Hands separating from each other, moving apart
(C) Love Matters | Rita Lino


Marriages don’t always have a smooth journey. Sometimes they go wrong. Every marriage has its own set of problems, which can arise from a wide range of issues.

The kinds of issues you face in a troubled marriage are often similar to the issues that arise in a bad relationship. To find out more about troubled relationships, read our section on relationship problems.

Do you feel like you’ve given your marriage all you’ve got? Do you see no light at the end of that proverbial tunnel? Have you brought up divorce with your spouse or have they threatened you with divorce?

Sometimes, even though you are arguing a lot and it seems like things are going from bad to worse, this needn’t be the end of your relationship. It might still be something you can both work on. But if living together is just making things worse, maybe the time has come to consider separation.

What is separation

You can decide to petition for a separation of a civil marriage, should things not be working out. However, you can only petition if you have been married for at least three years. Reasons for judicial separations can be, amongst others, adultery, cruelty to spouse or child ‘of the marriage’, deprivation, desertion, incarceration for life or over seven years, legal separation for at least two years, or ‘irretrievable breakdown’.

By law, you will still be married but legally separated.

In case you are legally separated, maintenances might need to be paid, as decided by a court of law.

If your marriage is a customary or religious one, these rules still apply. But the law also takes into account religious and customary law which in some cases includes rape, sexually deviant behaviour, or even conversion to a different religion as grounds for divorce.

Why do couples separate?

There are different reasons for couples to think about separation. Some people use the period of separation to step back and take a look at their relationship from a distance, some do it as a first step towards divorce, while others separate to make their marriage stronger.

There are enough examples of couples saving their marriage after separating and there are many cases where separations have led to divorce. Which way your relationship heads will depend on what you and your spouse want out of the time away from each other.

Considering separation?

It’s tough to tell when it’s the right time to consider separation. Marriage counsellors often complain that couples approach them for help when their relationship is beyond repair.

As soon as you start seeing what you think are irresolvable conflicts in your relationship, start paying attention to them.If you are unhappy in your relationship and are certain that spending time apart from each other will help, it’s time to share your thoughts with your spouse. Ask your spouse how he or she feels about the idea. Clarify what your intentions are for separation – the worst thing to do would be to mislead your spouse on what’s actually on your mind. Don’t let them have false hopes.

Finally, if you can, get a marriage counsellor to help you decide whether trial or legal separation works out the best for you. Here are some tips to help you through a separation period.

  • Set goals on what you want to achieve during this period. Give yourself some time, to think, to meet with different kinds of people, to focus on your work. Do you want to finally seek divorce? Do you want to make your marriage work? Or do you want to just evaluate your relationship before making any decisions?
  • Set a specific time period for your separation. Say six months or 12 months. Don’t extend it beyond a period of one year.
  • Take care of finances and logistics. Who’s going to move out? Who’s going to pay the rent and the bills? If you have children, where will they live and who will take care of their daily needs? Clarify these issues before you separate.
  • Are you allowed to date other people? Although this is a very uncomfortable talk for most people, it’s important you talk about it to make sure you are on the same page. Things only get worse if you do not talk about this in advance. If one of you thinks it’s a bad idea, shelve it.
  • Don’t involve your family and friends too much in your decision. It’s good to let them know but spare the details. Once you’re sure of what comes out of the separation period, you can tell them all that’s been on your mind. Until then, agree on how you’re going to break the news to those closest to you.
  • Maintain communication and constantly evaluate your goals. See where both of you have reached emotionally. What have you achieved of the goals you set?
  • Try to resolve the conflicts between the two of you through marital counselling. Whether you’re headed for divorce or are willing to get back together and make the marriage work, it’s important to get rid of baggage from the past.

Hopefully, the time you spend apart will help you make a decision on whether you’d like to get back together or file for divorce. If you do decide to get back together and make your marriage work, it might be worth thinking about marriage counselling to iron out issues that still need to be resolved.

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Recent Comments (26)

  1. My partner keeps texting his…
    My partner keeps texting his ex girlfriend. When I ask him he say she’s just a friend nothing more. I don’t trust him anymore.I tried to talk to him about what I feel but he keeps saying I should trust him.What do I do?

