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Do Trial Separations Work?

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

Is it sometimes good for a couple to take some time off from one another in order to let things calm down?


Yes, sometimes this can be the correct decision if it's done the right way. Let me tell you a little story.

Several years ago a couple came and visited us during one of our weekend workshops. At home they were experiencing a lot of fights stemming from parenting a teenager. The fights were intense, hurtful, and left both of them feeling flooded and emotionally overwhelmed.

They decided to separate, but they made some unique decisions during the separation process. First, they entered into the separation knowing that it would be temporary. Second, one partner rented it an apartment nearby their son's school so that he could walk to either home, thus staying in contact with both of his parents.

Most importantly, though, they built rituals for regular connection. Every Tuesday night was 'pasta night' for the whole family, which would happen at either home. Also, Friday nights were parent 'date nights', which rejuvenated their friendship. Date night's focus included getting to know one another all over again, avoiding any potential conflicts, and just having a great time with one another.

They then came to our weekend workshop and learn some new things about how their relationship worked, including entirely new skill sets to manage conflict/tension, and avoid flooding or emotional overwhelm.

It worked.

The second home was only necessary for several months, and they were able to move back into one home and be a family again. The trial separation afforded them the time they needed to learn something new without further damage to the relationship. But most importantly, they also use this time to renew their friendship and remember why they started the relationship in the first place. If you are considering a separation from your partner, maybe this story will give you a few ideas about how to do it in a way that will actually help the relationship. We wish you success, and hope to see your relationship thrive.

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