A marital separation is the first step to divorce for some couples, while others use the time apart to define what they really want out of life and figure out how their spouse fits into that picture. If you'll use your separation period to determine whether you wish to stay married to your spouse, dating plays an important role. Just as when you were first dating, you're able to spend time with your partner in a neutral social setting. Unlike when you were first going out, it's important to define the way you date your spouse during a separation to avoid complications.
Define the nature of your separation. Knowing where the other party stands upfront is the key to successfully dating your spouse. If one or both of you plan to date other people, make sure to communicate this or you may end up running into your dates while out together, further deteriorating the situation.
Clarify the purpose of the date. No one benefits when your wife thinks dinner is a romantic overture and you just want to go over household maintenance due dates. Be open and honest about the nature of your dates, even when you know it will hurt your spouse.
Talk openly about the issues in your marriage. Dating during separation is not a time to sweep marital troubles under the rug. Rather than assigning blame for problems, discuss what went wrong and what each of you could have done differently (References 1).
Set physical boundaries. When dates with your estranged spouse go well, physical intimacy seems a natural progression. Decide before you begin dating your spouse if sex is on the table. Although it might make sense for a couple not contemplating divorce, a physical relationship with your wife when you know divorce is imminent will only cause emotional pain (References 3).
Understand the legal ramifications of your actions. While dating your spouse during separation does not restart the one-year divorce waiting period in North Carolina, as long as you don't move back in together, it can cause complications in other states (References 2). If you file for an at-fault divorce in your state, check with your lawyer before beginning a dating relationship. In some cases, dating your spouse can invalidate your grounds for divorce (References 3).
- Keep the lines of communication open while dating. If you reach a point where you know reconciliation is no longer an option, voice that to your spouse.
- Always discuss the implications of dating before beginning the relationship. Make sure your spouse knows that going on dates during your separation does not necessarily mean you'll reconcile.
- Never go on a date with your spouse during separation out of guilt. Trying to let him down gently by dating will backfire.