Thinking About Separation?

Many couples get to a 'stalemate' in their relationship and decide to separate. Often couples will separate without structure to the separation which can lead to more conflict and contempt in the relationship. Separation can be helpful if there are guidelines to the separation.  This is called a 'Controlled Separation.' A controlled separation is a plan that opens the door to frank discussions that set the stage for decision making regarding the relationship.  Couples that agree to a controlled separation usually see this as a last ditch effort to make or break their marriage.  The physical separation gives you time to clear your head. Once the physical separation has settled, you and your partner will discuss where you are going in your relationship.

A Controlled Separation Contract is a tool that is used by couples to help make sense of their relationship dilemma.  Without the structure of a Controlled Separation Contract, a separation has no purpose or clear meaning.  In the book "Should I Stay or Should I Go?", Lee Raffel describes the difference between a Controlled Separation and a Trial Separation:

Controlled Separation:

1. Couple or therapist guided structured plan

2. Well-defined guidelines

3. Oral or written contract

4. Predetermined time frame

5. Agreement to be advocates

6. Open communication

7. Safety net (no-divorce clause)

8. More confident partners

9. Actively doing your best

10. Closure with relief


Trial Separation:

1. "Fly by the seat of your pants" with no plan

2. No guidelines

3. No contract

4. No time limits

5. Adversarial posture

6. Evasive communication

7. No safety net

8. Confused and insecure partners

9. Worst fears accelerate

10. Closure with remorse

In order for a separation to be productive, it is important that a couple has a shared goal of the separation and has defined time limits.  It is also important to negotiate other issues such as legal counsel, dating others, living arrangements, child care, finances, etc.  

If you are interested in developing a Controlled Separation for your marriage, call us today!