real life

The most controversial solution to saving a marriage.

Emma Thompson is a firm advocate of relationship sabbaticals.

Do you think that by taking a break from your ailing relationship, you can save it?

Recently, actress Emma Thompson revealed that she believes every married couple could benefit from a relationship break — so that when they come back together, they can love each other in a better way.

Speaking about her new movie, in which a couple takes a break from their relationship, Thomspon said the same could work for some couples:

“I wonder whether this isn’t the way forward for a lot of married couples? You look at it and think that maybe every marriage should have a kind of a sabbatical, that couples should be forced to take a break from each other every so often, if just for a year or so. It’s actually not a bad idea.

“You need to go off perhaps, although not to be with other people. I think that would make things very difficult: All that free love stuff has been tried and tested and doesn’t work and has been proven to make relationships very, very tricky. But I’m sure a sabbatical could work if it were done properly.”

Mink Elliott, a UK-based author, recently tested this theory, although not entirely willingly. Her husband Jon sprung his wish to separate on her one seemingly normal night, taking her completely by surprise.

“Jon’s bombshell was delivered on an otherwise ordinary Sunday evening in August 2012, as we settled down in front of the TV. ‘You know, we should make a plan for the next five years, decide what we want to be doing,’ I said, absent-mindedly. Jon exhaled, slowly, before replying: ‘Well, I think we should separate.’”

After many discussions, the couple worked out mutual living and custody arrangements and eventually went their separate ways.

At first, Mink found it hard to adjust. But after some time, she admitted that the separation of their lives actually strengthened them as a couple.

“The most annoying thing he said of all? ‘Maybe this could be the best thing to ever happen to us — it might make us stronger.’ Although my pride was too wounded to admit it for a long time, he was right.”

Yet here’s the thing — this is such a typical modern family scenario.

Life gets busy.

Once it was all about mini-breaks and shagging.

Now it’s about home insurance and cleaning catshit off the carpet. Is it any wonder the excitement nicks off?

In Mink’s situation, it was a standard case of relationship groundhog day:

“By the time Maxi was born, Jon and I had been together for almost 10 years — but we were steadily falling apart. We rarely had sex, and in many ways I felt like a single mother. We bickered about everything — from whose turn it was for a lie-in, to how many nights out is too many when you’re a new dad. We even argued about how often we argued. But more than anything, money. With none to my own name and no joint bank account, I had to send him the online supermarket order every week, so he could pay for it.”

Although it may not work for everyone, Mink Elliott says a trial separation saved her troubled marriage. After some soul-searching, they agreed on counselling.

“We started counselling and I told the counsellor how I had fallen for the way Jon used to make me laugh and feel loved, but now felt he’d become a childish, selfish, inconsiderate chauvinist. Jon, reluctant to bare his soul at first, declared that I had become a moaning control freak who could sap the joy out of any situation and no longer had any interest in sex. The counsellor said that we were a textbook couple. She said that most people — particularly women — change fundamentally once they have children and relationships are placed under never-before seen stresses and strains. Financial problems often lead to distance but it’s the lack of understanding of the other’s position that sends couples careering towards the divorce courts.”

Does this mean, however, that if you’re feeling this way in your own relationship, the only way to reignite the spark or to learn to appreciate and understand each other is to temporarily leave one another?

For Mink Elliott, the trial separation resulted in the regrouping of her relationship and the reunion of her family.

“Now, nearly two years on, we’re living under the same roof again — but as a fundamentally changed family. It’s still not perfect — what family is? — but it feels happier, stronger, more loving, somehow. I talk less and he listens more.”

So how do you keep the spark alive?

Bern Morley

Can you?

All I know is that there has to be a lot of give and take. That and the ability to fall in love over and over and over again.

And hey, I’m no expert, but from my experience and over 14 years of marriage, I can’t help but notice that all feelings are cyclical.

Couples go through phases. Ones when they can’t bear to be apart and others when, meh… they could literally take or leave one another.

I guess when the bad outweighs the good, then it’s time to reassess.

Have you ever taken a break from your relationship? Has it helped or hindered?

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