Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D.

Separation Counseling 





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Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D. MFT  


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You are driving me nuts! I can't stand it. Every time that I try to get close to you, you push me away. What is this … a course in separation? First, you abuse me and accuse me of all kinds of crazy things. I'm tired of trying to explain to you and other people that I am innocent. Oh, you want to fight, don't you? Every time I talk to you, it ends up in some kind of big argument. You kick me out, then you invite me back in. What am I … a YO YO?"

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The Need...

Why Separation Counseling?

Perhaps you don't know this, but some of the most difficult types of couples to treat in marriage counseling are those who continually trade angry verbal and behavioral punches with one another. These individuals are addicted to a separation/get back together again, primitive gratification process. This “tit for tat” verbal warfare maintains a kind of dysfunctional balance in an otherwise unsatisfying relationship. If you are one of those individuals caught in a revolving door, get away from me pattern/let's get back together again relationship, you may be fed up with this “follow the bouncing ball” situation.


Maybe there isn't enough to your life that you can feel good about, but you certainly have enough energy to invest in the world of struggling complaints. If you're spinning your wheels and getting nowhere, I have a respectful approach to the problem of separation. I understand that you and your AO [alienated other] are very bright people. But, when it comes to this emotional ping pong game, neither you nor your partner seem to be able to solve your problems in an intelligent manner. Respectful unconditional regard seems to go out the window when high emotional reactivity takes a hold of your relationship.


Well, the good news is that there is a much better and more successful way of counseling distressed couples who just can't separate or get back together again. Older methods of counseling people with separation problems seem to follow the session by session empathic listening, and problem solving approach with very negligible progress for the relationship. Therapy may do a lot of good for individual growth, but it doesn't get anywhere when couples are swinging back and forth at each other. The most brilliant therapist eventually gets all caught up in the whirlwind of "get away from me/come closer" patterns of relating. It takes a lot of chutzpah to step outside of your situation and say, "Hold it! This isn't working. We are just slamming each other around and spinning our wheels." The result is that you get all caught up in becoming an expert in serial complaining.

How to Start...

Start with the Basics

  • No 1:  Drop all kinds of judgments/beliefs that togetherness is the preferred way of being in a relationship. If that were true, why are there so many miserable couples who are together and not getting their real needs satisfied? And why are there so many couples that seem to have reached an ideal together state, only to find themselves on the bottom of the divorce heap at some point in their relationship.
  • No 2:  Forget that separateness is such a bad thing. How did the idea of separateness ever get such a bad rap in our collective unconscious anyway? From what I understand, Jesus never got together with a woman and his separateness certainly produced some extraordinary states of consciousness. Maybe we have been conditioned from the first man, Adam, who complained to God that he was alone. After all, God himself is One and One alone. He didn't do so bad. Besides, it only took a few paragraphs in Genesis for Adam and Eve, in their togetherness, to mess up royally. Maybe, we are still paying the price for so much dysfunctional togetherness. 

So, you ask what has this got to do with you. I'll tell you. If you have been in a relationship where you are separating repeatedly and not getting anything beneficial out of it, then you are doing something wrong. The mistake here is in constantly trying to get back together again. Your brain is telling you that separateness is bad and only togetherness is good. Well, you forgot to look at one little demon that operates in your separation/get together again operations. That demon is named, "Emotional Over Reactivity." What the hell happened to reasoning?


I forgot to mention one other evil spirit named, "Acting Out." Yes, there's all that righteous anger and justification for perpetuating pathological and immature behavior. But, who cares, let's get back together! After all, it only seems natural to want to get back together again with your beloved pain in the butt. However, the automatic flight into togetherness may be one of the most ineffective strategies in a world starving for effective solutions.


It has to be very painful to accept the notion that your Irrational emotional responses are pushing you back together again before you accomplish the tasks of a therapeutic separation process. If you are getting the picture here, you may begin to realize that you'll have to go against the togetherness mentality that erroneously suggests, "you and your partner should always be happy when you are together." What if I were to tell you that getting back together again too soon will probably be a disaster. Think about that! Check out your past experiences and track record when you and your partner have repeatedly tried to get back together again before the real issues have been resolved.


Perhaps, you have some mistaken notion that if you get back together again, you will be able to resolve your global conflict. I don't think so. This is one illusion that you may have to learn the hard way to drop. If you don't believe me, check out your past relationships where all attempts to get back together again, without resolution, led to dissolution.

  • No 3: Learn to do the necessary self work. In my system of Successful Separation Coaching, you learn to pay attention to the differences between you and your partner during the alone time that you spend separated from one another. You'll also learn how to do the necessary self work to determine how you can be in each other's presence without feeling the need to split for safer ground. 

When a marriage hits the fan, a transference/countertransference takes place between the warring partners and is usually undetected. The separating partners are locked into a battle that has its roots in unresolved childhood pain. The ''get away from me/let's get together again" pattern obscures and distracts the warring partners from the real underlying issues. They are so busy pushing and pulling each other in different directions that they neglect to work the deep underlying feelings and the spiritual issues that plague their relationship.


When a safe and secure, uninterrupted separation program has been instituted, the partners are then free to work through the repressed emotions that are the real problems in their relationship. It is also during this time, that they can benefit from counseling in intensive relationship building skills. By getting down to each partner's bottom line without the distraction of the "Separate/Come back together again” pattern, this program allows them time to eliminate the emotional junk and unwanted/unneeded love killing behaviors that they bring with them into the relationship.


