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The GEM Debate: Can Trial Separation Save Your Marriage?

I found a very interesting piece today on a couple that decided to take a break from each other in order to save their marriage. After three decades of marriage, their relationship had become, as the husband described, “almost toxic” and they knew they were going to have to take drastic action. What they came up with was taking time apart. I don’t think this is such a bad idea. I think sometimes in a marriage between raising kids, maintaining a household, job and health challenges, the intensity can be overwhelming.


Ohboyohboyohboyohboyohboy it’s times like this I’m glad Buff doesn’t read Good Enough Mother.  I found a very interesting piece today on a couple that decided to take a break from each other in order to save their marriage. After three decades of marriage, their relationship had become, as the husband described, “almost toxic” and they knew they were going to have to take drastic action.  What they came up with was taking time apart. Take a peek:

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I don’t think this is such a bad idea. I think sometimes in a marriage between raising kids, maintaining a household, job and health challenges, the intensity can be overwhelming. I am not proud to admit this, but in the case of Buff and me, like a lot of couples and without meaning to, sometimes we take each other for granted. They’re always there, you know how they’ll respond, you know how they’ll react.

What better way to recapture some of the “new”, you know, the whole, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing? Now before you all chime in with “but too much absence makes it wander”,  as the therapist in the piece said, the ground rules have to be clear. Both people need to be in therapy and view this as a time to work on themselves before returning to the relationship, not as a time to party like a student on spring break. We talked about something like this once before but not taking it to this extent.

So let’s debate. If your marriage is in trouble, do you think taking time off from it can save it? Do you think both people could benefit from it or should the problems be solved while under the same roof? Have you ever done this or contemplated this before? Okay let’s debate!




  1. Eddie Griffin

    August 31, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house. (Proverbs 21:9)

  2. Doyle

    August 31, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    My two cents worth. I feel/believe that if I or my hubby should move out to “work on the relationship” that it really is already over. I think staying under the roof and really working at the problems can help more a trial seperation. There have been times we have not been happy with each other and have hurt each other due to life in general. But, we always take steps back and focus on “us” and what does work and work on the stuff that takes extra energy.

  3. Bari Nan Cohen

    August 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I can’t speak to the Proverbs quote, above, but I can say that I just read a terrific book on this subject: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is, by Laura Munson. It’s a memoir of how the author handled her husband’s announcement that he needed to separate from her, and her refreshingly clear-headed approach to waiting it out under the same roof. She’s an engaging writer, and she fought hard (within herself, particularly) to NOT let him move out. I’ve seen “wasted” divorces happen because people let their pride get the better of their judgement. I’ve also seen people stick it out beyond what’s salvageable. In my own life? Time together does more for us than time apart.

  4. Dano

    August 31, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    The couple in the video hit the nail on the head when they mentioned the realization that after the separation, they started communicating.

    I’d say that whatever can foster improved communication for a given couple is worth pursuing!

  5. Day 2 Day Dad

    August 31, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    I may be letting you know in 6 months or so!!!

  6. Spontaneous Nicole

    August 31, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Rene, I would most definitely be interested in a trial separation seeing that my husband and I have just begun individual counseling with the same therapist because I want out of the marriage. I do not believe I can continue on my life journey with him the way that he is. After two sessions my therapist said that he could not, or would not, likely grow as an individual as long as I am there with him under the same roof. I love him dearly but he MUST grow as a man in order to be a better husband/provider than he is a friend. Being a friend is not enough and I’ve lost respect for him as a result of many broken promises! I’d love to give him (and myself) time and space to grow and later decide where we want to go from there. But as it stands today, I’d rather just go w/o this option.

