All I can say is... separating while working on your marriage is lonely. Because you aren't free to move on.
Deciding to divorce because it's done sets you free. Not so lonely.
That is true. I imagine it would have been different if I separated with the intention of divorce. I don't know if it would have made it any easier to make new friends but at least the dating potential would have been there.
Not sure I could have dated right away though; I wasn't in a good place. I felt like I had failed and becoming a part-time dad to my beautiful girls was VERY hard. When I decided to separate, I found myself crying while driving so many times at the thought of breaking up the family. I had the feeling that separating was both the right thing to do for my daughters and the wrong thing ... at the same time. In the end, it turned out to be the right decision for a few reasons:
1) She was homeschooling the girls and doing an incredibly bad job of it. She spent more time socializing than teaching the girls. She did nothing and the girls were paying the price. As a result, I wanted them in school and she refused. During the separation, we put them in a school that is part-time home school and part time classroom. They thrived and it was at that time as she was sobbing she admitted that she had made a mistake and school was the right thing for them. They are now in full-time school. That was a huge motivating factor for me to separate and a result of the 180. Both my girls are now honor roll students and love going to school.
2) There was so much tension in the house. A lot of built up resentment and anger. That couldn't be dispelled under the same roof. The girls saw that and I had to ask myself if I was doing them any favors by trying to work this out in the home. With the exception of a schedule for my girls and some financial things, I went into NC for the first month. I told her that after one month, I wanted to attend MC. When we moved back in, the tension and resentment was gone even if not all of our problems were resolved. We are able to live together peacefully even though I know we are both unhappy.
3) My SAHM wife was doing nothing prior to the separation. Nothing. She was socializing with her church friends and that was it. The house was always a disaster. I did everything. We hadn't even had sex for about 3 and a half years. Our connection was gone. She had spiraled into one of her depressions that she has struggled with all her life. It was unbearable and I felt completely taken advantage of and disrespected. While I still do much of the work around the house now, she is better. The big thing ... and I'm really proud of her for doing this ... is that she has decided to start working again but in a different career. She is going back to school to become certified for teaching. It is an accelerated 9 month program and she is rocking it out. She was meant to do that. It is a night and day difference. That wouldn't have happened without the separation.
I have to be careful about dating if a divorce was to happen. I certainly don't think introducing somebody else into my girls life is healthy at all. I will have to take that slowly and one thing is certain: I would be very careful about making sure the person I'm dating is someone I want in my girls life and who would want to be in their life. For our differences, my wife is a very good mother; I would not be looking for somebody to replace her in that role but I would look for someone who could be a positive influence on them as a woman. So many women out there don't meet that criteria.
There was a point about 7 months into it that I had all but given up and was talking to attorneys. That was a liberating moment. I did start dating at that time ... something that I have mixed feelings about but I am all but certain she was at the same place. I have never cheated on her and never will ... even so, some may call it cheating (technically it is) ... my only defense is that at that time I had told her I was going to file. It was all but a done deal and I didn't do that so I could start dating. It's where my head was at. That time period is something we don't talk about. I don't think she wants to hear about it and I don't think she wants to tell me about what was going on with her (I have evidence that she was dating too) I started to broach the subject one day but she immediately changed topics. It is what it is and I probably don't want to know about it either. I hesitated on filing for a number of practical reasons. Then about 10 months into it I realized that for those same reasons, there were signs that she was going to make this very difficult. I stopped dating with the possibility that we might not divorce. That was a good decision. She asked me why I hadn't filed yet and I explained it to her. We eventually agreed to move back in together, mostly due to financial concerns. Halfway through the week before we were supposed to move back in ... she announced that she was moving to Texas to live with her mother and taking the kids with her. She gave me a two-day notice. I talked to the attorney and there was nothing I could do on such short notice to stop her. I felt like I had no choice but to essentially beg her to reconsider and commit myself to R. My daughters mean everything to me; we are very close. I am extremely skeptical that this was a scripted move based on advice given to her; but I am also certain she was willing to see it through.
It's interesting, before writing this I had just gotten back from grocery shopping. On a side note, yes I still do all the grocery shopping ... but what has changed is that now she actually helps me put them away, lol. Anyway, I was at checkout and turn around and there is one of my former friends who dropped me like a rock when I separated. His wife is a religious fundamentalist and believes in marriage for life no matter what. They are extremely judgmental and wanted to have nothing to do with me. Seeing him and making small talk was ... tense. He made a few remarks that I don't think he meant as condescending but I could tell where his head was at. Lovely.
Anyway, there are a lot of challenges with separation and divorce. We might be able to work this out but there are times when I contemplate the logistics of divorce. It is daunting to me to go through that initial loneliness and I was curious if anyone else had felt that way and what steps they took to cope with it.