What exactly is marriage separation? The answer is not simple as with any other matter of love and relationships. In essence, it is the situation when spouses split, but they still don’t divorce. The nuances of the process are many. Starting from the big question – whether or not the separation will end in a divorce, to the minor details, such as who will pick up the next batch of dry cleaning.
So, what is separation in marriage? By most definitions, this refers to an arrangement in which a married couple is living apart and technically “not together,” but the marriage remains intact from a legal standpoint.
A marital separation may occur when a couple first determines they want to split and maintain separate households while the divorce proceedings occur in court.
In some types of marital separation, a couple may do a “trial run” in which they separate for some time to determine if divorce is what they want.
In all types of separation, the marriage is not officially over, as the divorce has not yet been granted. Still, the couple chooses to live separately, whether permanently or for some time, until they decide about the marriage’s future (or lack thereof).
What are the different types of marital separation?
There are different types of separation, and the exact definitions can vary by state.
In general, the following forms of marital separation are what you may encounter when deciding to end a marriage:
1. Trial separation
One of the different types of separation is a trial separation, in which a married couple agrees to live apart. At the same time, they decide to either reconcile and stay married or end the marriage permanently.
How trial separation works
During a trial separation, a married couple continues to be legally married, meaning they will still be joint owners of any marital property, such as a house or cars purchased during the marriage.
Income earned during the separation is still considered joint income, and in reality, the only thing that differentiates this from marriage is that the couple is living separately.
Benefits of trial separation
One of the key benefits of trial separation is that it allows a married couple to experience separate living. The couple will either find that they miss living together and want to reconcile or determine that they are happier without each other.
Another benefit of this type of marital separation is that it allows couples to separate without worrying about dividing their assets or going to court.
Dos & Don’ts of trial separation
One of the critical dos of a trial separation is agreeing and typing up an informal document to place the agreement in writing. It is good to document how you will handle finances and expenses and divide time with the children while separated.
One thing not to do during a trial separation is to treat it too casually. Entering the separation period and having no agreement about dividing finances and child-rearing responsibilities could lead to unclear boundaries or trouble down the road.
If a trial separation results in a couple deciding to remain apart and end the marriage, it might become a permanent separation.
This means that laws regarding property division begin to come into play, and debts that partners acquire individually once a permanent separation starts are the partner’s responsibility who takes on the debts instead of the couple’s responsibility together.
How permanent separation works
How permanent separation works is that after a trial separation, a couple determines that they no longer want to be married and will not reconcile the marriage.
At this point, they have transitioned from a trial separation to a permanent separation.
Benefits of permanent separation
A benefit of permanent separation is that it might mark the transition to divorce for couples who are not happy and wish to end their marriages. It also takes the pressure off partners to maintain joint finances or worry about what the other is incurring.
If you’ve entered a permanent separation, it is critically important that you establish the date the separation became permanent because the courts will use this data to determine when property division laws come into play.
It is also helpful to avoid going back and forth between permanent separation status and deciding to reconcile the marriage. This may make it difficult to determine when debts and assets are divided.
For instance, if you decide upon a permanent separation date and then move back together, your property is suddenly joint.
3. Legal separation
The last one of the different types of separation is legal separation, which occurs when a divorce has officially been filed in court. A couple is still legally married during this stage but lives separately and must follow the court’s orders.
How legal separation works
During a legal separation, while a couple is still legally married, they have a separation agreement that spells out stipulations related to child custody, division of property, resolution of marital debt, and other matters during a divorce.
These terms may change through divorce negotiations and court orders, but the couple must ultimately abide by the court’s orders.
What are the causes of marriage separation?
This separation came with rules, regulations, and discussed boundaries that both parties must comply with. This separation also provides space for both partners and increases their chances of reconciliation.
Here are some common reasons behind a marriage separation.
Most marriages end in separation due to a lack of loyalty and extra-marital affairs. The reasons why partners cheat on each other are not very dry as our anger makes us think.
Differences in sexual appetite, resentment, anger, and lack of emotional intimacy are why most partners cheat in their marriage. Infidelity often starts as an emotional dependency on someone other than your partner and then grows into a physical affair.
As the saying goes, money makes people funny, which is very accurate.
Everything regarding money can play a crucial role in breaking up marriage as different spending habits, different financial goals, and different pay rates may cause a power struggle between two people.