  7. Victor Hogan

    August 31, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    one of my favorite movies about marriage/family is “The Story of Us” starring Bruce Willis & Michelle Pfeiffer. if you haven’t seen it and you’ve been married for at least 7 to 10 years…. Netflix it and watch it TODAY!!!
    in this movie, bruce(the husband/dad) moved out and got his own place with the intent of getting divorced. that time apart opened their eyes to a whole lot…

    this doesn’t work in every case. it certainly didn’t work in mine. after 17 years of being with my ex-wife(14 of those being married), my marriage ended. my case was unusually extreme… and rare. but, under “normal” circumstances, i think this method would have worked for us. my ex-wife, TRULY, was my best friend and lover. time apart would have mended our marriage, if my case wasn’t so extreme.

    great post, Rene!

  8. Lamar

    August 31, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    It would be great if most people separated with the thought of working on their marriage but most just see it as an opportunity to date freely and get some. That should be the last of the last resorts.

  9. Sylvia

    August 31, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    My husband of 12 years and myself have recently decided to seperate. I believe it is the best thing for right now. For peace of mind because we can’t seem to agree on what needs to change and how and the tense enviroment is not good for our 6 year old son. For the lack of a better word we have lost that loving feeling and only one of us thinks counseling is the answer (guess who) but I feel it is the right decision for now. Deep down I feel that the seperation is going to be helpful and we will both seek to be better people in our own ways and come back together and start from scratch, even though I must prepare as if we won’t be getting back together…my goal is to work on me, not “get my groove back…..I hope that is his goal as well.

  10. Tiffany

    August 31, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I’m gonna have to agree with most of the above post. I am at the jumping off place, but haven’t taken the plunge because my ducks aren’t in a row yet…and I would like my children to have both parents in the same house. Rest assured, if my husband moved out to take a break, at this point in my life, I’d pray it was permanent. After 4 1/2 years of the s.o.s., I have come to the conclusion that this marriage is going to be the way it’s going to be, unless “I” change.

    A friend once told me to never, NEVER, leave your house, and never leave your bed. Staying together and trying to make sense of it is supposed to be the best thing. That same friend told me if I can’t be happy, be holy. Be the kind the woman He would want me to be, and don’t let him (or anyone for that matter) steal my joy. Is it hard? You better believe it. I feel like Savannah on Waiting to Exhale when she came to her senses…when I look at him he is like the scum of the f…. earth. So, I’m faking this for mostly for my children. He was just out of town for a week and I did a lot of meditating. I was somewhat happy to see him come back…mostly because I was exhausted from doing everything by myself. Wished he’d stayed gone longer, because I had peace while he was gone…gave me time to think. And, I do feel renewed. And, am trying to not let Satan get the best of my marriage While the time apart was nice, I still think that if we’re gonna have a rat’s chance…we better stick it out in the same place.

  11. Tajor9

    August 31, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Interesting that after they seperated they began to write letters to each other. I would like to think that those letters didn’t point the finger or blame but merely focused on oneself.

    My relationship is no where near this point and I pray it never gets there. However I have picked up some great tips that should help to keep my marriage strong.

    Thanks for sharing!

  12. majones9645

    August 31, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Nope too risky. You’re leaving on bad terms to begin with & it makes you prone to find someone that will “understand” your feelings. Relationships are tough enough, just try and work it out.

  13. Doyle

    August 31, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    everyone has to decide what is best for them as a couple and as an individual.

    I know with my first partner when it was over. I made a clean break even though he wanted a trail seperation. I knew that nothing would change so when I walked out the door, I knew I was never going back.

  14. Trina Jackson

    October 4, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    My man and I didn’t take a trial separation — we straight broke up and went our separate ways. I won’t forget the night we decided — he hugged me and told me that we might be better, grow stronger, or some crazy crap like that. BUT guess what — after 4 months it worked and we did grow stronger and closer together. I trust him more than ever now because I know he has the courage to tell me if he’s not happy. PLUS I know he’s not going to act too crazy because now he is very well aware that I WILL leave. As some of the other posters have mentioned — every couple is different and as long as couples keep that in mind they will be able to make good decisions based on their own situation.

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