Earlier this week, we began a discussion about legal separation. For most couples, it provides an opportunity for reflection about the relationship as well as a break from the cyclical patterns of negativity and argument.
For other couples, however, legal separation merely delays the divorce process because one spouse or both spouses fail to use the time and distance conscientiously. In today’s post, we’ll discuss how couples can add productive structure to their separation.
In a recent Huffington Post column, a licensed clinical social worker named Terry Gaspard shares some tips on setting goals and staying in the right mindset during separation. The first task, Gaspard says, it to set boundaries for each of you as well as expectations.
Some of these may be obvious and others completely foreign. In either case, discussion and agreement are crucial. During this time:
- Are you allowed to date other people?
- How much should you be calling or physically seeing your spouse?
- Should you be engaging in sexual activity with one another?
- Do you want to pursue counseling or other structured relationship work?
Gaspard notes (and others would agree) that if dating other people is allowed, there should be a ban on engaging in sexual activity with others. Not only could this seriously hurt your spouse, it could also complicate your own feelings about the relationship.
During this time, you should also set clear goals for yourself and communicate clearly with your spouse. A separation can be a great opportunity to learn more about yourself, including what you want from the relationship. But it should also be a time to reflect on what your contributions to the relationship have been (both positive and negative).
Finally, if you are keeping reconciliation open as a goal, Gaspard says, you need to “stay positive and connected with your partner.” Some people may be using legal separation only to test out whether they could handle divorced life. If that’s your main priority, it may be a self-fulfilling mindset.
No matter what you ultimately decide to do – stay together or get divorced – it may be a good idea to seek help and advice from an experienced family law attorney in order to handle the legal issues related to both divorce and separation.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Does Taking a Break From Your Relationship Postpone the Inevitable?” Terry Gaspard, April 3, 2015