How to Handle a Marriage Separation

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If you're experiencing a difficult time in your marriage, you and your spouse might decide that you need to separate for awhile to clear your minds and consider your situation without the daily stress of living together. The time you live apart can help you gain the fresh perspective you need to determine whether you want to stay married or move toward a divorce.

Establish Ground Rules

Before you decide to separate from your spouse, you should establish some rules and boundaries for your period of separation. You should determine things like where you both will live, how you will handle your relationships with the kids, if you will date other people, what will happen in the event of any family emergencies and if the two of you will seek therapy. Discussing these issues ahead of time will help prepare you for the separation and for situations that might arise during it.

Get a Third Party Involved

You might also wish to consider seeking the advice of a neutral third party. A third party can offer another perspective on your relationship as well as provide support and understanding during this vulnerable time in your marriage. A therapist, rabbi, clergy member, mediator or lawyer might serve as this third party, says Susan Pease Gadoua, a licensed clinical social worker and author of "Contemplating Divorce." He or she could help you resolve your relationship issues or offer support if you are not interested in reconciliation.

Maintain a Degree of Communication

Although you might be tempted to shut off all communication with your spouse during your separation, keep in mind that having no contact at all for a period of time could begin to hurt your marriage connection. If you want to keep reconciliation as an option, you should consider maintaining some type of a connection. For example, you could talk on the phone a few times a week or meet for coffee. The way you communicate and the frequency of communication should be agreeable to both of you. If either you or your spouse is reluctant to continue communication and prefers to be alone, you might both decide that it's best to make the separation permanent.

Take Your Time

Take the time you need to determine your next step. Resist outside pressure from friends or family to either get back together or divorce. And do not pressure your spouse to reconcile if he or she is not ready. Come up with a list of the pros and cons of reconciliation and divorce. Considering all your options can give you the clarity and perspective you need to make a well-informed decision regarding your relationship.