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How successful are trial separations?

It’s hard to say. Since trial separations are informal, hard data is difficult to gather. Couples sometimes separate and reunite and then later falter and divorce. Divorces are recorded; informal separations are not.

Sometimes a couple separate to work out their marital difficulties, and then one spouse decides he or she likes living alone, so the separation stretches on and on -- or ends in a divorce. One spouse may tire of the limbo land and issue an ultimatum. Absence does not always make the heart go fonder.

Trial separations have been known to produce strange reversals: the person who wanted to separate may find that he or she now wants to return just as the person who did not want to separate now finds that he or she likes living alone (or with someone else).

When one spouse finds he or she is determined to end the marriage, that person should be forthright.

At the least, however, trial separations tend to crack, if not break, the bedrock of marriage -- trust.