Saturday, January 19, 2008

Trial Separation: An Alternative To Divorce

What are the advantages of a trial separation?

Before actualy getting a divorce, it may be very helpful to just have a temporary separation. A separation which has rules for you and your spouse, where you decide you are going to have time apart to think about things, to disengage, to decrease the tension , decrease the intensity in the home and take stock of what you really have. For many people a separation allows them to think more clearly. The removal of that other spouse temporarily decreases the anger because anger clouds things and lets people think about what they want. So separations can be very helpful and they need rules. For some people, you may choose to date while you separated- that's fine as long as both you and your partner are going to agree on that. Or you may agree that you are going to stay separate, not work on the marriage but work on yourselves. Or you may decide that you are going to separate and work on the marriage very activily but living in two different places to decrease the tention; to decrease the anger.

Are there any disadvantages to a trial separation?

The major disadvantage you'll find with a trial separation is the confusion for everybody around you. Your children may be confused, in fact often children will say “I want my parents to either be together or be apart, I don't know where they are in limbo land.” Families will not know how to react. They won't know if you're working on the marriage or not working on the marriage. Your friends may not know how to treat you or understand what a trial separation is. So what happens is, you operate in this very nebulous place where you're not sure what's going on and for some people, it heightens their anxiety and you may find that it's becoming worse and worse and there's no clarity at all. So, a trial separation can be deleterious and confusing, but still it can also be very helpful.

How much time should we give a trial separation?

Well I think that if you have separated for a few months and you are not feeling any differently than you did the day you separated, it is probably time to move on. But if developmentally, you are starting to feel different about this person. You are missing them. You are liking them more. You are recognizing that life is not better without this person and that you are recognizing that you have brought many of the problems to the relationship that you think are there not just the other person then the separation probably can be lengthened and elongated to take as much time as you both need to make this relationship work. Ultimately, people make a mistake by reconciling too soon because often people will miss each other. Their sexual desire will be heightened by the separation. They will come together prematurely and then nothing will have changed and they'll be right back where they were except damage will have been done to other relationships including children and extended families.

What is "separation counseling"?

Once you've made the decision that you no longer want to be with your partner, it would be very helpful for you and your spouse to sit down with a professional and talk about the best way to separate for your particular family. This separation counseling includes how to tell the children, how to divide property, how you're going to deal with extended family and who's going to live in the house. Separation counseling will take away some of the anger and the intense pain that people feel during this process. Separation counseling can be very helpful, and almost a vital part of having an ultimately good divorce.

What is the difference between separation counseling and marriage counseling?

Marriage counseling is focused on rebuilding the marriage from the foundation up. Separation counseling is actually disassembling the marriage from the top down and doing it in the most effective and least painful way for all the parties involved.

Will our marriage counselor tell us if we should divorce?


Often during marriage counseling, the professional may even say to someone or to a couple, "you need to break this up because its too painful, because you're not resolving problems, because you truly don't like each other" and sometimes people will delude themselves because they don't want to divorce because of all the external factors, not the internal factors and its really important that the therapist gives a objective, honest view of the marriage to the parties. And I've often said to people and will continue to say, "I don't think this marriage has a chance of surviving given where the two of you are and how you both feel. Feelings will have to change tremendously, expectations will have to change tremendously, behaviors will have to change to make this a minimally adequate marriage".

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irareese said...

Thanks for the great information! I agree that couples should go through mediate to try and work out their problems before heading straight to divorce. Even a great lawyer, the New Jersey divorce attorney, tells his clients to try and work out their problems before deciding on divorce.

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