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Separation is Like a Sprained Ankle

Uncategorized Sep 22, 2021

by Jeff Ford, LMFT, Clinical Director

People enter therapy because they realize they are dealing with a difficult situation and recognize they need help to make things better. They want their marriage or relationship to become stronger and last. That’s why it can be a little surprising that in some cases, separation may be a useful tool. In fact, I’ve had several clients who have told me that separation was a game-changer for them in allowing recovery to take place. 

How is this possible? Think about a star basketball player. They spend countless hours working with their teammates to improve their skills, to learn plays and work hard in every game to win. One day during a game, they jump up for a rebound and land awkwardly on their ankle causing a bad sprain. After hobbling to the side of the court, a team doctor will immediately wrap it up and start to ice it. It’s not because they don’t want this star player in the game, it’s because by separating them from the court for a time they can eventually get them back in the game again. 

Separation in a relationship is similar. There are times when physical separation may be needed, or possibly an emotional or sexual separation. This time apart allows relationships to repair, for couples to increase accountability and for things to heal. 

As you are working with a therapist and if you determine that some type of separation is needed, it is also important to identify high-support people who can help you through the process. A high-support person is someone who can be by your side and who will support you through the healing process. Rather than telling you to give up the game of basketball because of a sprained ankle, they’re the ones who help you wrap it, take you to the doctor, and are by your side doing exercises needed to get better. Finding these high-support people will help ensure you continue to make progress in your recovery and reaching your goals to strengthen your relationship. 

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