married couple sitting together

Can a separated couple still reconcile?

If you and your partner have decided on a trial separation to fix your relationship issues, you need to get one thing straight: Unless you work together on those issues, don’t expect change.

Nothing will be different when you reunite, unless you’ve made changes in your relationship. Once your relational space has become polluted, it’s not immediately cleansed by a separation.

If you want the space to become sacred once more, the only way is through couples counseling.

Couples need an expert to learn how to navigate through the gauntlet they co-created. Separating is just that: separating. It doesn’t include healing.

Healing requires a professional, time, money, and, most of all, commitment.

Commitment requires an “all in” response from both partners. If only one is “all in” and the other is uncertain or “done,” there’s no need to reconcile. It takes two to tango, and two to make love work.

To start off, you need to understand that conflict is a friend! It’s an opportunity for growth and an invitation to maturity so you can flourish, expand, and prosper.

Conflict is endemic to all relationships, just as catching a cold is part of the human experience. It’s how you approach it and work through it that can move your relationship forward and restore
the connection.

Here are 5 tips for reuniting as a couple after a trial separation.

1. Seek professional help.

Even if you tried unsuccessfully before the separation, taking time and space from each other can provide a different perspective. However, it’s not a panacea.

Learning to negotiate differences and understand their origin requires a skilled professional who can help you heal and reconnect. They have the skills, resources, training, and tools that couples in crisis need.

It’s important to choose a couples’ therapist who’s highly trained and experienced. This requires research, time, and effort.

The more time you put into seeking the right therapist, the more successful your outcome will be. Referrals come from those who have had success with their therapy. You seldom get lucky by looking in the Yellow Pages or on Google.

You need to choose someone with the right credentials, experience, and good reviews. It’s the same with the way you chose your dentist, doctor, or financial advisor.

Remember: Couples’ counseling is cheaper than a divorce!

2. Be patient.

Just as it took time for your relationship to get polluted, it takes time to cleanse the space where you both live, along with any children and pets you have. The goal is to create and maintain a sacred space — the way it once was when you first began your journey together.

Remember how you would look into each other’s eyes with an open heart and warm eyes, eager to feel the touch of one another?

What went wrong? How did you go from bliss to hell?

You probably didn’t even notice or remember the steps that took you there. It wasn’t a sudden transition. It was wear and tear over time that caused you to separate, hoping the separation would bring back the bliss that had been lost.

There are two ways to approach therapy.

You can spend months or even years attending counseling sessions on a weekly basis. Or, you can do a two-day Intensive, eight hours a day, and learn the skills that you can practice at home.

Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ve integrated the practice into your daily life and relationship.

3. Have a sense of curiosity and wonder.

Do you remember when you were just a kid, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed? Do you remember how the world fascinated you?

That’s the kind of curiosity and wonder you need now. If you approach couples’ counseling with the same sense of curiosity and wonder you had when you were a child, then you’ll have the same sense of wonder when you commit to couples therapy.

It’s a challenge to watch the complex layers of your relationship unfold. It’s heartwarming as you observe the sensitive nature of your partner emerge that was never seen before.

A sense of wonder will surface as you both see the landscape of your partner’s face and learn their language for the first time with new eyes, inviting vulnerability and a newfound respect for mutual discovery.

What you can look forward to is not a problem to be solved but an adventure to be embraced!

4. Be open, honest, and present.

There are basic assumptions about committed relationships that are often difficult to integrate, because our natural response is to use the defense mechanisms we learned from past experiences.

I often tell my clients that my mother taught me to lie. She said that if I told the truth, she wouldn’t punish me. So when I told the truth, with great trepidation, she punished me. The result was that I learned not to tell the truth.

It took years of practice to change, because as I grew into adulthood, I expected to be punished if I was honest. We all know that honesty is the best policy, but we only know what we know.

To be able to own your own stuff and not defend your behavior by making excuses or blaming it on someone or something else takes maturity, courage, and mindfulness.

As adults, we too easily fall into old habits that no longer serve us in our relationships. Being open to perpetual possibilities is part of growing up. Staying stuck in old habits, ideas, and convictions only make us rigid, stubborn, and closed-minded.

These behaviors undermine healthy, mature relationships. Being open allows for personal growth and development.

Learning how to listen and understand your partner without challenging them can serve you both well and give you another person’s perspective, which fosters intimacy.

Lastly, being present is an art. Most couples don’t know how to be present. When you learn the “art of precensing,” communication is possible.

So many couples don’t know how to communicate effectively. It’s more important for them to be right rather than be happy.

The first thing I do when I see a couple is to teach them how to be present for one another. Once they learn, communication becomes a new way of listening and sharing.

I spend a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes teaching them how to be present. The most important features are to be 18 inches apart, looking into the eyes of each other with an open heart and warm eyes.

The eyes are the windows to the soul. The couple remains silent, continuously focusing on their partner, all the while learning the landscape of their partner’s face. It usually brings tears to their eyes without a single word spoken as they reach the essence of their partner.

The art of presencing brings about authenticity, allowing their survival suit to disappear. In many cases, it is the first time they experience each other’s essence.

5. Learn new principles and rituals to sustain your connection.

Once the couple learns the art of presencing, we move on to new principles and rituals to understand our partners at the deepest level of intimacy.

This manifests into empathy, something that was long forgotten once the relationship began to crumble.

Becoming empathic with each other allows for compassion and understanding of why things are the way they are. They learn that there’s no blame or judgment — only acceptance for things that weren’t their fault.

Our early childhood experiences form our beliefs and behaviors. Empathy disposes of criticism and judgment, giving rise to a secure attachment, something that most of us never had as children.

Most of the issues that pollute the sacred space are due to childhood wounds that are carried into the relationship unconsciously.

Unwittingly, we hire our partners to give us the biggest nightmare. And when they do, we fire them for the very reason we hired them.

Their job is to make us conscious of our unresolved conflicts from childhood. When they do their job, all hell breaks loose, and we run to the lawyers, only to end up choosing another partner who will emulate the one we left.

Crazy? Yes. And not a solution.

Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author of I Hate The Man I Love: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success. To learn more about how Encounter-Centered Couples Therapy can renew and restore your relationship, contact her via email, or telephone at 954-854-7764.


  • Joan E. Childs, LCSW

    Psychotherapist, Author and Inspirational Speaker

    Joan E. Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author. She has been in private practice in South Florida since 1978 specializing in both individual and couple’s therapy. Her books include I HATE THE MAN I LOVE: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success, WHY DID SHE JUMP? My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder and THE MYTH OF THE MAIDEN: On Being a Woman. Joan specializes in couples therapy using many modalities including Encounter-centered Couples Therapy, Imago Relationship Therapy, PAIRS (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills), as well as many others. She is also an expert in Codependency, Inner Child Work, Original Pain Work and Second Stage Recovery. After nearly 40 years in private practice healing the wounds of clients who’s lives had been fractured from personal traumas, she has taken her personal and professional knowledge, skills and experience to serve as an inspirational keynote speaker. As a professional speaker specializing in women’s issues, couple and family relationships, self-actualization and grief and loss, she has the qualifications and credibility to impact her audiences and effect positive change. Joan has appeared on many radio and television shows including Oprah and before live audiences. She produced her own television show, SOLUTIONS to provide education and resources to the community on mental health. Joan was chosen to be the first affiliate of the John Bradshaw Center in the United States and is a consultant to many corporations, hospitals, universities and academic institutions. In 2014 she completed a three year Master’s Class training with Hedy Schleifer and received her certification for ENCOUNTER-CENTERED COUPLE’S THERAPY. Learn more about Joan at