Separation is usually a trial period that people take when they know their marriage isn’t working, but they are not ready to divorce.
Separation can by a complete time out where the couple doesn’t see each other at all (if they are single) or only when they transition the children. You will have to tell the children together. I will discuss this in the section on divorce, but the words are pretty much the same, as is what to expect, and how to handle your children’s responses.
Moreover, if a separation is going to be effective at all at preserving a marriage, there has to be continual contact, even if it is only at the marital counselor’s office once each week. There also have to be some rules:
- No dating other people.
- No sexual contact with other people.
- No discussing the separation with the children except for the initial discussion that you both have together.
- No seeing attorneys until you both decide that it’s time.
- Have a clear period of time for a separation. The best ones that work are either three months or six months. Some couples start off with three months and then opt to extend the separation to six months.
- There has to be marital therapy if the couple really has any desire to work things out and this is not just a way to let the other person down easier.
- The marital therapist with the two of you should help set the time frames for starting to date each other again, family time, even when it’s time to move back into together. A good marital therapist will know and confront if one of you does not appear serious about the desire to work the marriage out. (The other partner usually knows anyway, but may not be able to voice it out loud).
- The best referral for a good marriage counselor is either friends you know who have been to someone successfully, a family doctor, pediatrician, or a Priest, Rabbi, or Minister.
- Typically, you want to make sure that the therapist is a licensed psychologist, licensed marriage and family therapist, or a licensed social worker. Occasionally, a psychiatrist will be trained in psychotherapy and marriage counseling. Be sure of the person’s credentials and their experience doing conjoint therapy (another name for marital therapy). Many couples successfully work out their issues through a structured separation with therapy. If you can’t, it’s important not to blame yourself or your partner, as long as you have both given it a really good try.
Now it’s time to move on to divorcing and trying to be as fair and decent as you can be during the process, and to taking care of your children. They will need you both now more than ever. Please remember that everything you do should be with the best interest of your children in mind.