How to Handle a Trial Separation So That it Helps, Not Hurts, Your Marriage

I often receive emails from women who want me to tell them “how to best handle a trial separation.”  These women generally fall into two categories.  There are those who are just thinking and talking about a trial separation and haven’t yet gone through with it (and many times the wives don’t want it to happen). And then there are also those who have actually begun the process of separating.  In these cases, the husband may be packing his bags or has already moved out. 

In any case, the best way to handle the situation is going to be the same no matter which specifics define it. And in almost all the cases, the wives want my advice on how to preserve the marriage through the trial separation.  They want this trial period to save the marriage, not end it, and they are often scared that the separation is really the  first step toward splitting up or a divorce. 

But, it doesn’t have to be this way.  If you play your cards right, the trial separation can actually be healthy – as it can allow you to miss one another, allow the tension to abate, and shine a light on the fact that many things have been blown way out of proportion.

If He Wants The Trial Separation, But Has Not Yet Moved Out: If your husband hasn’t moved out yet, try your best to bring calm to the situation.  Don’t argue with him, debate about whether he is right of wrong, question his motives or try to make him feel guilty. 

Don’t beg him to stay or act needy or unable to cope of your own.  All of these things will only bring up negative feelings and push him further away from you.  Instead, you need to validate what he is saying, even if you don’t agree with him. Approach this from a place of love, look him in the eye, and absolutely agree with him that you’d like to make your marriage better because you want both of you to be happy.  Tell him that you that would hope it wouldn’t come to a trial situation and wonder if just a few days or weeks apart would allow you just as much perspective.

He may flat out reject this, but at least you’ve approached him from a place of acceptance and love.  You have not deteriorated the relationship with your actions and you must keep right on acting in this way.  It’s highly likely that he will remember your openness and this will help as you go forward. If you keep creating positive feelings each time you interact, you’re moving forward and not backward. 

Don’t feel that you need to solve all of your marriage problems at this time.  Right now, your only concern should be generating positive feelings and allowing this process to cause as few negative feelings as possible. The end goal is to feel much closer to your husband and to return to solid ground.  Once you’re at this place and your marriage is strong enough, you can then work on your problems.

If The Trial Separation Has Already Started And He’s Moved Out: Now, you may think that you are at a serious disadvantage if your husband is not under your same roof, but you don’t have to be.  A trial separation, done the right way, will allow: some easing of the tension; some perspective to occur; for both parties to miss one another; and the time to really (without distraction) evaluate the state of your marriage and what could be done to improve it.  In the best case scenario, both partners will miss each other and come back to the marriage ready to make positive changes.

Always keep in mind the end goal. You want your husband to miss you and think of you positively when you are apart. He can’t do this if you are constantly calling him, trying to guilt him, or following him around with suspicious accusations. 

Encouraging Your Husband To Want To Come Home: When you interact with your husband, you want to remind him of the woman he first fell deeply in love with.  Do not present your self as the busy, scattered, upset, stressed out woman he left.  Show him the open, kind hearted, fun loving person he once loved very much (but perhaps feared was gone forever.)

Now, I don’t mean being fake about this.  Men can smell insincerity a mile away and usually won’t fall for it. Instead, they will push you away even more. What you want to do is really use this separation to work on yourself and generate your own happiness and self peace.  This way, when you interact with your husband, you have no problem generating the easy going woman he feel in love with.

No matter how long the separation drags on, always conduct yourself in a away that makes you easy and pleasurable to be around.  This will likely peak your husband’s interest.  If you get the chance (again without appearing too obvious or manipulative) arrange to meet or run into one another at a place you both used to love spending time together.  What you are trying to do is to introduce the positive feelings that used to be between you in the places that you both remember positively. 

Most importantly, always move very slowly.  Don’t press for commitments or demand to see your husband more than he is comfortable with.  You are better off leaving him wanting more.  The atmosphere should be fun and lighthearted.  You want your husband leaving every meeting and transaction feeling happy, so that as time goes on, he starts to miss you very much and wants to retrieve those things that have been rediscovered underneath the same roof.