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Is a Trial Separation Right for You?

There’s a lot to consider before you decide to get a divorce. The biggest question is simple: do you actually want to leave your partner? That’s when a trial separation might be good for you. A trial separation is a temporary, unofficial split from your spouse. It’s a way to spend some time apart without ending anything permanently.

Trial separations can be a great way to figure out whether you want to fix your relationship or end it for good. There are several other benefits of a trial split, too. Here’s how some time away can help you and your partner choose the right course for your relationship.

Time to Gather Your Thoughts

The most immediate benefit of a trial split is the change to take some time to think. When spending all your time with your partner, it can be hard to separate your thoughts from your situation. If you want to be objective, it’s worth taking some time away to figure out what you’re really thinking.

For example, you can think about the things that are stressing your relationship. When you’re not spending every day with your spouse, it’s easier to separate the causes of your arguments. Most of your fights may be about loading the dishwasher on the surface, but that may not actually be the problem. When you’re not upset by dirty dishes, you can think about why the dishes bother you so much. You may realize you actually feel unappreciated or overwhelmed.

This time to gather your thoughts can give you clarity. Maybe the dishes aren’t as much of a problem as you thought. On the other hand, without the stress of frequent arguments, you may realize that your underlying conflict is too great to overcome. Both insights are valuable for guiding your future decisions.

Perspective on Your Relationship

You can do more than just take some time to breathe while apart. You can get some helpful perspective on your relationship as a whole. While you’re separated, you can do a couple things to understand your relationship better:

Examine your feelings: Your marriage should make you happier, more confident, and more relaxed. While everyone needs space from time to time, you shouldn’t feel smothered or overwhelmed by your partner. You also shouldn’t feel abandoned or alone when you’re together. Suppose you take a trial separation and notice that you’re feeling better about yourself and your life. That’s a sign your marriage may not be healthy.

Talk to friends and family: If you’re trying a temporary split, you have a great opportunity to talk to other people about your relationship. Your loved ones may not feel comfortable criticizing your spouse when you’re living together. This is the time to ask for people’s honest feedback and concerns about your marriage. It can be hard to hear, but it’s worth knowing if your family and friends think your relationship is unhealthy.

Talk to a therapist: Finally, it can be helpful to talk to a counselor when you’re apart. A trained therapist can help you understand your own emotions and tease out the things that upset you. Whether or not your marriage ends, you can use this emotional knowledge to improve your life.

Practice Living Alone

For some people, the scariest part of getting a divorce is being single again. If you’ve lived with your spouse a long time, the thought of living alone can be intimidating. A trial separation is an excellent way to explore the experience of living apart.

This is just as valuable for people who think they want to live by themselves. Many people may miss their spouse and don’t enjoy the “freedom” of living alone. Whether you’re excited or afraid to be on your own, it’s worth trying it before committing to a divorce.

How to Approach a Trial Separation the Smart Way

A trial split is so much more than just a few days apart. If you’re genuinely unsure about your marriage, you need to approach the separation the right way. That means following a few basic guidelines.

Take the separation seriously. The only reason to bother with a trial separation is if you’re genuinely not sure about whether you want a divorce. The time you’re apart should be dedicated to figuring out whether you want to continue your marriage. It’s not a vacation. If one of you just wants the separation to get away from the other or to try other relationships, then you may as well just get a divorce.

Set clear rules. There’s no one way to organize your separation. However, you should give yourselves clear rules for your time apart. Answer questions like:

  • How long will the separation last?
  • What boundaries do you want to follow?
  • How will you cover your financial obligations?
  • Where will each of you live?
  • What do you want to consider during your time apart?

Following these rules is a sign you still respect your partner and vice versa. If you can’t even agree or follow guidelines for your separation, you may have the answer for your marriage.

Get the help you need. It’s a good idea to consider couple’s counseling when you’re going through a trial separation. The counseling sessions act as a safe, mediated check-in where you both can talk through your problems without ending your separation. The counselor can help you stay true to yourself, understand your spouse’s feelings, and figure out the right path for your relationship.

Give Yourself the Space You Need

Ending your marriage is a big decision. It’s natural that you may want to take some time before you choose either way. A trial separation is a simple way to clear your head, get perspective, and decide whether you want to work to fix your relationship.

If you want your split to be a little more permanent, you can work with an attorney to get a legal separation. You’ll have the benefits of legal help getting your finances and responsibilities sorted out. You can reverse the separation or convert it into a permanent divorce. Either way, working with a qualified family law attorney will help you get your relationship on firmer ground while you decide what you want.