The In-House Separation

In these days of (for many) financial stress, "leaving" an SA husband who has broken our protective boundaries may feel like it's not an option. Or, possibly we are looking at breaches that may feel like they do not require something quite as profound as a therapeutic, or any other kind, of "go live your life somewhere else" separation.

Whatever the case, many betrayed wives are able to make the in-house separation work well for them. One creative partner changed her rental situation in order to better accommodate the reality of an ongoing in-house situation (i.e., rented a place with a basement apartment including kitchen). Others have gone for an "out-of-house, on-the-property" separation making use of other buildings, campers (aka: trailers/caravans) and guesthouses (aka: sleepouts).

Whatever your current living set up, there is probably a way you can make an in-house separation work for you (space-wise). Below are some guidelines for making the most of this process.

Making it work

The categories below cover the major topics that should ideally be negotiated at the beginning of an in-house separation.

Non-shared spaces: Decide on which partner will be moving out of the bedroom (if this has yet to happen). Where will that person go for their main "solitary space"? Are there any other spaces you no longer wish to share with each other (e.g., bathroom, closet, office)? If one person is the primary caregiver of children, it is best that this person continues to have access to most of the home space, or at least all that the children would commonly be in. If one or both people work from home (either permanently or during the lockdown), it's important he/she has a workspace as well; though I've seen some creative set ups for this including attics and "the baby's room."

If children are not a consideration, then decide on a fair arrangement of the spaces available. Consider if you are willing to allow your spouse into the non-shared space under some conditions: e.g., to fetch something they need, to meet with family/friends. If so, do you want this communicated ahead of time? If so, how?

Shared spaces: Decide which spaces you are willing to share and how you forsee the sharing working. Will you both be in the space simultaenously? Will you schedule certain times in the shared space so you don't have to meet? Will you discuss in the moment who gets "dibs" on the space? Are you willing to be in the same space at the same time but with a communication rule such as "minimal," or "no," communication? Spaces that are commonly shared would be the kitchen/dining areas, laundry, children's rooms and potentially a living room/entertaining area.

Intimacy: Couples  need to work out if during the separation there will be any physical or sexual intimacy, and, if so, under what conditions (e.g., only if she initiates; only if he initates and she agrees).

Division of labour: Just as roommates have to work out how to manage the daily chores of life in a shared space, so too with those in in-house separation. In fact it might help to think about how "roomies" often do this and decide if that works for you. Chores that need to be considered are:

  • grocery shopping
  • cooking
  • laundry
  • meal clean-up
  • bathroom cleaning
  • floor cleaning
  • general tidying
  • finances (e.g., bill paying, bookkeeping)
  • child minding (and all that goes with this)

One option here is for each person to do their own work as if this were an out-of-house separation; splitting the load only for children and shared spaces. This may require deciding who gets to use which shared spaces at what time each day/during the week.

However, sometimes roommates "take turns" with certain tasks such as shopping, cooking and laundry. If this is something you would like to try, it's advisable to work out a schedule in advance. Likewise you can create a schedule for shared chores or you can each volunteer to take responsibility for certain types of jobs (e.g., he does the shopping, you do the cooking for you both, he does the after-meal clean up). If one person does the cooking for both, consider whether or not you're willing to eat in the same space, and if not, how you will work out who gets the usual dining space.

Finances: Just as with a therapeutic separation financial agreements should be negotiated ahead of time. Large expenditures, without the knowledge/agreement of the other party, are not recommended right now. As with other chores, bill paying (and possibly taxes/bookkeeping) should be split, or one party may volunteer to take this on. If one spouse is taking on some of this responsibility for the first time, the other should clearly communicate due dates, any current financial arrangements, etc. and should continue to forward all information pertinent to this job.

Communication: Couples need to work out how much, if any communicating, they would like to do during this time. Options include: minimal coversations on practical matters each day or every few days; minimal conversations and a daily check-in (often following a pre-determind format); he is allowed to initate conversations related to recovery, amends, deeper issues if he asks permission first; deeper level conversations are to be initiated by her only, etc.

If verbal communication is not desirable, consider email as a next best option, and use texting only as a last resort as texts are the most likely form of communication to be misconstrued.


Next week we'll look at the issues of communicating the separation to others, separation goals and "next steps".

This article was written by:
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Lisa Taylor

Lisa is a PSA trauma survivor, counselor and award-winning author living with her kids & recovering husband in New Zealand. She runs groups and sees international clients via Naked Truth Recovery.
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