In our previous article, we shared some recommended marriage separation steps that we often give to those couples who believe that a temporary separation might be needed in their relationships. Often, the emotional distress and/or tension had become so intense that couples were fearful that they might say or do something that would cause an even greater disruption in the marriage. They have asked our marriage counseling advice about the steps they should take for a trial marriage separation with the possibility of reconciliation at some time in the future.
The intent of most couples who decide to separate for a period of time is to (1) allow for a “cooling off” period, (2) give each the opportunity to assess where they are in the relationship, and (3) decide if they wish to reconcile. If they do, and this is often the case, the couple is hopeful that they will be able to make a fresh start and overcome the problems that lead to the separation.
Separation and reconciliation is a two part process. In the same way that a couple needs to take certain steps to separate, they must also take very specific steps to reconcile. Our suggested steps for reconciliation are as follows:
The Decision To Reconcile Should Be Made Jointly
Just as the decision to separate was made jointly, the decision to reconcile should also be made jointly.
Acknowledgement of Each Partner’s Role in the Marital Problems
Partners need to have an honest, “heart to heart” conversation about the way(s) that their previous behavior contributed to the breakdown in the marriage. Hopefully, each has had some individual counseling to explore their roles in their marital problems. Each partner should ask for forgiveness and state what and how they intend to relate differently.
Development and Implementation of A Reconciliation Plan
In order to insure the greatest possible success, it is important that couples discuss and plan the way that the family will reconcile. Nothing should be assumed but rather carefully thought out and then implemented.
Recommitment To The Marriage
We recommend that partners make a declaration of their intent to re-commit to the marriage. We also recommended that it should be written and signed by both. The declaration should also spell out the frequency that the couple will review this declaration, assess their success, and make changes when necessary. Couples might also consider repeating their marriage vows either informally just between the two of them, with a small limited number of family or friends, or a more formal re-dedication ceremony involving a larger number of persons. It’s a matter of personal preference.