Does Separation Work to Save a Marriage?
You’ve been married for 5, 10 or even 20 years and there are still many problems you face day in and day out in your marriage. You’ve made some sacrifices and promises, but you still feel like your marriage is just not working out.
You begin to wonder, should I take a break or should I break up with my spouse?
If only that decision was so easy.
First, let’s define separation. Separation is when you and your spouse are living apart but are still legally married.
There are three different kinds of separation: trial separation, permanent separation, and legal separation.
In this article, we will be referring to a trial separation.
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If you and your spouse need time away from each other, you may choose to live apart. During this time, you will eventually decide if you will divorce or reconcile the marriage.
No, I’m not talking about going on a two-week vacation with your best friends to Jamaica and returning with the same baggage you left with.
Here are some things to consider during a trial separation:
1. How long is a trial separation for?
You and your spouse should discuss how long you will be apart for. A trial separation should last anywhere between three and six months.
If you are separated for anything less than that, chances are, that wasn’t enough time for any marriage goals to be worked on and achieved.
Anything more than that increases your risk of not getting back together. You both will get used to your new life without each other.
2. Where will each spouse live?
Decide where each partner will live during the separation. Who’s staying in the current household? Who’s leaving and living in a different home?
What about the kids? Where will the kids live? Who will be responsible for the kids full time during the separation or will time be shared?
Make sure proper arrangements have been made before accommodations change.
Be sure to make financial preparations if additional costs are to be factored in during the separation.
Who will continue to pay the bills? How will both households be financially supported?
3. Set some goals
You and your spouse need to talk about “why” you are separating. What do you wish to achieve after the separation?
You shouldn’t pick your bags up and leave (with plans to work things out) and not communicate what you need to work on.
If you have no desire to return, that’s a different story– but you need to be honest with your spouse if you really do want a divorce rather than time apart.
A trial separation shouldn’t just become an additional vacation spot for a spouse. It is a temporary phase your marriage is going through, while working out your issues.
4. Lay down ground rules and boundaries
Set rules that each spouse must follow during the separation. These rules are important so that the trial separation runs smooth and effective as much as possible.
Can spouses visit each other anytime they want? Do they need to call first? Will you continue to be sexually intimate with one another during the separation (I would highly advise against this)?
When will you communicate with each other? Can you call or text anytime? Are you allowed to see the kids anytime?
What happens if someone breaks the rules? Discuss consequences if that happens.
5. Seek professional support
During a trial separation, it is important to get as much help as you can to work out your marital issues. If you already started sessions with a marriage counselor before your separation, be sure to continue with them.
A marriage counselor will provide couples therapy during the separation. The counselor will provide strategies for you to use during conflict, teaches coping skills, provides education, emotional support and much more.
Counseling can be very beneficial during a trial separation by increasing the chances of a reconciliation over a divorce.
The marriage counselor helps the couple to discuss their feelings openly and honestly preventing much argument and blame between the couple.
Each spouse should also consider seeing a counselor individually to work on self-issues that may have contributed to the separation of the marriage.
Continuing with couples therapy should also be a part of the discussion when talking about trial separation rules. Couples should agree to continue with sessions.
If one spouse does not continue with sessions, you should decide on consequences BEFORE the separation. Would the separation even be worth it if one partner is not willing to cooperate?
Things a trial separation is not:
~A trial separation is not an extended vacation for a spouse or both spouses (depends on how you look at it).
You should not want to escape from your spouse for a few days without working out your issues, just to come back and continue with the challenges.
A trial separation is a phase in your marriage with both partners acknowledging that they will work on the marriage with hopes of reconciliation over divorce.
If a spouse (or both spouses) wants a divorce, that should be communicated with a clear plan moving forward.
Some couples may be pass the point of a trial separation, and the best option is a divorce. This is a crucial point to consider during this phase in your marriage.
~A trial separation is not a way to escape during those tough marriage moments.
If your marriage is becoming toxic, moving out will not solve your issues. You should not use a trial separation as a time to “cool down” and call your spouse when you miss them or are ready to “talk”.
Using a trial separation as an escape route creates much confusion for your partner and does not help your marriage to become stronger.
If you continue to use a trial separation for a “time out” you will continue to have many problems in your marriage, but now you also have an added expense with an added household.
This just adds to the stress and unhappiness to your life.
If you need time away from your partner, do so the right way. Communicate with your partner as to why you need time away and commit to work on those issues when you are ready to talk (hopefully no more than a day or two).
There are ‘man caves’ and shopping malls to “cool down” if necessary.
~A trial separation is not something couples should be embarrassed about.
Just because you are not living with your spouse, this is not a sign of weakness, it is actually a sign of strength because you are willing to do whatever you can to save your marriage.
Remember, you are still working on your marriage during your separation. This is nothing to be ashamed of.
~All trial separations end in divorce.
This is not true in all cases. A trial separation allows the couple to spend time away working out issues, both individually and as a couple.
At the end of the trial separation, a couple will either move back in together with the tools and strategies needed to build a stronger marriage or the trial separation will show that it is the end of the road and a divorce is best.
How to rebuild your marriage during a separation?
Decide the length of the trial separation and where each spouse will live. Set your rules for the trial separation, and stick to them. Be sure to receive help from a marriage counselor to help with the reconciliation of your marriage.
During the trial separation, work on your marital issues, don’t use this time as an escape route or vacation time, and never feel ashamed that you are separated from your spouse.
So, deciding if you should take a break or break up is not an easy answer. If you think there is hope in your marriage but need to take a break, consider a trial separation.
A separation MAY work to save your marriage.
Have you taken a trial separation with your spouse? Did it work? What was the hardest part of the separation? We would love for you to share your experience with us.