The trial separation literally puts the totality of a marriage on trial. Ideally, separation would answer the question of whether or not the fragile, rocky relationship is salvageable.
There is something to be said about spouses distancing themselves from each other with the goal of examining their conduct and conscience.
Advocates for separation maintain each partner can look within themselves to reflect on marital problems and potential solutions. Opponents might counter that trial separations are like applying a band-aid to a broken leg. And, when marriage is broken beyond repair, separation simply prolongs pain and suffering.
The simple truth that the numbers bear out is that you have no better than a 50/50 chance that separation can save your marriage
When can Separation Save Marriage?
If you can get past the fact that separation is like a cold shower on intimacy. If you can rationally plan logistics such as: who will leave, who will stay; financial arrangements; how long the separation will last and clear boundaries when children are involved, you might make the separation work for and not against you.
To clarify, trial separation involves separate living arrangements, gifting each spouse with time and space to contemplate marital issues. It is implied the couple will meet for face-time during the separation to work on conflict resolution.
It is a good idea to ask yourself hard questions before committing to separation:
Why do you feel the need to separate? Are you losing sense of self that necessary me-time might solve? Have you neglected family and friends to the point you need balance in your life? Would you take advantage of this time-out to work on root causes of any negative traits? Do you want to resurrect a dream, such as learning to paint, starting a book or playing a musical instrument?
These are positive reasons for a trial separation. You might just save your marriage by first saving yourself.
Be mindful, freedom and all it implies can be intoxicating. The more you have, the more you want. Also, when it is just you and your thoughts, you might conclude you undeniably want out of the marriage. It could happen that one spouse will be eager for the separation period to come to a close, while the other is dreading the prospect.
In these instances, separation would not bear fruit where reuniting is concerned. But, what is the alternative besides divorce?
Mastering the Art of Negotiation
As a couple, it becomes possible to strengthen the bonds of marriage during bad times, if you master the art of negotiation.
In no area does love get tested more than expression of anger. Couples who feel safe to express their thoughts and feelings, knowing they will be received in a neutral environment have achieved the pinnacle of effective communication. In fact, conflict resolution is impossible without objective negotiation.
Let’s agree that whatever provokes anger, its impact spreads like a virus way beyond its initial contact. To express anger, without knowing how to negotiate, is a great risk. Anger is a normal human emotion, albeit negative. Successful negotiation can take most of the intensity out of anger.
The aim is to resolve. The first step to resolving an issue is to identify it. It does not mean to throw things, explode, rant, rave, pout or withdraw. It is all about expressing your feelings.
To begin, hitch up your courage and say, “I’m upset about…” “I get angry when you…” “I want to talk about…” “I don’t like it when…”
At first, neither of you will be perfect negotiators. But, what do you know – you’re working on your marriage! You didn’t separate! Isn’t it worth it?
Wait! You must understand that anger itself can pose a threat of separation. While you are learning to negotiate, no matter how gently you phrase words of anger, it sounds like an attack to the other person. Like all things, it will get better with practice.
Talk it over together. Work out a system of expressing anger that bypasses the defenses of the recipient. The intention is to risk anger in the interests of working toward a mutual resolution to the core problem. Anger is not to be used as blame, shame or a secret “love” test.
Start with little annoyances like the universal cap-off -toothpaste. As you negotiate on little things, you may find some of the big things will surface.
Finally, remember negotiation is not all about winning it’s about compromise and might just save your marriage.
Here at MarriageMaterialDotOrg we’re in the business of saving marriages, not separating couples. Therefore, we must confess, we have no definitive answer and you should run from someone who does.