Can A Trial Separation Save Your Marriage?

Written by Harini Natarajan

Many couples believe that the only way to resolve a troubled marriage is to get out of it with a divorce. However, if you do not wish to take a permanent route, you can step back a little to gain perspective. This is called a trial separation. If you have been wondering about improving your relationship by creating some space between you both, this could be an option. A divorce does not have to be the solution always. With a trial separation, you can gather new insights and potentially rebuild your marriage. Here, we further discuss trial separation and its pros and cons. Keep reading.

What Is A Trial Separation?

A trial separation is an informal, less permanent arrangement that couples make wherein they mutually decide to live apart and evaluate their feelings towards one another. It is called an informal arrangement because there is no legality, agreements, judges, or legal proceedings involved. In a trial separation, the couples agree upon terms and conditions set forth. Some common arrangements during a trial separation include:

  • Couples live apart during the said time frame
  • They mutually decide about bill payments and joint financial commitments
  • They plan for a living arrangement for their kids and pets, if any
  • They agree upon managing their joint assets

In many cases of a trial separation, financial constraints or a lack of a second property may compel the couple to live under the same roof.

Trial Separation Vs. Legal Separation

A trial separation, as we have understood so far, is when a couple decides to take a marital break and steps back from their conflicts to give their marriage a chance to revive from their time apart. This arrangement is often informal and does not involve any legalities, lawyers, or legal proceedings.

However, a legal separation, as the name goes, involves legal proceedings and a court order that requires the couple to divide their property, decide on the alimony, child custody, and support, etc. When a couple is legally separated, they are still married but living apart with pre-decided agreements about their duties and boundaries. However, in a divorce, the couple is no longer married to each other.

Some differences between a trial separation and a legal separation include:

  • A trial separation is usually temporary, whereas a legal separation is permanent.
  • A court order is required to finalize arrangements in a legal separation, whereas these are not required in a trial separation as the terms and conditions are decided upon by the couple mutually.
  • A trial separation may or may not change the financial situation of the couple, but a legal separation gives the couple a chance to split their finances, debt situations, etc.
  • While a trial separation can be off-record for the betterment of marriage, legal separation is not accepted as a choice in many states.

How Can A Trial Separation Help A Marriage?

Trial separations are a great way for couples to take a step back and evaluate their current marital status. Whether it is the beginning of the end or a new beginning depends upon the two partners and the underlying issues in their marriage. Marriage counselors recommend couples opt for a trial separation before they file for a divorce as some distance and staying apart can help put things in perspective. With the right rules, boundaries, and steps, love, and trust can be rekindled to save marriages.

Trial Separation: What To Keep In Mind

Trial separations are usually recommended by marriage counselors with the hope that they will bring the couple back together and save their relationship. But the success of a trial separation is determined by multiple factors, and the result of the arrangement can go either way. However, if you are looking to make your trial separation work, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Both partners must have a clear idea about ‘why’ they are going forward with a trial separation. Any concerns of either of the partners must be discussed clearly to avoid any future misunderstandings.
  • The biggest mistake couples choosing trial separation commit is they do not determine a deadline or time frame for their separation. If you wish to make your trial separation work, you must set a clear time frame from the outset.
  • Before a trial separation, the couple also needs to decide on their financial arrangements as these can fuel further conflict if the couple is already struggling with them.
  • Determine and set clear boundaries for your time away. This can include the time that you will spend together, the number of times you will spend time with your kids, the possibility of sexual intimacy, the frequency and nature of the visits, etc.
  • Couples on a trial separation are recommended to try and re-ignite the flame of their love again. Counselors advise the couples to go on regular dates or perform fun activities that are pleasurable to both partners. These activities may help them find common ground and reinstate the fact that life together is fun.
  • During the period of trial separation, couples must diligently undergo counseling sessions together for more effective results.
  • It is dangerous for people to believe that their partner will change overnight or agree with the same things that you do immediately. Rather than focusing on how to convince them of your viewpoint, each partner must make a sincere effort to see the viewpoint of their partner.
  • A trial separation is a temporary arrangement to help save a marriage. During this time, it is advisable not to date other people as this can break the trust in your relationship and cause further conflict.
  • Take the time during a trial separation to focus on your mental, physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Rejuvenating and charging your batteries can make you more positive and stable.

A trial separation can have several benefits. We have discussed them below.

Potential Benefits

The effects of a trial separation differ between couples, depending on the turbulence in their marriage. However, many couples opt for a trial separation for its potential benefits that include:

  • Higher chance of reconciliation as distance makes the heart grow fonder and gives the couple a different perspective into their marriage.
  • Reduces the chances of premature divorce applications.
  • Gives each partner enough time to think about themselves and how they may be contributing to the troubles in their marriage.
  • Gives the couple a ‘feeler’ of how life after divorce may be like.
  • Helps improve the communication skills between both the partners and gives them time to regain their disposition.
  • Helps break the pattern of recurring issues between the partners and allows them to think about the issues in their marriage.
  • Helps separate emotions from logic and enables the couple to think practically about their relationship and life together.

That said, a trial separation has its own set of risks. You must consider these too before opting for the arrangement.

Potential Risks

In some cases, trial separations can do more harm than good. Just like any move made in a relationship, trial separation comes with its own set of risks, which include:

  • Some couples may grow apart with the distance as they grow to be more comfortable with their newfound independence. This makes reconciliation extremely difficult.
  • Trial separation can prolong the pain a partner feels if the other partner has already decided on taking a divorce.
  • Issues involving kids, finances, trusts, and assets often get more complicated.
  • Society still does not view trial separation positively, and the couple might face many untoward questions from their friends and families.
  • The informal arrangement of a trial separation could confuse the children, if any. Separation and divorce are delicate topics for kids as they could impact their entire life.

Rules And Boundaries

Setting rules and boundaries is essential when going ahead with a trial separation with your partner. Couples must have rules and boundaries set in the following sectors of their marriage:

  • Setting a specific time frame.
  • Living arrangements must be decided.
  • Financial discussions.
  • Discussions on intimacy and frequency of sex.
  • Co-parenting their children, if any.

Couples opting for a trial separation must answer these questions:

  • Why are we going for a trial separation?
  • How long are we going to stay separated?
  • What are we looking out for after the end of this time period?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • How are we going to manage the finances?
  • Who pays the bills?
  • What arrangements do we have for meeting the kids?
  • How often are we going to meet each other and/or spend time as a family?


A trial separation is an underestimated option that was less opted for by couples earlier. However, with more couples finding their marriage in troubled waters, trial separation has become a popular arrangement in a marriage in the last bid to save it. A trial separation is recommended by counselors to save a marriage and increase the understanding between partners, but it has both potential benefits and risks too. Hence, consider the pros and cons and be clear on all the related aspects before going for a trial separation. Having clarity helps you achieve the intended results.

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As Chief Editor, Harini sets the tone and editorial direction for StyleCraze to deliver engaging, interesting, and authentic content revolving around women's health, wellness, and beauty. She has over 14 years of experience in content writing and editing for online media. She specializes in the areas of Beauty, Lifestyle, and Health & Wellness and is proficient in Medical Sciences (Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Biochemistry). Her background in Biomedical Engineering helps her decode and interpret the finer nuances of scientific research for her team. Harini is a certified bibliophile and a closet poet. She also loves dancing and traveling to offbeat destinations.