Taking an extended period of time off AKA ‘marriage sabbatical’, from your spouse is NOT recommended by this marriage therapist. During my ‘Ask Dr. Karen’ segment on FOX News Boston we discussed this trend. I explained on air that taking an hour or two or more here and there where you have time by yourself or with a friend is therapeutic and healthy. A full on marriage sabbatical where you make an active decision to take time away from your spouse for an extended period of time (e.g., get a separate home to live in) does not bring the marriage closer together. The person who wants the marriage sabbatical will find that life is easier without their spouse and that they can get along just fine being separated. Yes, that is what a marriage sabbatical is, being separated.
If you think by separating for a block of time with the intent to re-group is going to save your marriage you are surely mistaken. If you are prepared for the fact that a marriage sabbatical is more likely going to lead towards not being with your spouse in the future, then go right ahead. If truly your desire is to take action to help save your marriage, then do not go on a sabbatical. Rather make effort towards your spouse not away from your spouse. It is a rare couple who takes an extended break from one another that come back together. Why gamble with your marriage to see if you are going to be that rare couple? Rather do something that is not a gamble. Do something that increases the chances dramatically that your couple will come together. And that something is effort, every day consistent effort that shows your spouse you value them, care and appreciate who they are. Re-discover the qualities you adored about your spouse and discover qualities that you never knew were there. Learn about one another. Lean towards your marriage not away to save your marriage.
In my work with couples since 1993, it has been my experience that once you have gotten to the point that you want to take an extended period of time off, hoping that this time away will lead the heart to grow fonder, is not what occurs. Marriages that are disharmonious, marriages that are hurting, marriages that are feeling disconnected – need help to heal, confront the factors that led the relationship to get to where it is, and methods for re-connection, not disconnection. Having a sabbatical from your spouse does not lead to magically the problems going away upon your return. The same problems that led you to want an extended period of time off still remain. If you truly want to remain with your spouse, don’t disconnect with a sabbatical, rather connect with therapeutic time together.
If you missed this segment, it is available for on demand viewing: Dr. Karen reacts to ‘Marriage Sabbatical’.