8 Things to Consider During a Trial Separation

Whether in a marriage or live-in relationship, sometimes you need space to work through your relationship difficulties. Depending on the severity of your problems, you and your partner might consider going through a trial separation. 

While a trial separation can help couples reconcile and come back stronger than ever, you need to set a solid foundation for the separation to be successful. This eight-part trial separation checklist can help. 

What Is a Trial Separation?

A trial separation is when a couple decides to spend some time away from their relationship. Many couples use trial separations as a chance to get space, reflect on their relationship, and consider their long-term goals. At the end of the separation, a couple may reconcile and continue their relationship, or they may decide initiating a legal separation or divorce is the next best step. 

If you and your partner find yourselves stuck in a constant cycle of conflict, you may want to consider taking a temporary break. A trial separation can help you work through your problems without emotions and fights getting in the way. You could get the clarity you need to determine where your relationship goes next.

1. Set a Separation Time Frame

A trial separation is temporary, so one of the first things you should do is establish the period of time you’ll be separated. You don’t want it to drag on indefinitely, never coming to a conclusion about the future of your relationship. 

Aim for a trial period of three to six months to allow plenty of time to reflect and heal while still maintaining a sense of urgency. 

2. Decide on Living Arrangements

 Where you and your partner will live during your separation is one of the biggest things to consider. Wondering how to separate from your spouse while living together? Unfortunately, there’s not always a straightforward answer.  Examine your current financial and home situation to determine which option is best for you. 

Trial Separation Option 1: Living Apart 

Most couples choose to live separately during a separation. But if you go down this path, you’ll have to decide who gets to stay in your home as you know it and who has to stay with loved ones or find a rental. On the other hand, not everyone can afford to live apart, and some couples share children, which may mean that you want to consider living together.

Healing can come through separation. Should you need to find furniture and decor for a short-term housing situation, turn to CORT Furniture Rental. We’re here to help make the furniture delivery and installation process as stress-free as possible. Simply select the package and length term (as short as 3 months) online that best suits your needs, or work with one of our experienced designers in-store, and we’ll take care of the rest: delivery, set-up, and removal.

Trial Separation Option 2: Living Together 

If you have children, you might want to consider living in the same house but having separate rooms or even separate floors. You will likely need to set more specific boundaries in this situation. If you have no children and enough income, you should heavily consider living apart to really get the alone time you need to view your relationship in a different light. Look to your state law for advice as well. Should a permanent separation be the best option for you and your partner, there may be additional considerations to make while separating your shared assets.

3. Figure Out Your Finances

A trial separation isn’t a legal separation, but you still need to consider your finances. You should stick to your current method for paying family bills to help keep your finances stable and avoid adding more stress to an already delicate situation. Many couples also choose to fund housing during the separation jointly, but you’ll probably want to keep expenses for things like food, clothing, and fun separate. If you have joint bank accounts, you may even want to separate those.

4. Make Childcare Arrangements

Trial separations can be even tougher when children are involved. If you stay under the same roof, you can try to keep to as normal of a routine as possible. However, if you decide to live apart, you need to make a plan about financial responsibilities regarding the children, where your children will stay, and when each parent gets to spend time with the kids.

No matter the living arrangements, a trial separation with kids requires careful navigation. You need to openly and honestly explain to your children what is happening and offer them extra support during the separation.

5. Setting Ground Rules

Once you have the logistics of your separation figured out, it’s time to set some ground rules and boundaries. How often will you see each other? Will you stay intimate during the separation? Will you go on regular date nights? What topics are safe and healthy for you to talk about? Sit down together and compile a list of rules you’re both comfortable and willing to adhere to. These rules can help the separation go smoothly and prevent more conflicts from adding to the fire.

6. Invest in Couples Counseling

Space and time aren’t always enough to figure out the fate of your relationship. For a successful and healing separation, you should both attend couples counseling. Counseling can help you better understand your problems, see where your partner is coming from (and vice-versa), learn healthy coping mechanisms, and find better ways of communicating with your partner.

Even if your trial separation turns into a permanent separation, the skills and insights you gain from counseling can help prevent you from falling into bad habits in your next relationship.

7. Define Your Goals

You and your partner need to decide what you want to get out of your separated relationship. Are you hoping to improve your communication? Do you need the time apart to heal old, picked at wounds? Is the end goal reconciliation? To make the most of your separation, you need to make sure you’re both on the same page and working together toward a common goal. Check in regularly during your separation to ensure goals haven’t changed and that you aren’t moving in opposite directions.

8.  Find Emotional support

Even a seemingly therapeutic separation can be difficult to handle on your own. Make sure you have a support system in place when you need it. Look to family and friends or a personal counselor. Talk to them about what you’re experiencing and ask for help, but avoid just complaining about or badmouthing your partner to them during your separation. 

Healing Through Separation: CORT is Here to Help 

Making the decision to separate — whether on a permanent or temporary basis — can be a stressful and emotional experience. If you choose to live separately from your partner at this time, CORT is here to help you navigate this life change. 

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