My Parents' 10-Year Separation Made Their Marriage Stronger

Actor Michael Douglas, who separated from Catherine Zeta-Jones four months ago, was recently quoted as saying, "Sometimes people take a little bit of a break, but it doesn't necessarily mean that's the end." Given the fact that they were just spotted wearing their wedding rings and walking with their two children, I do believe he makes a good point.

We seldom see strong examples in Hollywood of couples who separate and then actually work on their issues with the hope of resolving them and reuniting again. Separation seems more like the baby step couples make prior to going for the Big, Expensive D. 

But it doesn't have to be that way.


My parents were separated from the time I was 12 until I was about 23. As a preteen, I was fascinated by the concept of "separation" in marriage and what it all meant. Clearly, it was better to be separated than divorced -- which was a total nail in the coffin. Separated implied possibilities. But it was also a trickier solution to marital troubles -- it left the door wide open for one person to date while the other perhaps did not. It let both partners have their cake and eat it too. It seemed like a quick fix for two people who didn't want to deal with the reality of their doomed marriage. 

Given the fact that they married when they were just 20, it was inevitable that my parents were going to grow up and evolve a great deal from 1970 until the early '90s, when they decided to "take a break." Kudos to couples who change together and can make that work. But I understand now how difficult that must be to do. My mom is a hot-blooded, emotional person who, at some point, could no longer deal with my dad's cool tempered, extremely rational, and borderline emotion-less way of viewing the world. He, in turn, became agitated by her drama and need to pick a fight -- any fight -- just to remind herself she could get a rise from him.

They needed to separate in order to keep from killing one another. They needed to breathe on their own and, perhaps, see other people to decide if they were better off with someone else (to this day, both remain mum on how they carried on with their love lives during that time, and I don't see it as my business to ask questions). 

Fast-forward 20 years. My parents are back together and a much better couple than I can ever remember. I'm not sure what made them "click" again. Maybe she calmed down a bit and he became more passionate with each year that passed. Perhaps having grandchildren, fewer bills, and a new, exciting, and less stressful world to share helped ignite their love. Whatever it is, at this age, they've decided they are just what they need. 

I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be together today if they hadn't taken a much-needed "break."

Do you feel separation in marriage can be a solution to problems, or do you view it as the first step before divorce?


Image via firemedic58/Flickr 

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