In case you haven’t been watching the news, celebrities Courtney Cox and David Arquette just announced that they have decided to do a Trial Separation... And their hope is that the separation could ultimately save their marriage and they will not have to resort to divorce. I’m happy that they decided to go that route instead of just throwing in the towel and heading right for divorce papers as so many other stars – and “average” people, do. Trial separations can actually be extremely helpful as it gives an opportunity to both the partners to experience the feelings of being separated, before making any final, permanent decision. Plus, it has the major advantage of being reversible!
The main purpose of a trial separation is to develop skills to resolve problems before moving back together, to reflect on and evaluate the relationship with a clear head, and to, hopefully, work on improving the relationship. It’s a great time to think, to analyze, to reflect calm down and cool off, without being in each others space or bickering. It offers the space to make thoughtful decisions and thus, potentially SAVE a marriage.
So yes, I am a fan of couples doing a separation first and I think it can definitely help save a marriage – but here are some rules and guidelines you want to follow in order to make the separation a successful and smooth one:
1. Talk with each other about your individual goals for the separation
Make sure you are honest and clear and are on the same page. Are you both committed to making it work? Are you both committed to putting IN the work in order to MAKE it work? What do both of you ideally want as a result of this?
2. Have a time-line for when to reconvene and decide which way you’ll go.
Don’t just let the separation drift into infinity. Typically 3, 6 or 9 months is a good time-frame to have your space and gives you enough time to evaluate the situation. The separation shouldn’t go longer than a year or else you’re really just fooling yourself and procrastinating the inevitable. After a year, it’s shit or get off the pot time.
3. Have RULES for the separation and make them clear!
Make sure they are mutually agreed upon. Will you be allowed to see other people during the separation? Allowed to sleep with others? Sleeping with each other?? What happens with the kids? Etc. The last thing you’d want is a “Friends” like scenario with one person thinking you’re allowed to see other people and one person oblivious.
4. Keep the Communication lines healthy and open.
Have regular ‘check-ins’ with each other, ideally on a bi-weekly basis. Don’t talk every day though, or else you won’t get the space you need to clearly evaluate things.
5. Start DATING each other again, at a distance first.
I would recommend taking the first month or two off completely to give each of you a chance to really have your space and think, but then gradually start ‘dating’ again, setting up ‘date nights’ with each other once a week or bi-weekly. It helps to rekindle the romance and see each other like you did when you first started dating.
6. Be HONEST with your feelings.
Now is not the time to hold back! Whether you realize just how much you really love him, or you realize that you actually do not want to work on the relationship and you do want to end it, you need to be honest and communicate.