A trial separation is typically initiated by a married couple that is trying to decide whether or not to divorce. A couple that is experiencing marriage problems can separate on a temporary basis in order to take a break from marital conflict and spend time considering if they need to live apart permanently. Separation is not usually the first step in attempting to repair a marriage. Couples often choose to seek counseling first. Trial separation is a last resort in determining whether or not you and your spouse wish to remain married.
Trial separation can have a couple of major effects on a marriage. It may show the individuals that they are happier not being with their spouses. Likewise, a temporary marriage separation can clarify to the spouses how much they love and miss being with one another on a daily basis.
It is important to keep in mind that one spouse who already desires a divorce may use a trial separation as a means to let the other spouse down easily. You may not have any indication that he intends to go ahead with a divorce once the separation has taken place. If your spouse has requested a trial separation from you, it is a good idea to ask that he sit down and have a long talk with you in order to figure out what is really going on. If your spouse does not wish to save the marriage in the long run, separating may only draw out the process and make it more painful for all involved, especially if there are children involved.
When a marriage is in trouble it is difficult to sort through all of the emotional and practical issues, especially when the couple is constantly in conflict. Trying to solve complex marital problems under the strain of living every day with the other person can make it harder to view the marriage issues objectively. By engaging in a trial separation, each spouse can clear their head and think through the problems in peace, which also makes it easier and calmer to discuss the marital issues when the couple does get together to talk.
Andrew Rusbatch, who together with Amy Waterman authored the book "Save My Marriage Today," advises that the key to success in a trial separation are setting clear terms and rules for the separation. Mr. Rusbatch also states that a spouse should pay attention to red flags such as constant thoughts of leaving the marriage and a lack of resolution to major continuing arguments.
Have a plan in place if you and your spouse decide to embark on a trial separation. Without a clear idea of what both partners expect out of the separation, it is likely to fail in helping the relationship. Agree on how long you will take to decide whether to get back together, set up counseling services and schedule regular dates with each other.