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The Steps of Separation

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Separation is never easy. It is a complex, multi-step process that can feel overwhelming and cause intense emotions. But seeking professional guidance can make it more manageable. Our therapists at Relate Family Therapy and Counseling are here to support you through each stage of this challenging life change.

Below, we explore some of the steps of separation and offer tips on how to navigate through them.

  • The Initial Separation

When a relationship reaches a crossroads, the decision to separate is weighty, and it can be helpful to get input from a neutral third party. Discernment counseling is a specialized form of therapy for couples who are contemplating divorce or separation. It’s most useful when partners have different ideas about the future of the relationship, with one leaning toward divorce and the other wanting to stay married.

In discernment counseling, a therapist evaluates the relationship through in-depth discussions. Typically, this process involves just a few sessions. At the end, the couple decides whether to proceed with separation or engage in further counseling.

  • Telling Your Kids

When and how you tell your children about the separation matters. Honesty is crucial, but consider their age, emotional readiness, and the context. Choose a calm moment and emphasize that it’s not their fault.

Avoid sharing details that might burden them. Reassure them of your love and commitment to their well-being. Be prepared for their reactions—anger, sadness, confusion—and offer ongoing support. Consider seeking counseling for your children as they process their emotions and this life change.

  • Managing Difficult Issues, Like Pets, Finances, and Assets

Pets are part of the family too. Discuss arrangements for pets, ensuring their well-being. Remember that emotions may run high, so patience and empathy are essential. You’ll also need to address other difficult topics like finances, property division, and living arrangements.

Seek legal advice as needed and try to communicate openly and respectfully. It’s helpful if you can collaborate on practical matters.

The BIFF (Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm) method can help couples manage communication during separation. The book “BIFF for Co Parent Communication” by Bill Eddy provides practical guidance for handling separation and coparenting.

We also recommend utilizing community resources, like therapy groups. You may find invaluable support and camaraderie through your friends, family, and community. At Relate, our therapists do their best to connect you with therapy groups and other community resources to ensure you receive comprehensive support.


It can be difficult to fit therapy into your busy life. Our Relate therapists have weekend and evening sessions available to make it easier for you.

Get started by filling out this short contact form today or reach out to us at (303) 954-9809.