Dear Divorce Coach: What is Proper Separation Etiquette

EtiquetteWhat is the proper separation etiquette for a second or third marriage if you don’t have children together?

My lovely reader, like everything in life – and divorce – there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things.  Separation is no different. This is a trying time, because it truly depends on whether the separation is a trial separation, meaning you are working on your marriage, or whether it is a permanent separation, which more often, but not always, leads towards a divorce.

Trial Separation Doesn’t Mean You’re on Trial

A trial separation doesn’t mean you’re on trial, it means you’re taking a break to see if living apart will help the relationship because living together is hurting the relationship.  While living apart you continue to see each other, still interacting often on a daily basis.

If you are committed to making it work, keep the lines of communication open and invest in couples counseling or coaching.  Take a look at your behavior and realize what things set you off and get to the root of the problem. Oftentimes, the things that make you the most upset aren’t things that your spouse is doing, but things that are within you that need to change. Try to make those internal changes and work on yourself during this time.

Remember, you can’t change someone else, but you can change yourself, and that alone might be all it will take to change the depth of the relationship you have with your spouse.  Sometimes we need a break to put things into perspective and see what we have right in front our noses and really appreciate what is there, so if you are in a trial separation, don’t despair, work on the marriage and keep an open mind, because if you want it to work, chances are you can make it happen.

Permanent Separation Doesn’t Have to be a Trial

Although permanent separation sounds permanent, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is, lovely readers. Sometimes, things do work out, but what it does mean is that you have decided to take an extended ‘vacation’ from each other and marriage. It means you are taking time to decide what it is you want out of your life and decide if the path you want to continue on is as a couple or as a single.

So, what is the correct etiquette to follow when you have decided on a more permanent separation? Before taking this step make sure to sit down with your spouse and talk to them so that you are both on the same page. In other words, set down ground rules for this time in your lives that you both will be following.

  • Will you be dating each other or other people?
  • Will you be communicating by email, phone or text?
  • Will you have an ‘open door’ policy when it comes to the family home?
  • How will you handle emergency situations and financial situations, such as paying the bills?

Be sure to have all of these things worked out ahead of time, to avoid unwanted and unnecessary fighting later.

If you have agreed to go to counseling, then show up at counseling and be present, and if you have decided that counseling isn’t right for you as a couple at this time, then work on yourself while you have the time. Because resentment can creep up during this time, it is important to be transparent with your spouse about what you are doing, who you are doing it with and what is happening with your life. You might be separated, but it is important to remember that you are still married.

When Permanence Wants to Be a Trial

What happens when you are in a permanent separation and decide you are ready to move back in with your spouse or go back to a trial separation and work on the marriage? Simple. Contact your spouse and ask to meet with them and be honest.

One thing you can never go wrong with is honesty.  No matter what type of separation you might find yourself in, or what type of issue you might find yourself in within your marriage, relationship or even divorce, honesty is always the best policy. If you can maintain that, you will always find your way to happiness and what is best for you in the end.

Do you have a question about divorce etiquette for the Divorce Coach? Don’t hesitate to ask, just click here!

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Lee Brochstein About Lee Brochstein

Lee Brochstein is a certified professional divorce coach, blogger, a well-known author and a nationally known expert from her appearances on television and radio talk shows. She enjoys alliteration, Mad Men, Big Bang, mixed breeds, vanilla lattes, red wine and her kids when they aren’t killing each other. Follow her on twitter and Facebook.

  • Blond Duck

    That’s so lovely–I hate it when people drag their kids/ friends into it.

  • Aramelle {One Wheelers World}

    Wow, I wish I’d had your blog (and this post, specifically) when I was going through a separation with my first husband!  We definitely made the mistake of not discussing what the separation was going to mean, and it definitely did result in more strain on our marriage, since we each were expecting different things.  Granted, I am forever thankful now that it went the way that it did, but at the time it would have been nice to avoid some of the pain that those differences caused.

  • Mandy Walker

    Lee – you’re absolutely right on the importance of establishing the ground rules with your spouse. I think it’s still a good idea to seek legal advice especially if your separation is going to have a more permanent nature.