that 70% of 1,001 participants from all over the world reunited after years apart and stayed happily together.
The mentioned studies, however, examined romantic relationships as a whole, not focusing on married couples. Sadly, research on separation from marriage is even scarcer, and the data is either too old or doubtful since they do not offer any methodological and procedural details.
  • In 1994, Howard Wineberg found out in his research that about 32% of the surveyed 506 separated women managed to reconcile.
  • The National Survey of Families and Households was conducted in 3 waves: in 1989, 1993, and 2003. By 2003, 81% of the respondents who separated during the first 2 stages managed to reconcile, but 1% of them still divorced.
  • A number of bloggers and statistical platforms like Ann Gold Buscho, Jonathan Jerkins, Gitnux, or Divorce Statistics say that about 10%-20% of separated couples end up in long-term reconciliation. However, none of them presents any proof or reference to official research.
  • In their 2012 research, Dmitry Tumin and Zhenchao Qian of the Ohio State University state that about 5% of separated couples attempt to reconcile. Nevertheless, 80% of separations still end in divorce, while 15% remain ongoing within 10 years. Moreover, researchers say that nearly half of those who reconciled divorced anyway.
Indeed, the data is not very encouraging and may even seem quite depressing. Therefore, it may be useful to determine, “How long should a separation last before spouses can reconcile?”. A range of studies prove that 6 months is the safest period a couple may stay apart without the risk of ending up in divorce, adding that the longer it will last, the less likely it is that they will ever get back. However, there is no one-fits-all answer to this question since a lot depends on individual and situational factors unique to each family. So, setting boundaries for separated couples would be unwise. For some, several weeks is sufficient to understand that living apart is unbearable, while for others, even a year is not enough to straighten things out and get back together.

Positive Signs Your Spouse Wants to Reconcile During Separation

Separation does not always lead to divorce, and with time, you can notice some positive signs your separated husband wants you back, or the wife who initiated your separate living is going to restore your marriage. If you do not want to divorce and are looking for signs of reconciliation after separation in your spouse, here are some hints on what you should pay attention to: You Keep Communicating During the Separation Communication is the top instrument in any relationship, ensuring its success and effectiveness. One or both spouses’ inability to properly communicate leads to challenges, misunderstandings, separations, and divorces. If you are able to communicate without scandals during your separation time, even on neutral topics concerning children or everyday chores, it means that all is not lost yet, and you can manage to find the common ground. Moreover, if you have noticed that your spouse has become more composed and pleasing during your conversations, it’s a good sign of improved communication, which can mark the start of your way to reconciliation. You Have Identified and Fixed the Problem Improved communication, or at least your ability to maintain a healthy one, may become the first step to adequate discussions of your issues. In such a case, you both have a chance to realize the problems, constructively discuss them, accept your faults, and fix the issues or achieve a compromise. The readiness of both parties to do this is already a good sign. You Miss Each Other As separation time passes, spouses may start thinking about the other party and their relationship. Questions like “How is my wife feeling right now?”, “What is my husband thinking during separation?”, “What is she up to?”, “Will he call today?” become your everyday companions. When you realize that you cannot get your spouse out of your mind, are constantly thinking about them, and miss them, you can be sure that you are not ready for a complete breakup. Similarly, if the other party misses you, it’s a clear sign they want to reconcile. But how can you tell if they do? The surest proof is seeking regular updates about you. If your spouse asks your friends or family members about you, actively follows and interacts with you on social media, or even calls or texts you occasionally just to ask how you’ve been doing, be sure that they miss you and may soon ask for reconciliation. Your Partner Finds Various Reasons to Talk or Meet When someone misses you and is genuinely interested in your current well-being, they would use the slightest pretext to call or drop in on you. So, if your separated spouse seeks communication for no specific reason, they are trying to rekindle your relationship. You Spend Time Together More Often Increased communication about some trivial or even non-important issues leads to frequent meetings. If you start noticing that you are separated but spending time together more and more often, your separation may be approaching the reconciliation stage instead of divorce. You Notice Positive Changes in Your Spouse For some people, separation may be a wake-up call, making them reflect on and realize their past mistakes and change in some unexpected but impressive way. They may change their looks or communication style, give up harmful habits, become more attentive, understanding, or patient towards you, etc. So, if your spouse demonstrates any positive signs during separation, it may be clear that they are planning to fix your misunderstandings and impress you with their new identity.

Why Couples Get Back Together After Separation?

The reasons for getting back together after separation may vary from parental worries to an ingrained attachment to the partner. In any case, they are deeply individual and mostly dependent on the cause of separation. In their study on the decisions to preserve or end romantic relationships, Samantha Joel, Geoff MacDonald, and Elizabeth Page-Gould distinguish a range of reasons people choose to stay. The most popular ones include:
  • hope for the partner’s change;
  • family responsibilities;
  • emotional investment in the relationship;
  • fear of uncertainty;
  • emotional and physical intimacy;
  • dependence on the partner.
While this is only a small part of the whole list, it mostly defines the indecision to end the relationship, which has something in common with the motives to get back after separation to some extent. The most common reasons for marriage reconciliation can be reduced to the following: Children Many couples refuse to divorce and keep on living in unhealthy marital relations only for children’s sake. Similarly, care for kids’ well-being is the most widespread reason for reconciliation or the spouses’ excuse for preserving the status quo. Indeed, most people believe that children must live with both parents in a unified family for their wholesome development. They seldom realize that an unhealthy environment caused by the parents’ tense relations can have a much more detrimental effect on the minors. So, if the issues between the spouses are unresolved, it is better not to use children as an excuse for their indecisiveness. Insecurity and Fear of Loneliness While it’s not the best reason to reconcile, many people get back together only because they fear loneliness. The missing companionship makes them insecure and lost. At the same time, getting into the world outside their marriage, they realize the lack of suitable partners and decide that “better a small fish than an empty dish.” This reason for getting back together is most likely to be losing since merely having a companion at your side is not a guarantee of a happy marriage. If your views on your relationship have not changed on either side, this reconciliation might not be too long. Changed Circumstances A change in a partner or circumstances is perhaps the most positive reason for reconciliation. In most cases, it means recognizing and resolving the problems that caused separation. For instance, a change in communication can resolve a problem of the lack of attention to each other’s needs, getting partners closer again. One of the parties may change priorities and start devoting more time to the family instead of work, showing more commitment to the spouse and children. Getting out of substance abuse is another example of a positive change that fixes a marital problem. In fact, falling back in love after separation is also a good change in circumstances that often acts as a positive reason for reconciliation.