When someone hears that a couple, especially a married one, is taking a break, it is typically assumed that the ultimate outcome will be fatal. It seems there is no hope when a marriage couple has to take a break. However, stepping back and basically taking a mental vacation from all the issues could be a way to save your marriage. This seems promising with a national divorce rate of between 40 and 50 percent. Though no one technique will save every marriage, a temporary separation can create the space and time that a couple truly needs to evaluate issues. This can actually turn the tides on a rocky marriage.
If you are considering divorce, but are willing to start with separation, then assess the following areas to see if this is a realistic option.
Take time to check in with yourself and your partner to gauge burnout levels. If either of you are at the point of having nothing left to share, then take time to separate or consider it so that you can regroup and try again.
Reality vs. Hope
Sometimes when staring down a divorce the slightest hope of reconciliation may arise. This could be due to not wanting to be single again or not wanting to face the whole process of divorce, but if the slightest bit of hope is found then try a separation to see what can be learned and gained.
If you do decide on a trial separation then there are a few steps to take. Make sure that all details, as explained below, are decided and agreed upon before separating. Start by asking these questions:
- What will be the length of this separation?
- Which people, if any, will be told about the separation?
- What will be the primary form of contact during the separation? This may include phone, text, email, etc.
- If a social event has an invitation for both people, who will actually attend?
- How will the bills be paid and by whom? Will finances remain together or separate?
- If children are involved, who will care for them and pick them up at school?
- How will the children be informed of the separation?
- Which person is moving out and when this will happen?
- Will dating be allowed during the separation for both parties?
Each of these questions are emotionally charged and can bring about a range of responses. Seek therapy prior to making decisions and while separated to assure compliance and process emotions that may arise.
If you decide separation is an option then there are specific areas of focus that should be brought forth. These include:
- What could have been done by both individuals to specifically make the relationship stronger?
- What is necessary from the other person to actually move forward with the relationship?
- In order to make the relationship better, what are you now willing to try?
- What do you love about your partner that is now missed during the separation? Share these.
- Can you learn to be totally present for your partner when you are specifically spending time together?
- Are you willing to let your partners past mistakes ago and work toward starting over with a clean slate?
- If you do stay together, can you commit to a weekly date night?
- Can new forms of communication be established so the same thing does not happen again?
The basic rules of separation need to be tailored to each individual couple, but these are some good suggestions on where to start. Some suggest a six month separation, while others feel more or less is ideal. The same with dating, some feel this is necessary, other feel it should be avoided. Always seek therapy with someone you can trust and open up to in order to get through the issues that will arise. Though your partner may appear to be an enemy at the moment, know that there is still hope for connecting again if you are both willing to work on it.