“We need time apart to heal.”
Unless safety is at issue, I am generally not a fan of “voluntary” separations. This is doubly so when the separation idea is floated by someone known to have cheated either emotionally or physically.
NOT. A. Good. Idea.
Such a period of separation puts extreme pressure on a couple’s ability to remain faithful to each other (see I Corinthians 7:5). If one partner has already demonstrated his or her preferred way of dealing with relationship stress is to find a third party and engage in some form of illicit relationship, then it is highly unlikely this separation will result in healing and restoration in the marriage.
What really is happening is that the cheater is trying to gain distance away from any real accountability. She is pushing people away who might call her on her morally questionable behavior.
Specifically, the cheater is neutralizing the most natural check on her by physically moving away from her husband’s “eyes” and ability to know the cheater’s coming and goings with relative ease. She is putting physical distance between herself and the one person who stands the most to loose by her filling that “void” with a third romantic party.
Plus, this excuse sounds reasonable and downright noble at face value:
What cold-hearted being would want to deny someone the ability to heal?!
The problem is that this motivation for the separation is a lie–either knowingly or unknowingly. When I say, “unknowingly,” I mean the spouse believes his/her own excuse on the matter and totally downplays the real relationship danger the separation is creating. The “unknowing” spouse is really not even being truthful to herself in other words.
The cheating spouse may suggest such a separation to ease his or her way out of the marriage relationship. It may help them preserve their “happily married” image–for all those still unaware of the separation–while cheating without accountability or real consequences. This is a lazy, coward’s move, in my opinion.
Either decide to stay to work on the marriage or file for divorce!
That decisions seems the least an honest and honorable spouse owes to his/her partner. But sadly, a cheater is neither honest or honorable. So, beware of this tactic!
Spiritual retreats or even brief breaks in a relationship interaction can be positive even in marriage. The Apostle Paul acknowledges as much in I Corinthians 7:5. However, the emphasis for those being healthy breaks for the marriage is that they are (1) mutually agreed upon for (2) a higher good of focusing in prayer to God.
In my experience, most suggested “breaks” from a cheater are (1) unilaterally decided. Plus, (2) they are certainly not serving the higher purpose of prayer and honoring God!