    1. (No subject)
      Hi Quinie,

      Keeping a relationship with an ex can get in the way of having great relationship. Perhaps your partner needs to know what his constant communication with his ex does to you and your relationship. If he is unwilling you will need to make a decision. To either accept this or move on. We wish you well.

  2. There is nothing there about…
    There is nothing there about trust anymore coz luv is blind soo yu just live the guy if he dont want to stop chrting with her ex

    1. (No subject)
      Thank you for your contribution Silas.

  3. U tried being nice to a guy…
    U tried being nice to a guy within a twinkle of an eye he did something u wouldn’t expect what will u do coming back to apologize will u consider his apology.

    1. (No subject)
      Hi Deborah,

      Different people will approach this differently, the important question is what are you going to do? Will you forgive him, can you trust him like you did before? Can things between you go back to what they used to be before…

      Think about these things and then make a decision based on how you feel.

  4. Hi! I have a girlfriend who…
    Hi! I have a girlfriend who we have dated for the last 10months… But now she is telling me that she wants to be alone so has to persue her education.. she is saying that her parents have desappointed herby not paying her school fees and she thinks she is nothing… And useless ……what should I do?

    1. Hi Peter, It is not clear…
      Hi Peter, It is not clear what she want to do or even how since her parents won’t pay her school how will she pursue her education… There could other underlying issues that may have led to the decision to break up with you. You could try and find out if there are underlying issues so that together you can address them. If she holds onto this decision you will have to respect her choice. We wish you well.

  5. We have been separated for…
    We have been separated for the last one year because my partner refused to change and take up his responsibilities in the relationship. He is now back claiming to have worked out his issues and wants us to get back together. My feelings for him have slowly been dying of. I was sooo patient with him over those three years and I just can’t bring myself to go back to him. A small part of me thinks he has learnt his lessons but another can’t bring me to trust him again what do I do? Do I trust him or just move on like I have in the last year?

    1. Hey Moureen, unfortunately…

      Hey Moureen, unfortunately this is a decision only you can make. Take sometime and think about whether you are willing to give your partner another chance, whether the issues that led to the break up have been fully addressed, if you are ready to trust him and trust that he has indeed changed. Think about this and make a decision that you will be happy with in the days to come. We wish you well.

  6. We need marriage counseling…
    We need marriage counseling is there a place you can recommend for us? Thank you.

  7. I am currently dlseparated…
    I am currently dlseparated from my husband who was abusive. I recently reconnected with my ex and though we moved on to other relationship we still have feelings for each other we plan to meet soon out of town and something may happen that I am not sure about I want.

    1. Hi there, so sorry about…

      Hi there, so sorry about what happened to your relationship. You did not say exactly what you think will happen but if you are uncomfortable about this thing that is likely to happen, then maybe you should not meet. It is important for you think about what relationship you want to have with your ex especially since you both moved on even though you are currently separated. Be honest with him about your concerns keep the relationship in a place that’s comfortable for you. Check out this article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/love-relationships/breaking-up/dealing-with-your-ex 

  8. How do you deal with a…
    How do you deal with a serial cheater? Does it at his earliest convenience all the time?

    1. Hi, if your partner cheats…

      Hi, if your partner cheats repeatedly even after you have talked about it, you may need to make a decision as to whether you are going to accept this behavior or break up and walk away from the relationship. Take sometime and think about what you want moving forward and then make a decision on how to proceed. Check out the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/love-relationships/breaking-up/knowing-when-to-break-up 

  9. My marriage is failing…
    My marriage is failing because I am not able to concieve. My husband has a child from a different relationship which means I am the problem. Please help me where I can find a solution. Thank you.

