Considering a trial separation?

What is a trial separation? A trial separation is an agreed time when a couple in a marriage or significant relationship are unsure whether they want to continue to be with each other or set each other free. It is often a time of confusion and uncertainty. For many, a trial separation comes up because they love each other but aren’t feeling in-love with each other any more.

“Many trial separations don’t work because they are lacking structure and agreement from both parties. If you find yourself considering the option of a trial separation, it is worthy of having some in-depth conversations and ‘terms of agreement’ before you proceed,” recommends Rachael Scharrer, divorce and relationship expert and founder of More suggestions follow:

Particulars to discuss prior to commencing a trail separation include:

  1. What is the commencement date?
  2. How long will the trail separation be for?
  3. What specific date will you get together to talk about the success of the trial separation and your future?
  4. Will you continue living together during this period?
  5. Will you remain monogamous or will you be open to dating other people during this period?
  6. Will you date each other during this period?
  7. How often do you want to communicate with each other?

Following your trial separation, you may choose to work on your relationship. For those of you taking this path, it is worthy of:

  1. Seeking agreement to work together and work on your relationship. Having an understanding that you are both moving towards the same outcome offers hope and intention
  2. Identifying the source of the breakdown in the relationship. This is not a blame game – it is a moment to identify the issues, challenges and barriers to the relationship. Remember to accept responsibility for your part in the break-down
  3. Creating a strategy for the contributors towards the break down in the relationship. Identifying the issues is only one part of finding a resolution. You also need to create some positive action in stopping the reoccurring cycle of behaviours and attitudes
  4. Consulting a marriage counsellor or family therapist for the areas that you can’t agree upon or find a resolution to. A counsellor or therapist can offer an unbiased and impartial perspective to help you reach the desired outcome. They can offer relevant strategy or ideas that you may not have considered
  5. Scheduling regular date nights. This is a great opportunity for you to remember why you first fell in love and enjoy the things you used to do together. Perhaps you can enrol in a joint hobby as well
  6. Scheduling “me time.” Having your own interests and hobbies is really important. It helps to make you feel whole and fulfilled as well as having something interesting to talk about
  7. Making family time. Family time means enjoying time as a little family and a big family. Spending time as a couple with your children helps to strengthen the existing bond which reflects your union. Equally, your extended families are invested in your relationship and they too would like to see it work. Visiting and spending time with the ‘big’ extended family helps to keep you inside the family ‘fold’
  8. Confiding in each other. It is helpful to be more than just friends who talk socially and superficially. Get to know each other again. Let your spouse know your challenges and your new you
  9. Being intimate. Being intimate doesn’t necessarily mean immediately having sex. Often you need to build up towards this. Start by holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes, cuddle and snuggle. Slowly, without pressure, build up to becoming more and more intimate
  10. Going to a counsellor or family therapist. Don’t live in the past but rather talk about “when you… it made me feel…” and “what can we do to stop …. from escalating?” and “how can I best handle …. when it happens?” Do your best to avoid blaming your spouse and name calling

Please be warned. For many couples, the more space that you give each other, the more likely you are to fall into the “friend zone” and have increasingly independent lives. The more independent your lives are, the less intertwined you will be and the less likely you may be to continue with your marriage.

I am not sure if you have you seen the comedy “Hall Pass” - In this movie, one couple realises that the grass is not always greener when it comes to partnership and marriage. It highlights that sometimes the partner that you have is really amazing and you have forgotten how great they are. It’s a great reminder that no one is perfect, that we all have our faults and that it is really important to play to each other’s strengths.

If you complete your trial separation and decide that you would prefer to be apart rather than together, then consider:

  1. Agreeing to be respectful towards each other. You may not choose to be together for the future, but you do have to keep open communication to resolve items and make decisions. Remaining respectful goes a long way to keep the hate, retaliation and agitation to a minimum
  2. Refraining from making any hasty decisions. Your situation won’t change overnight and you can take your time to make considered decisions together
  3. Accessing your Separation Checklist for suggestions and considerations of items to gather, do or action from the outset of the break-up. It will cover things like finances, home, documentation and who you may need to inform
  4. Should you find the whole situation overwhelming and need some support, strategy or direction, you can schedule a 45 minute Strategy Session

Whether you choose to participate in a trial separation and work on the relationship or whether you have the trial separation and choose to end the relationship, make sure that it is a decision that you are intrinsically happy and comfortable with. Remember, if it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t right for you. Weigh up what your heart is telling you and what you head is saying. Trust your instincts and have faith that the outcome is right for you.


This is general advice only and is not provided as legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should contact a lawyer and/or accountant before making a decision about what to do or applying to the Court. cannot provide legal advice. If you have an emergency situation, please contact Emergency '000'. © Divorce Pty Ltd