When your spouse walks out that door, it feels like in that moment that your marriage separation is the end of the road.
With careful planning and the right attitude, however...
With the right attitude and preparation, separating for a prearranged period of time can give a marriage much needed perspective on the reasons you fell in love with your spouse to begin with, remind you that you feel happier and more fulfilled when you're together, and let you remember the good times without being reminded of the difficulties on a daily basis.
In order for a marriage separation or a trial separation to work, you both need to be very clear about its objectives. These need to be transparent to both parties.
Put simply, you both need to discuss what it involves and what expectations you place on each other during the separation period. You also need to both be very clear about what you hope to achieve from this time of separation.
Is this a trial, simply giving one or both of you some space and time to think, or is this a ploy to punish the other?
Is the separation a prelude to divorce, or is it an opportunity to let the absent heart grow fonder? You need to be very clear what this is and how you both expect to go about it. Without clear discussion and expectations, a separation is doomed to fail.
You need to be able to sit down as a couple discuss the issues around a temporary separation. You may want a formal or written agreement.
Outline what goals you expect to achieve or issues you want to consider, how you are going to reach these goals, how often you are going to maintain contact, and what expectations you are going to place on each other regarding dating others, sex, and how you are going to monitor if you are making progress in rebuilding your marriage.
If you are constantly preoccupied with the thought of leaving, this is no small fantasy. This is a major red flag, and certainly a time when a trial separation should be seriously considered. But let's think about why you're preoccupied with leaving.
Do you see leaving the relationship as being easier than dealing with the issues?
Is it a feeling of exhaustion at a seemingly endless period of frustration or unhappiness?
If so, what steps have you taken to help alleviate this feeling?
Is an outside perspective through counseling helpful in overcoming unresolved issues?
Make a list. Think of all the ways your life is going to change if you were single again. Then divide them into positives and negatives. Are you really better off or is it worth fighting for?
Will spending time apart fix those issues? How will it bring you closer as a couple?
All important considerations to take on board as you face a possible marriage separation...
The important thing to remember here is that you don't have to love your spouse's behavior or their actions. But in not loving, indeed even hating their actions, it is still possible to love the person they are.
And that's an important distinction. Hate the sin, love the sinner.
Certainly if you can see your relationship as such then there is hope. Besides, we only hate people we care about. It's when either of you (or both of you) feel nothing that your marriage is in serious trouble!
But remember, a trial separation is a serious, last ditch effort to affect change in a relationship. It is not to be taken lightly, as a separation can remind you of the good times and bring you back together with your spouse, a renewed determination to fix the issues and build a better life together, but it can also - and perhaps more easily - show you that a divorce is the best route to take.
But is it?
See you again next time.