    1. Dear Roseline, so sorry…

      Dear Roseline, so sorry about this. If you have been trying to get pregnant for longer than 12 months, it is important that you seek the services of a Specialist Gynecologist. It can take upto 12 months to get pregnant. Seek the services the of a Gynecologist who may conduct tests and further advice you. Also, just because your husband has a child from a past relationship, doesn’t mean he does not have fertility issues. It will be a good thing if you both visited the doctor. Try talk to your husband so that together you can visit the specialist. Have a look at the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/before-pregnancy/getting-pregnant-dos-and-donts

  10. My partner has been having…
    My partner has been having some outrageous sexual demands of late he has suggested we try anal sex among the many things. I am worried is it that he is cheating or could he be gay kwanza with this anal sex thing? Please help.

    1. HI Carole, it is difficult…

      HI Carole, it is difficult to know if indeed your partner is cheating or he has just become sexually adventurous. It is a good thing that he is talking to you about what he wants and perhaps his fantasies. You do not have to agree to any of his suggestions if your are not comfortable. It is also important that you share with him what your concerns are with this changes he is suggesting. However, do remember, that sex becomes better when partners talk about it. Having said that, that he is asking that you explore anal sex does not mean that he is gay. Couples in heterosexual relationships can enjoy anal sex as well when they choose to. Do find a good time to share with him your concerns, remember not to accuse him a cheat but rather share your concerns about the different things he has suggested about your sex life. This will help you understand your partner better. In the mean time have a look at the following article for more information;- 



  11. I just discovered that my…
    I just discovered that my husband has been cheating. I don’t know what to do…

    1. Hey Claire, so sorry about…

      Hey Claire, so sorry about this. Have you talked with your husband about this? I know this can be a difficult conversation to have, but it may be important that you do talk to him to get to hear from him before making a decision. This way, you will at the least, give your relationship a chance. Check out the following article for more information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/love-relationships/relationship-problems/tips-to-recover-from-cheating-in-marriage

  12. Thanx alot 4 love matters am…
    Thanx alot 4 love matters am helped.

    1. Hello Virgt, we are so glad…

      Hello Virgt, we are so glad to hear this! Please feel free to go through the website to find other articles that could be of help to you.

  13. Please I need help, I got…
    Please I need help, I got married few months Is about 5 months now bt there this am not oky with talking about making love not unless I ask for it my husband have never talk about it and whenever I raise the topic he usually say he is tied, have his own issues ad it is making me uncomfortable, if it happens we make love he only have one shot and itx done…. what might be the problem?

  14. Hi Joy, thank you for…

    Hi Joy, thank you for reaching out to us and we are so sorry you are going through a hard time. It seems to us like his sexual performance may be what is stressing him and deterring him from wanting to have sex with you. It is completely normal for him to feel this way since all he wants to do is make you happy and feels that his performance is inadequate, hence is reluctant to have sex with you. If he is unable to last very long, this could be for one of 2 reasons: erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, or both.

    Premature Ejaculation is caused by a number of reasons including fear, anxiety, or even stress. The anxiety that one will not perform can make him ejaculate much earlier or stress from home or work. In other cases, particularly in young men, it could be the result of sexual inexperience, and so as the young man gets older he also gains more experience in controlling ejaculation.

    There are a few things you can do to improve control and last longer. In the short term, you can take short breaks during intercourse, you can also apply firm pressure underneath the penis during intercourse to push blood out of the penis hence decreasing sexual tension, distract yourself to think about other non-sexual things, or use penis desensitizers. Penis desensitizers come in the form of sprays and creams that can be applied on the penis minutes before intercourse and they help to delay ejaculation. Sometimes a condom can help reduce the sensitivity on the penis. 

    In the long term, one can ensure they eat healthily and avoid lots of processed foods, begin to exercise which improves blood flow in the body, reduce or eliminate the use of alcohol including smoking and more importantly reduce stress during intercourse. Foreplay will also play a critical role in preparing your partner and getting them closer to an orgasm.

    The following articles provide more information;-


    Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. Do not worry though, occasional ED isn’t uncommon. Many men experience it during times of stress. Frequent ED, however, can be a sign of health problems. It can also be a sign of emotional or relationship difficulties that may need to be addressed by a medical or psychological professional depending on what he believes might be the root cause. Please check out the link to this article for more information:

    Love Matters Team.

LoveMatters Africa

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