Your Marriage in Trouble – Is a Trial Separation the Way to Go?
Your relationship has gotten so bad that you are talking about divorce – when you are talking at all. Should you consider a trial separation? Why and why not.
A trial separation is a huge step to take – an acknowledgement that your marriage is on the brink of collapse – a public statement of your situation that can no longer be hidden from your children, family, and friends. Choosing to live apart for a time is not an action to be undertaken lightly – but neither is divorce.
When a trial separation is probably a poor choice:
1. You are both sure that you want the marriage to work and are committed to making changes to create a better relationship. If you are not actively considering divorce, don’t consider a trial separation either – regardless of your day-to-day conflicts.
2. One or both of you are sure that you want a divorce. A workable trial separation requires both parties to be in civil communication, and to agree that there is some possibility for the future of the relationship. If either your partner or you knows they want a divorce, a “trial separation” would be a painful farce.
3. Something unacceptable has occurred in your relationship. Physical violence or threats of violence are always unacceptable. You may or may not also consider adultery or other behaviors unacceptable.
4. One or both of you intends to date or have sex with someone else during the “trial separation” period. If either of you desires to be intimate outside the relationship, just get the divorce and be done with it.
5. Either of you is sure that the other is 100% to blame for your difficulties. Reconciliation – whether through a trial separation or otherwise – requires YOU to change. If you are unwilling to consider making changes, file for divorce now.
A trial separation is likely to produce a good outcome when you and your partner agree that either reconciliation or divorce are possible and acceptable outcomes of your current difficulties. Both of you understand that the purpose of a trial separation is to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion about the viability of your marriage.
A trial separation has NOT failed if you both end up amicably agreeing to divorce. A trial separation is a time to weigh both options – without attachment to either.
The benefits of a trial separation are the opportunity to:
1. Eliminate co-dependence. Spending time away from your partner, provides each of you with the space to develop self-assurance and minimize neediness.
2. Develop self-responsibility. When there is no one else to blame, life looks different, and provides an opening to become more aware and responsible.
3. Explore new interests. Develop new hobbies. Join affinity groups. Try a photography group or a book club.
4. Experience a relatively stress-free cooling-off period and gain a more detached perspective.
5. Minimize the stress on your young children. While some experts would argue that having one parent move out of the home increases the stress on children, I believe that the benefit of no longer seeing Mommy and Daddy fighting far outweighs any negative effects.
If you do opt for a trial separation, it is important to:
1. Deepen your support system. Share yourself even more deeply with those who know and love you.
2. Become more introspective about your situation. Keep a daily journal. Consider what you like about yourself and your life. Consider what you would like to change about yourself, as well as your relationship.