Most of us assume that married couples who decide to “take a break” from their relationships are simply pressing the ‘pause’ button on a pre-determined, fatal outcome. But what if stepping back and giving yourself a mental vacation was the thing that actually SAVED your marriage? With our national divorce rate averaging approximately fifty percent of all couples, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way out of this crisis? While there’s no one size fits all solution, separation can give couples time and space to evaluate a slew of vital issues that can turn the tide, reverse those choppy waters and replace it with smooth sailing ahead.
Take Mark and Jeanine for example (See Today show video clip below). Married 35 years, they found themselves angered, resentful and disconnected from one another. Despite these feelings, they chose a harder path and decided to separate instead of rushing to divorce. Mind you, they had no great hope of reconciliation. They even started discussing how the process of divorce would take shape, but amazingly, through the course of their separation, the reunion happened anyway. Over a period of 3 months, they rested, reflected and found themselves engaged and interested in their partner again. Why was it so successful? The couple took the time to communicate in a new way, focus on what they missed about each other and started dating one another again. They’ve now been married 42 years. Think this is a rare story? It’s not. That next happy couple could be you.
What you need to evaluate to determine if separation is right for you:
1. Burnout – Check in with both yourself and your partner to gauge your level of burnout. If one or both of you is at the point where you feel you have nothing left to give, it’s time to get creative and start talking about what a separation can do for each of you and what you hope to gain from it.
2. Hope & Reality – Do you have even the slightest grain of hope that you can work it out? Perhaps you are overwhelmed at the prospect of divorce and being single again? These factors are enough motivation to try a separation and see what you can accomplish in this new scenario.
If you’ve evaluated points 1 & 2 and answered “Yes” to both, here are some things to consider as you take steps towards a trial separation:
Flesh Out the Details and Agree to the Terms:
1. How long will the separation last?
2. Who will be told that you are separating?
3. How will you communicate during this period (Phone, email etc?)
4. Who will attend social events that you are both invited to?
5. Who will pay the bills?
6. Will you separate your finances?
7. Who will pick up the kids from school?
8. How will you tell the children?
9. Who will stay in the home and who will move out?
10.Will you both be allowed to date or will you abstain?