The following five tips can help you if you’re considering a marriage separation or your spouse has asked for one:

1. Talk with your spouse about what your individual goals are for the separation. Are they the same or different?

2. Try to reach an agreement that neither of you will date anyone else during this period of time. If your marriage is going to have the best chance possible, you’ll want to agree not to have sexual entanglements with others so you can continue to work on your relationship.

3. Set a tentative time period for the separation, such as three months. At the end of that time, you can both re-evaluate the decision in terms of what’s best for each of you.

4. Agree to seek individual and joint counseling during the separation to address the key problems and issues that have caused conflict in the marriage. This is an ideal time to do some deep individual work on your own personal issues as well as to address core relationship issues.

5. Set guidelines that you both agree to about how much contact you’ll have during the separation and what kind of contact it will be. It doesn’t do any good to have a separation if one spouse or the other is calling on the phone every five minutes and constantly wanting to talk more about the problems. The separation is supposed to reduce conflict and give each person some space and relief from constant pressure and arguments.

–Written by Nancy Wasson, Ph.D.