Separation vs Divorce

How to prevent a temporary separation from becoming a permanent divorce

Love + Sex Relationship Advice Brian Webb

This article was published on September 2nd, 2020

Nearly 50 percent of same-sex marriages end in divorce. That’s at par with heterosexual marriages, though at a slightly lower annual divorce rate of around 1%. Here’s another fun observation: Contrary to popular belief, lesbian committed relationships do not endure as long as gay male committed relationships.

Divorce doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long process. Your partner coming late might be the last straw that pushes you over the edge. However, in reality, that marriage has been on a long descent to chaos, anger, and eventual dissolution.

What if you could stem the descent and save your marriage? What if you could save your marriage and the love of your life by taking simple measures that prevent separation from becoming a permanent divorce. We’ll explore those options and steps below. Before that, however, let’s understand divorce and separation from a legal perspective.

Photo by Marsha Dhita on Unsplash

The legal nuts and bolts of divorce and separation

Let’s circle back to June 26, 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. The landmark ruling effectively allowed gays and lesbians to wed and enjoy all the legal benefits and protections of married couples.

With “legal” marriage, you have to also contemplate the idea of divorce. Good things have a way of coming to an abrupt end, including unions.

However, before marriage is dissolved, couples can take measures, such as separation, among others, to salvage it.

Consequently, separation isn’t the same as divorce. Here’s what each means and the legal ramifications.

  • Trial separation – In this scenario, you live apart from each other, but you’re still legally married until a court dissolves your marriage. You live separately from each other to give each other space while deciding between divorce or reconciliation.
  • Permanent separation – In this scenario, you live apart from your partner without any intentions of reconciliation and yet not divorced. In some states, permanent separation changes rights to property, assets, and debts acquired during the separation.
  • Legal separation – Being legally separated means you’re no longer officially married, but you aren’t divorced either. You can’t remarry. Sometimes, people chose legal separation instead of divorce for religious beliefs, insurance, or even children.
  • Divorce – The complete dissolution of marriage. Everything gets divided, and your estates are once again separated—the end.

Stemming the tide from separation to divorce

So, how do you keep temporary separation from becoming a divorce? Honestly, it takes dedication, humility, and willingness to put in the work.

Accept and validate your partner’s feelings.

The first rule of thumb: Don’t panic. It’s frustrating hearing your partner wants out, but it’s natural. Relationships move in cycles. Accept that your partner wants out and take responsibility for your contribution to the relationship’s breakdown.

Validate their feelings too. Let them know how you feel about their decision and the state of your relationship. However, don’t beg, chase, or nag. Letting go and giving each other space is the best option in this instance.

Retreat and regroup

Since you’re separated, it’s time to go to work on yourself. Step back and be the best you can be physically, mentally, and spiritually. It’s possible the relationship depleted your reserves of energy, not is the time to replenish by taking good care of yourself. 

Do your own thing, try new hobbies, demonstrate to your partner that you can become a better person, or at the very least, let them know what they’d be missing.

Establish a support network that includes your family and friends and share your problems instead of calling up your separated partner.

Learn the skills of a good partner

You can’t step in the operating room today and perform surgery unless you are a qualified doctor. That requires years of preparation and study. And yet, you stumbled into the relationship and said “I Do” without knowing what you were signing up for.

The separation period is a great time to work on your relationship skills if you wish to salvage your marriage. The four most essential relationship skills to work on include:

  • Talking clearly and cooperatively (Proper communication)
  • Managing anger and other destructive emotions
  • Learning how to make win-win decisions
  • Elevating your relationship’s positivity levels.

Use self-help books, online courses, or talk to a counselor to work through your issues and baggage.

At this juncture, you could try couples therapy to work through some of the issues and try to stall your marriage’s eventual dissolution.

Re-establish contact

Once you’ve done a healthy amount of work on yourself, it’s time to re-establish contact. Keep it short and focus on positive and happy interactions that boost positivity and closeness.

Talk about how you both feel, and what each partner thinks about what the other needs to change. Be honest and courteous with each other.

Set new ground rules

Finally, if the initial contact during separation yields positive results, and you decide to reconcile, you must establish new ground rules to govern your relationship.

List down any complaints, criticisms, grievances, and disagreements, and how each partner intends to rectify them and improve. List everything down, and remain objective during the process. Let each partner accept the responsibility for their faults and commit to change.

Final thoughts

Divorce should be the option of last resort when everything else has failed. Love brought you together; it’d be a shame not to give it your all before signing that final marriage dissolution. Take your time and work through the steps above during your separation; it might save your marriage.

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