PLEASE NOTE: The following information does not constitute counselling or therapy or psychology advice in any way. Any names and circumstances provided are fictitious, and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or to actual circumstances is purely coincidental. All content is the copyright of Family Mediation Brisbane and must not be in any way reproduced without prior written permission. All rights are reserved.
Contemplating separation? Will a trial separation help or hinder?
Is separating a good idea? It is a question that couples falling on hard times often consider. Choosing to separate, even just as a trial for a week or two, can be a very difficult decision, and it is not one to be taken lightly. If you hope to repair your relationship, then this decision should be made bearing in mind how your partner feels about any trial separation. If your partner does not agree, then perhaps it’s a good idea to seek couples counselling or family counselling to help you both reach a place where you agree to the best path for you and your relationship. Please note, however, that this information is strictly for people considering separating but not suffering from domestic abuse. If you find yourself the victim of abuse, your safety is a priority (for information about domestic and family violence, CLICK HERE TO READ MORE). If you hope to separate permanently, then family mediation can assist you both in reaching agreement on the practicalities that follow from separation, such as children’s care arrangements, communication between parties, communication with children, relocation issues and overseas travel, as well as property settlement of financial matters.
The trial period
Spending time apart can have strong, positive outcomes for some couples. In family therapy, sometimes the therapist might suggest this option, as it allows both partners to: firstly, work on goals on their own; secondly, to focus on self-actualisation; and thirdly, to get a taste of life without their partner. These three points will be discussed separately, but first consider this: A trial separation can have negative effects, and without communication and professional help, it may actually cause more damage than help the relationship. If you want to have a trial separation just to ‘get away for a bit’, remember that any feelings of joy from being away from your partner may be related to being away from the atmosphere, not your partner. This might seem like a strange distinction to make, but being away from an environment where you feel oppressed, stifled or just angry and hurt can have wonderful benefits (as will be discussed), but it may lead you to think that your partner was the problem, instead of facing head-on the true nature of the problem. This sense of peace and happiness, however, can help you recharge and return to the relationship with a renewed sense of determination. However, please remember that communication is key; you must communicate your feelings and desires, being honest with each other at every step, thereby ensuring that your partner feels heard during this time. If your partner does not want to have a trial separation but you choose to do so anyway, they may feel hurt and rejected, causing problems if you wish to continue the relationship. Your partner may feel as though you will ‘run off every time things get hard’, but in therapy, the counsellor may be able to help both sides see the benefits and costs to this trial separation. Ultimately, however, it is the couple’s choice, not the therapist’s. If you do decide that you wish to remain in a relationship, then it is important to tackle problems together, rather than seeing separation as the only means to getting through a tough phase.
Working on goals
When a couple chooses to separate during therapy, they may be given goals to work on in their relationship. For example, this time apart can help the couple see what life is like for the other person; it can be a time to write down feelings about their partner, or simply to communicate at a period of time of day by phone or in person, without the added pressure of having to live together every day. Many of these goals are aimed toward better communication, a glimpse of life without your partner, and working on self-actualisation.
In a relationship, sometimes people feel like they are losing themselves – who they are, who they want to be, and how they want to be seen. Time apart can help remove the person from the environment in which they feel oppressed, and allow them to explore these desires without feeling like they may be punished, held back or stifled. Please note that this process can actually be very rewarding but also terrifying for both parties. “What if my partner feels that they are their true selves without me? What if they come to believe I am holding them back?” This is why when spending time apart it is important to communicate, and to keep in mind that in growing you may not be growing out of the relationship, but simply wish to redefine it. Further, if you do feel that you wish to separate, this growing period that your partner has agreed to may turn feelings of resentment to gratitude, improving your relationship post-separation.
Life without my partner
Life without your partner may seem simpler at first; it may be devoid of pain, guilt and responsibility. But using this time apart to find out what was making you unhappy may help you to differentiate between the problem and targeting your partner as the problem. The problem may be that the relationship has not grown and adapted (CLICK HERE TO READ MORE). Time apart to think about your needs (and their needs) away from all the negative emotions might help you both work out what you want from the relationship. In this case, the problem is the current state of the relationship, not any one person, and this is good news, because with help, this can be worked on.
Setting the ground rules
Separating temporarily is a very difficult decision. If not handled properly, one or both parties can feel hurt, confused and disenfranchised. The time apart should be used to improve communication, reflect on feelings about the relationship with your partner, and grow as a person and even as a relationship, if that is the path that you choose. Setting a time period for being apart and then re-addressing and re-assessing can help both parties feel that they are part of the process. A temporary separation is based on both parties communicating honestly about how they feel and about their intentions, if the process is aimed at re-building a relationship. If you feel that you want time away from your partner because you are certain that separation in imminent but need to ‘know for sure’, then consider seeking couples counselling to help communicate these issues. Overall, whether you consider a trial separation or not is your decision and not the therapist’s, and even discussing the possibility can be a period of growth, both together and separately.
More Information on Counselling & Therapy Relating to Separation & Divorce
- Why have we grown apart? My partner just does not seem to understand what I need from them
- How will my children be affected by our separation? Solutions for children acting out or siding with one parent
- Is your extended family driving a wedge between you and your partner?
- Why do we always fight? Are you sure that you do?
- Separation and communication: Are you growing apart, but afraid to speak out?
- Adapting to children entering and leaving the family
- Can counselling help us move forward post-separation?
- Why does separation hurt so much? Why do I feel differently towards my partner?
- Domestic violence: What is it, what can we do about it, and how to get through it
- Infidelity: Why did my partner cheat? Can our relationship be saved?
- Contemplating separation? Will a trial separation help or hinder?
More Information on Mediation & Family Dispute Resolution
- Family Dispute Resolution
- Parenting Plans
- Financial Agreements
- Child-Inclusive Mediation
- Section 60I Certificates
- Child Support
- Child Support Calculator
- De Facto Relationships & Separation
- Divorce & Mediation
- Grandparents & Mediation for Grandchildren
- Parenting Plan & Draft Consent Orders for Children
- Property Settlement at Mediation
- Mediation & Domestic Violence
- Relocation & Overseas Travel with a Child
- Going to the Family Court versus Mediation
- Family Dispute Resolution & Mediation
- Child Support & Mediation
To start the mediation process, simply click the button below:
DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this website is for general guidance only. No person should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information. Professional counselling or therapy or psychology advice should be sought based upon your particular circumstances.