I suspect that many people reading this article are terrified. They're frightened because a trial or marital separation is in their near future and they are worried that is going to make things worse rather than better. They're concerned that the marital separation is going to set them on the path to divorce. I understand these fears. I also felt them. But I had a trial separation and I am still married. The process was not always smooth and there are things that I wish I had known beforehand. So, in the hopes of helping you to avoid the mistakes I made, here are 5 things every couple should know before they begin a trial or marital separation.

Agree On Goals Before Anyone Walks Out The Door: This is honestly the biggest thing I want you to get from this article. Once one of you leaves (even if it is just temporarily,) it can be more difficult to work out any details. It is so much easier and more effective to decide RIGHT NOW how this separation is going to look and how it is going to work. Right now, ask your spouse to commit to not filing for a divorce for the set amount of time that you are giving yourselves to separate. (And yes, I do believe that you should have a time frame in mind. That way, you both do not have to live with the uncertainty of an open-ended separation.) It's optimal to have a goal that you are both working toward with a set time-frame. You'll also hopefully have the peace of mind of knowing that your husband won't take any action during that time period. This safety net alleviates some of the fear of separating.

Agree On A Plan To Dig Your Way Out: Most people separate because they hope that a quiet pause will improve things. However, while taking time away from your spouse can be beneficial, it is best to also regularly work toward improving or saving your marriage. Many couples accomplish this through counseling. Others use self-help. Some will commit to spending quality time together at prearranged and regular times. This commitment is so important because if you leave these things to chance, they may never happen. And then before you know it, lots of time has gone by and you haven't interacted with your spouse. As a result, things can get awkward, and one or both spouses become confused and resentful. Needless to say, this cycle can hurt your chances for reconciliation. It's better to come up with a plan now.

Agree On Ground Rules For The Kids, Finances, And Relationships With Others: Most couples can quickly agree to make the separation as easy on their children as possible. One way to do that is to make sure that both parents see and interact with their children as often as possible. Make access easy for your spouse by being accommodating. This cooperation is for your children and it's very, very important. Another consideration is your finances. Will you continue to have joint finances? Who will pay the household bills? Who will handle administrative tasks? It is awkward to have these conversations, but so important. The last thing you need is unpaid bills or late payments on top of marital issues. Iron these things out beforehand.

Finally, in the same way that you want the peace of mind that your spouse won't divorce you while you're separated, you also want assurance that he is not going to date or pursue other opposite-sex relationships. Again, it is easier to agree to this now than it would be if he suddenly becomes interested in someone else. Being separated is hard enough without worrying about your spouse's fidelity on top of it.

Agree On What (Or If) You'll Tell Others: It can be very painful to find out that your spouse has blabbed about the separation on social media or in the workplace when you intended to tell only your immediate family. That's why it is so important to agree on who you will both tell and what you'll tell them. That way, you don't have two different versions of the story or one spouse telling everyone while the other tells no one. This is just my opinion from my own experience, but I believe it is easier to keep the number of confidants very small. For the most part, I only told my immediate family. I did tell a small number of others and for the most part, I regretted this. When my husband and I reconciled later some of those people still wanted to dwell on a separation that had long been over. My approach then became to tell only those who would need to know - and that was generally family members who would notice that my husband was not at home. We also agreed that we would not go into intimate details. We just basically told people that we were taking a very short break and that we had every hope to one day reconcile. When people were nosy, we would try to politely change the subject.

Commit To Being In A Good Place Before You Move Back In: This is perhaps the hardest tip of all. Everyone wants their normal life and their normal marriage back right away. But when you are tempted to reconcile before you really ready, ask yourself how much worse it would be if you separated for a second time. Because that is the risk of reconciling too early. If you are in counseling, your counselor can probably help you know when you are ready. If not, then you need to make sure that you have worked past the issues that separated you and that you are going to be able to navigate future issues in a healthy way. Some couples find it very helpful to begin spending weekends together long before they actually reconcile. This way, they can see which issues are continuing to crop up and then erase those issues before they move back in full time.

I hope these tips were helpful and take some of the fear out of the separation. If I'd had them, I may have avoided the initial disastrous separation I had. I eventually cleaned things up, but the process was more painful than it needed to be. My story of saving my marriage is here: http://isavedmymarriage.com

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