Many people feel intense worry when they are considering a trial separation. What if this is the wrong decision? What if the separation pushes you toward a divorce that you don't want? Is there another alternative that you haven't explored? These are all very valid questions. As someone who separated myself (although I later reconciled,) I deeply worried about these questions. So, as reassurance, I'll list what I consider to be the pros and cons of a trial separation below.

Some Pros Of A Trial Separation: When you are afraid that your marriage is in jeopardy, it's normal to focus on what could go wrong. I focused almost solely on the negative aspects of my separation. In hindsight, this thought process was a mistake and contributed to my negativity, which ultimately hurt my marriage even more.

To enjoy any of the benefits of a separation, you have to be very deliberate about how it is carried out. The advantages listed below assume that you are maintaining regular, open communication with your spouse.

  • Pausing A Negative Cycle: Sometimes we get into destructive cyclical patterns of behavior in our marriage. Often, we know that this problem exists and we unsuccessfully try to break these patterns. Sometimes our efforts make things worse.

In these cases, some time away can provide relief and can pause those destructive patterns for long enough that it is possible to begin new patterns of behavior and habits. In this way, you are saving your marriage by pausing it and then changing it for the better.

  • Needed Perspective: When you and your spouse are stuck in an endless cycle, you can become frustrated, and too invested in your own perspectives. When you are close to the issue, it can be impossible to be objective and open. However, with a pause and some distance, it becomes easier to see where you may be wrong or where you might be able to compromise.
  • Increased Willingness To Negotiate: I am going to be honest. A separation can be brutally lonely. Suddenly, you have no one to eat dinner with, to watch TV with, or to just relax with. If you have a hard day, there is no one to listen to you vent or to offer you support. Yes, you can and should lean on family and friends, but it is not the same. It's no wonder that many separated spouses miss their partner terribly. And once they realize this, they are much more willing to come to the table and work things out. I was somewhat angry at my husband early on, but after a week or two without him, I suddenly would have done anything to get him back.
  • (This didn't always work to my favor, but I did eventually get him back. You can read the whole story here.)

Some Cons Of A Trial Separation: Now that we have discussed some of the positives of a hopefully brief separation, let's go over some of the negatives.

  • There Is Always A Risk: Even couples who theoretically do everything right and who maintain close contact sometimes drift further apart. When you are not in intimate contact, there is always the risk that things will deteriorate, as one or both of you become paranoid, overreaching, or panicked. It's very common for people to worry that the other is being unfaithful (or is at least more available.)
  • A Separation Can Intensify The Conflict: It's so important to be deliberate and open before your separation because many details will need to be negotiated while you are apart. Sometimes, separated couples argue as much about these details as divorced couples. This is the last thing that you need if you are already on shaky ground. It is so important to try to be as accommodating as possible so that you can avoid this type of deterioration.
  • It Can Traumatize Children or Extended Family: One of the main reasons that many couples see divorce as a last resort is because of their children. No one wants to make their child live in two different homes or be raised in two different households. Most people believe that this situation should be avoided if at all possible. Yet, if you opt to live separately while separated, two households are your reality, even if this is only temporary.

And even if you don't have children, you may be surprised at how invested extended family members and mutual friends are, especially parents, siblings, or best friends.

As you can see, for every positive, there seems to be a corresponding negative. Many of the "cons" can be avoided, though. For example, many couples spare trauma for their children because they separate but continue to live under the same roof. Yes, this takes a good deal of negotiation and patience, but I have seen it work quite well.

Likewise, you can avoid many of the suspicions, panic, and frustrations that happen in many separations by seeing and talking to one another regularly and being very clear about your commitment to your marriage. It can also help to regularly attend counseling or to meet regularly to work on deepening your bond. Because when you can see things improving, you are less likely to always assume the worst.

I can't tell you that my separation was a great experience. It wasn't. But we made many of the mistakes I'm cautioning against. We eventually got on track, but not without a lot of frustration in the beginning. That said, we may be divorced today if we hadn't separated. Not having my husband in my life caused me to face some hard truths and to make some important changes. I believe that he would say the same. We have a very different, and a much better, marriage today. So, if that is what it took to have the marriage that we currently enjoy, then it was worth it. You can read the whole story at

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