This program necessitates the enforcement of complete separation, without any type of contact for a period of at least three months. Then a six-week partial contact program can be instituted based on the successful assessment of achievement of targeted goals. This program is so structured that it does not allow for any contact of any sort for that designated period of time. This intensive self work program is based on deep self and relationship exploration, without any distractions or "In/out," manipulations. The separation period is meant for deep personal work devoid of any efforts by the warring parties to hold onto or push away each other.


The time must be spent alone working on the self emotionally, while deeply exploring personal contributions to the relationship destruction. This separation period is aimed at exploring and changing the self and modifying personal goals in concert with what is significant in one's life. This very important separation experience allows the individual to search and solidify, "What do I really want and need in my life and what am I willing to do to achieve what is right for me?" It also asks the very important question, "Do I really want to be married to this person and does this person want and need to be married to me?" I might add that this separation process also offers the opportunity to learn what constitutes effective relationship and marriage building strategies.

The Basic Program...

The Three Month Intensive Plan

The entire plan is explained to you, based on the idea that you can learn about yourself and what works for you. In order for it to work, the plan only requires that one spouse agrees to participate. This paper and other reading materials are given to you. But, the exact plan is not described in this paper. The program requires a commitment to do the work and accomplish the appropriate changes. I'll explain the reasons why the two of you need a very solid block of time and space to exist between you, without any interruption whatsoever.


You will need to strictly adhere to the rule that there is absolutely no reason for the two of you to see one another, talk to each other on the telephone, exchange any kind of messages, visit one another or any other type of contact. Any violation of the command to separate completely will render the program unsuccessful because you have submitted to your own reactions. In that case, you will have to suffer inevitable consequences which usually leads to failure to resolve. All arrangements can be made without the two of you ever having to make contact with one another. Lawyers may be the only ones who can handle these contact matters. If you do not adhere to this program you can expect complete failure and the probability of divorce.


If for any reason you cannot or will not read the appropriate materials, I will teach and coach you on one or two principles at a time. You'll be required to spend about half an hour a day alone, without any distractions, doing the necessary self work and going through a retraining process. You may have to spend more than a half hour a day. You'll have to ask yourself how much time am I worth spending on, each day. You will be with you and your partner will not, at least in the physical sense. There cannot be any deviation or distraction from the absolute requirement of spending uninterrupted, undivided attention time with your self, every single day. This time will be spent in some sort of prescribed and evaluated method of self exploration, problem solving and introspection. You'll probably find yourself involved with methods and techniques that are unfamiliar. But, you will be required to master these experiential methods and the learning materials that accompany them.


You will have to get used to the idea that you may be spending considerable time on the floor, discovering appropriate positions that will allow you to gain access to the necessary altered states that bring about your transformation and the rehabilitation of your relationship life. You will have only you to deal with and how you can make your life, including your marriage, much better. This is a period of moving out, on an up. The old will have to give way to the new and your alone time will be your most precious currency.


There'll be certain binding rules aimed at ceasing and desisting from certain outside relationships during this very important therapeutic separation. This total separation will require abstinence from all other sexual experiences, dates, rendezvous or any other activities that distract from the task and purpose of this intensive therapeutic experience. You will need to see this experience as a Three Month Intensive Therapy Block or Module for Change.

Breakups and Emotional Pain...

Dealing with the Pain

I fully understand that you are going through enormous pain with the on-again/off-again nature of your most important relationship. I also understand that there are huge differences in the way that most people deal with their pain. Some people are suited for a more experiential, feeling approach. Others may have an affinity for cognitive/behavioral strategies. Also, I would not want to forget the spiritual element that is usually a part of your separation process. One thing is for certain, you will learn a great deal through your Three Month Intensive.


A thorough assessment will be made of your therapeutic style and a well-fitted plan will be designed for where you are at during this time in your life. You and your partner may require different styles for dealing with your emotional pain. I have found that an integrated, combined approach may be the best way to go, based on your internal healing model. You will not be made to fit into any prescribed method unless you feel it is suitable for you. You can be assured that all available reading materials will be suggested to you, in order for you to make an informed choice. Otherwise, I will explain the different methods and options that you may wish to explore and utilize.


I will only be too happy to explain the different therapeutic technologies that are available, so that you can pick what feels right to you. Remember, these are your feelings and your pain will constitute a major focus for your concerns. This may be a time of great emotional pain for you. But, this separation experience will definitely teach you how to embrace and work your pain in order to achieve your maximum personal development.

PsychotherapyHELP Home  |  Dr. Paul Hannig  |  Hypnosis: Beyond Therapy  |  Teletherapy: Telephone & Skype Video Sessions  |  E-Therapy  |  Deep Feeling Therapy  |  Music in Therapy  |  Separation Counseling  |  The Love Program  |  Ecstatic Meditations  |  Power of Prayer/Psycho-Spiritual Therapy  |  ONLINE STORE: Manuals, Books & E-Books  |  ONLINE STORE: Media Programs  |  Mail Order Form  |  Mood, Anxiety, & Personality Disorders  |  Feeling Therapy Articles  |  FREE Articles  |  FREE Manual Excerpts  |  Newsletters  |  Online Tests  |  Web Links  |  Addictions  |  Soulmates from Hell  |  Soul Mating  |  Managing Your Anger - NEW!  |  Depression  |  Secrets of Success  |  Dealing with Time Bandits  |  Reinvent Yourself!  |  Catching Yourself  |  Married People - Unmarried Minds  |  The Power to Convince  |  Daily Thoughts  |  People Are Saying...  |  Subscribe to our Mailing List!  |  Initial Intake Form  |  Therapy Guidelines & Confidentiality  |  Contact Us!

Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D MFT w PsychotherapyHELP

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