Marriage Separation Guidelines

There comes a moment in some marriages when feelings can’t be unhurt, words can’t be unsaid, and hurtful acts be undone.

When love is lost and both parties need to find a better way to live their lives, separation is often the answer to the question- “What do we do now?”

Depending on what your separation will mean to your marriage, your course of action will vary. If you are approaching separation in a trial manner, you will make different decisions than someone who is using their separation as a step toward divorce.

There is no perfect solution when your marriage is holding on by a thread, but separation is at least a viable option.

Given that there is so much to think about apart from the torrential storm of emotions, it’s important that you at least know the basics. Read on to check out our guidelines to marriage separation:

Decide on living arrangements

If you and your spouse are choosing to part ways on a trial or permanent basis, you need to figure out each other’s living situation in a timely and respectful manner. Figure out where you will live and discuss how much access the other person will have to this residence.

Some couples separate on great terms, so sharing keys to the new residences isn’t too far-fetched. Other couples separate as their marital and friendly relationship goes up in flames. In that case, avoid giving each other a key, and just find safe shelter where you know you can get some peace.

No matter what you choose, finding a new apartment or house will be essential to letting your separation run its course. If you’ve seen the movie The Break Up with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, you have an idea of what could happen if two people chose to cohabitate after a separation or breakup. Give each other the necessary space to heal from whatever needs mending.

Make some general ground rules

Disagreements often boil down to one thing and one thing only: a miscommunication or a lack of expectations within the relationship. This may even be why you felt that the marriage was on the rocks in the first place. The best way to transition into a respectable separation is to be honest and upfront about the following:

  • How often you contact each other
  • What is the purpose of the separation? Do you need space or is this just preliminary as you both move toward divorce?
  • Who you are telling…and when
  • How long you are planning to stay separated
  • Dating other people or not?

Make some general ground rules

1. Contact

Will you cut off contact completely or stay in touch? This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but having some rules of engagement after you choose to part ways will be crucial for the health of the relationship, whether there’s hopes of rekindling or not. If this isn’t discussed, inevitably someone will reach out and the other won’t respond, leaving the person that reached out vulnerable and hurt. This will just wedge a greater divide between the two parties. Let each other know how often you want to talk and what should be expected as you step into separation.

2. What are you really doing it for?

Are you just taking time apart to let things cool down, or is your separation a clear stepping stone to divorce? If you and your partner aren’t on the same page here, things could get ugly. Make sure you sit down, talk it out, and really understand why this separation is happening. Don’t go into it thinking that it’s a temporary solution to your marital problems while your former spouse already has one foot out the door. Protect yourself and the state of your relationship by being as clear as possible from the beginning.

3. Who needs to know?

In today’s world of social media, where anyone can post anything at any time, you and your spouse should think about your level of privacy for your period of separation. Are you just going to tell your families? Are you going to tell anyone at all? These questions need to be answered before someone goes on Facebook and posts all about your marriage’s issues, who did what, who said what, etc.

4. What’s the timeline?

“Waiting to see what happens” is a bad plan. If you are entering into a separation with this mindset, it will defeat the whole purpose; especially if you’re hoping to get back together after some time apart. You shouldn’t put any ultimatums on the situation, just have an idea of how long you are both willing to be separated before taking action towards divorce or getting back together. Separation can become a marital purgatory if there isn’t a timeframe in which it is experimented with. You may separate, “wait to see what happens”, then not do anything about it for 5 years. Decide on the length of the separation before getting in too deep.

5. Dating other people?

Remember, any disagreement can be brought back to someone who didn’t meet an expectation of their partner (whether clearly stated or not). Although it will be difficult to discuss the idea of the two of you seeing other people, it’s necessary for maintaining a cordial relationship with the person you’ve separated from. Make your expectations clear and listen to your partner’s. Having these tough conversations now will lead to less headaches down the road.

Your relationship and circumstances are unique to you and your spouse, but these guidelines will serve you well as you wade through the murky waters of a separation.

Make your expectations clear, know what you want out of the separation, and know that you need to do what’s best for you