Can a trial separation really help your marriage?

Many people are faced with the idea of ​​a trial marital separation. Many of them do not want the separation or are very reluctant to it. However, your reluctance is unfortunately met with a spouse who is sure that the separation could actually benefit or help their marriage. Understandably, many spouses are reluctant to believe this and worry that their spouse has an ulterior motive. For example, a wife might say, “My husband has been talking about a trial separation for about four months. Last weekend, he actually looked at apartments. I’m starting to realize this is really going to happen. I’m so worried we’ll end up divorced. But when I raise these concerns with my husband, he acts like this is actually going to help our marriage. He describes the whole thing as simply, ‘slowing down to catch our breath and to improve our marriage “. Frankly, I think this could all be a pose. Sometimes I feel like he is just trying to get me to accept the separation so he can divorce me. Or at least so he can experiment with being single to see if he really wants a divorce. I want to give him the benefit of trying to believe what he says, but it’s hard. Does his argument have merit? Can trial separations really help or improve your marriage?”

I think, under the right circumstances, they can sometimes help. I have definitely seen some marriages helped during a trial separation, but I have seen many marriages that have been damaged by the separation (or even ended because of it). I do notice trends in both groups. So, next, I’ll go over some common denominators of couples whose marriage is actually helped by separation.

help when you have a plan: Without a doubt, the marriages that I see most harmed by the trial separation are those in which the decision has been made in a hurry and in the height of emotion. This happens when there’s been a big fight or things have gotten so bad that one or both people just give up and walk away for a while. While this can be understandable, it can also be harmful. Generally, these people do not have any plans. They just want a break.

The problem is that without a plan, the marriage and/or reconciliation just boils over. Both people may be waiting for the other to make the first move or take the initiative and then things get awkward. So, after a while, the couple not only do not get along, but they have difficulties in communicating, so the problems with the marriage only worsen.

If you absolutely can’t avoid the breakup, then make it work in your favor. Have a very detailed and methodical plan. Find a counselor and schedule appointments in advance. Do not leave anything to chance. Having to meet regularly for counseling will help avoid many of the pitfalls couples who don’t have a plan fall into.

It helps when both people agree to make a good faith effort.: When people leave their marriages because of a separation and indicate that they are going to “see” or “measure” how they feel during it, that is always a concern. In some cases, they actually end up missing their spouse, so things work out to the benefit of their marriage. But in other cases, they simply separate. In my observation, a trial separation works best when both people can say, “listen, we really want to stay married so we’re going to come together regularly with that shared goal. But right now, we’re just going to take a pause.” When you approach it from this angle, you have made an agreement that you will work together to keep your family intact if possible. When you make this commitment, it drives the actions you take and the behaviors you adopt during your separation for a much better outcome.

It helps to agree to check in regularly and work to improve: Continuing from the above, when you are both committed to improving the marriage, the natural progression for this is to regularly check in with each other and honestly discuss what has and has not worked. This allows you to stop whatever is making the marriage sour and continue (and hopefully increase) what is actually making things better. It’s very helpful to be open about this because what works for you (and what you think works) may be very different from her husband’s perceptions of her. Anything you can do to put these things on the table and be honest about it makes a successful reconciliation that much more likely.

Couples who learn from separation can have stronger marriages: When I hear from couples who tell me that their marriage is better after separation, most admit that the separation made them appreciate their spouse more. When they were alone, they often realized how much they took their spouse for granted or how much comfort their spouse’s presence brought them. These ideas can increase feelings of intimacy and allow for an “us against the world” feeling that can actually improve your marriage. Because you don’t want to be separated again, you are more likely to address issues as they arise and fight very hard to make your marriage work.

To answer the original question, with intent, separation can improve some marriages. You have a much better chance of achieving this if you have a plan, are committed to communicating and checking in regularly, and are committed to putting in a lot of effort to make clear improvements. However, if you simply “wait and see” what happens and don’t communicate regularly or work to make things better, sometimes the separation will make the marriage worse and contribute to divorce.

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