An old friend once told me that he came home from work to find his house completely emptied, including the carpeting, light bulbs, switchplate covers and toilet paper! Was his house broken into? Nope. His wife decided to move out and end the relationship. Don’t you think there are better ways to tell your partner it’s over?
Regardless of whether you call it a trial separation or the beginning of the end of your marriage, it’s no doubt one of the most difficult decisions you’ll ever have to make. Blindsiding your partner doesn’t exactly lend itself to a peaceful, respectful divorce. There are a lot of overwhelming details accompanying this decision which are better, in the long run, if they’re made together. So before one of you leaves for good, here are several ground rules to discuss with each other.
- Determine a time frame. Who’s going to move out, and when? If privacy is an issue, will you need to ask for the key back? Change the locks?
- What about the kids? How are you going to tell them? (See my recent blog for some suggestions.)
- How and when are you going to tell other family members and friends? What will you tell them?
- How are you going to communicate with each other? Phone, text, email?
- What about counseling or therapy? Start together? Continue together? Start or continue individually?
- Are you going to have sex with each other? What about dating other people? Introducing someone new to the kids?
- And then there are the finances. During this interim period, who is going to pay for what? Will you maintain joint bank accounts? What about joint credit cards? Specific and firm boundaries need to be established about all of your financial matters.
- What is a reasonable amount of time to elapse before you both re-evaluate the separation?
- And if you decide to formally end the relationship, what will that look like? Will you first see a Mediator (I hope) before incurring attorney’s fees?
This list, although lengthy, is not all-inclusive. If this list seems overwhelming to you, break it down. Have a few meetings with your spouse to hammer out these preliminary decisions. Depending upon your individual situation, there may be more or less ground rules to discuss and establish before separating. Regardless of how short or long your list is, I urge you to write it out, together. And make sure the following two items are at the top of the list:
#1. Be respectful of each other;
#2. Be on the same page when it comes to telling your family and your friends.
Whether it’s your choice, her choice, or a mutual decision, the more peace you can inject into the separation process, the more peaceful the end will be, and the sooner you can begin living the rest of your life. A Mediator can always help you hammer out the details of your separation and spare you a lot of anguish and expense along the way.