If you’re worried about your marriage but not sure if divorce is the right way forward, you might decide to try a trial separation. Sometimes a little time apart turns into the best way forward to heal your marriage. It’s not an easy path though, and here’s why.
Temporary separation brings up all kinds of emotions. It might not be divorce, but it feels a lot like it. Being apart from your spouse is both scary and exhilarating, which in itself causes a lot of doubt and guilt. Then there’s the practical aspect – will you keep living together? What about childcare? How will you know when the separation period is over and it’s time to make a decision?
For some married couples, a trial separation is a lifeline that lets them return to their marriage renewed and ready to make it work. For others, it gives them the confirmation they need that it’s time to let go. Whichever way it goes, separation is still a challenge.
Make your separation period as smooth as possible with our separation advice for married couples.
Agree on boundaries beforehand
Your trial separation will go a lot more smoothly if you and your spouse take the time to hash out the details beforehand. If you’re serious about trying a separation, then you need to figure out where you both stand.
Will you continue living together? What outcome are you both hoping for from your separation? What do you each need from it?
For some couples, separation will include living apart and even dating again. For others, that isn’t appropriate. Figure out together what separation looks like for your marriage.
Be careful who you tell
If you start telling people about your separation, you can bet everyone will have an opinion. It’s natural to tell some people you truly trust, but stay clear of making it public knowledge.
Keep your separation off social media and out of parties, get togethers and lazy coffee dates with friends. This is your time to figure out what you want and which path forward is best for you. Too much input from others can quickly cloud your judgment.
Build a support network
A good support network will make navigating your separation much easier. It’s important to be mindful of who you tell, but having a couple of close confidants is a good idea.
Let your closest friends or family know that you’re going through a rough time right now and could use a little support. Don’t be afraid to accept offers of help. Sometimes a little help or a listening ear is just what you need.
Take some time out
One of the main points of a separation is getting in touch with who you really are. Discovering who you are outside of your marriage is key to discovering who you want to be inside it, or whether you even want to continue with it.
Don’t pack your days with work or social events. Build in plenty of alone time to just be with you. Try out relaxing activities like yoga or meditation, or even arrange a weekend break to give yourself some thinking time.
Keep a journal
A journal will help you work through your feelings and thoughts as they arise. If you’re worried about privacy, try a private online journaling site (you’ll find a lot of them if you do a quick search).
Daily journaling helps you see how you really feel and is a useful tool for identifying and handling your feelings during your separation period.
Get professional help
Consider individual or couples therapy to support you during your separation. Sometimes your marriage can be saved, but only if you are both willing to work through the big issues.
Therapy helps you dig deep into your feelings and needs, and identify old hurts or issues that need attention. Going to therapy together might be just what you both need to move forward in a healthier way.
Try to be kind
Emotions run high during a separation. It’s natural to run the gamut of emotions from hurt to rage to jealousy, and sometimes you’ll want to lash out. Try not to, though. The more acrimonious your separation, the less likely it is to end in reconciliation.
Keep a check on your reactions and treat your partner with care and respect. You’re not each other’s enemy. That said, if they’re really pushing your buttons, take care of yourself by stepping away until things have calmed down.
Take your time (And let your partner take theirs)
It’s only natural to feel impatient during your separation. After all, you want to know what it’s going to mean for your marriage.
Rushing things won’t help in the long term, however. A separation needs to run its course. Take as long as you need to figure things out and let your partner do the same.
There’s no guarantee that a separation will end in reconciliation. Do your best to nurture yourself and get the help and support you need so that no matter what, you’ll make the best decision for your future.