Even a lack of money can disrupt a happy household, and for many couples, it can be too much to handle.
Ineffective communication can affect all aspects of a relationship. On the other hand, assertive communication can lead to a strong marriage.
Yelling at your partner, making nasty comments, and not talking the whole day are unhealthy and weak modes of communication that couples must leave behind when married.
4. Constant bickering
Arguing and bickering about almost everything can make you tired of one another.
Quarreling about the chores, kids, and dinner can easily play a significant role in killing your relationship without you knowing. Most of the time, partners refuse to acknowledge the problem and instead bring up mistakes from the past to keep the fighting going.
Not taking care of your physical appearance can also be one of the primary reasons why people opt for separation.
This is why many married people end up cheating; when wives and husbands stop caring for themselves, their partners stop feeling attracted, leading them to look for attraction in the wrong place. The problem in physical appearance also gives birth to problems in intimacy.
6. High expectations
When in a marriage, you should understand that your partner is only human, and they can make mistakes.
Having impossible expectations will not make your married life difficult but will also lead to disappointment, and soon resentment will follow.
Having unrealistic expectations can put a lot of pressure and strain on your partner and set your partner up for failure in your eyes.
7. Weak intimacy
Being intimate is a necessity for a happy and fulfilled marriage.
Not feeling connected with your partner can ruin your relationship and make your partner feel like they are living with a roommate rather than a partner.
Intimacy is not only physical but also emotional; if you are not with your partner in their time of need, then it can easily lead to them opting for separation.
5 signs of marriage separation
Some people find it hard to accept that they are getting separated from their significant partner because they miss the early signs and don’t expect a separation.
The signs of marriage separation can be subtle and can go unnoticed. Here are some important signs of separation that can help you determine if you are heading towards separation or not.
1. Lack of communication
Most people forget that communication is the key ingredient in their relationship. A couple headed towards might stop communicating to avoid any arguments.
It might start with avoiding big fights and become a regular thing even for small arguments. Communication can break down entirely if both partners refuse to understand the point of view of their partner and invest in their relationship.
Respect is an integral part of a relationship. When anyone out of the couple starts disrespecting the other, it can lead to major issues than separation.
When a person practices ridicule, absence of empathy, and insensitivity, the other person feels sad, anger, and sometimes fear. These negative emotions create a distance that can be very hard to return.
A long break in physical intimacy is the biggest sign of marriage separation. A small bump or even a long stretch is okay. However, if you have passed the boundaries of temporary stretches, your marriage might be headed towards separation.
Resentment is one of the most dangerous signs of separation. If you or your partner feel resentful of anything and won’t talk it out, it can shake the foundation of your relationship.
When a couple stops forgiving each other and lets go of past issues, it becomes harder to revive the relationship. A relationship where forgiveness is not an option turns into a toxic one where one might experience hurt, disappointment, the feeling of betrayal, etc.
Rules of separation
When a person gets their driver’s license, they must obey the laws of the road. If the individual chooses not to follow the highway rules, they would be reminded by their friendly local justice department, which may include a fine. So what are the rules of separation?
The individuals within the marriage create and agree upon the rules of separation. Is there a golden standard? The answer is no. For example, the couple agrees they will not contact each other for two weeks during the separation.
However, when dealing with kids, as a couple, they may have to talk to each other on matters such as taking the kids to school, daily routines, and more.
If the couple cannot agree on the rules of separation, it will become a major barrier for them. But hope is not lost. Contacting a local marriage therapist can assist with this process.
However, this is presented at the beginning of creating and agreeing on the rules. A marriage therapist, clergy, or neutral individual defaults if the rules of separation cannot be agreed upon.
An element to assist the process of agreement is remembering what the purpose of separation is. It is not to end the marriage, and it’s a psychological and emotional break to regroup. Regrouping or returning to the marriage is a rule as well.
All the problems mentioned above are common problems that couples go through in their marriage. Even though they are problems that can lead to a separation, these problems can be solved and worked upon without making such a hard decision.
These problems can be seen as opportunities to learn, grow, and become better versions of yourself.
Smart couples know that marriage is a two-way street. For it to work, both partners need to give it time, space, and the love it requires. These issues can bring stress into your life, but it is up to you to understand how to deal with this stress.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.