The Lived Experience of Ambiguous Marital Separation: A Phenomenological Study.J Marital Fam Ther 2019JM
Researchers have long treated marital separation as a linear transition that inevitably leads to divorce. Popular sources suggest that some couples separate without clarity about how the separation will end, often to assess whether to divorce or stay married. However, to date, we could not locate any empirical research on this kind of ambiguous separation. With a sample of 20 currently separated persons from around the United States, this study employed a hermeneutic phenomenological design to inquire about the experience of separating from one's spouse when the separation was initiated without clarity about how it would end. Six essential themes emerged: (a) our relationship feels ambiguous, (b) separation is a private experience, (c) separation is a lonely experience, (d) benefits to separating, (e) separation is not sustainable, and (f) the outcome is unclear. The article concludes with a discussion of and implications for the study findings.