I often hear from people who are separated and trying to save their marriages. One recurring theme that often comes up is dating your spouse while you are separated. Many people intuitively know that this can be an important part of the process. After all, if you can regularly date your spouse again and this goes well, that’s part of rebuilding your marriage and showing your spouse that the two of you can have fun, connect again, and still have a spark on which you can and want to rebuild.
But, many couples aren’t quite sure about how to approach this. I’m often asked for insights on how to best handle dating while you’re technically in a trial separation. I recently heard from a wife who asked the questions that most people want to know. She said, in part: “are there any guidelines about dating my husband while we’re separated? Are you supposed to plan the dates or just let them happen? Can I ask him out or do I have to wait until he asks me? Are there any topics that are off limits? I know that when I’m with my husband I’m going to want to ask him if he’s come to a decision or has any opinions about the chances of us getting back together. Is it a good idea to have sex on these dates or should I keep things strictly platonic in order to lure him back? What is the best way for me to handle this?”
I will try to cover these concerns and offer some tips on successfully dating your spouse during a trial separation in the following article.
The optimal way to approach this is to agree with your spouse on how this is going to go before one of you actually leaves the home. So many couples leave this open ended and when they do, it’s my experience that things are less likely to go well.
If it’s possible, it’s a good idea to define how often you’re going to get together beforehand. If you both have this agreement in place, you’re both less likely to see other people or to do things during the separation that could be detrimental to your marriage. It also gives you a common goal and something to look forward to.
However, sometimes setting things up beforehand isn’t possible because one spouse wants to “wait and see” or is reluctant to commit to regular dating. In this case, it’s best not to push and to just take advantage of the time that you do spend together. If you get the sense that your spouse will be reluctant to commit to anything beforehand, then it’s better not to push for this and to just make things seem spontaneous (even if you were planning them all along.) It’s OK to ask your spouse out on a date. I don’t think you always have to wait for them to ask you. But make sure that you sound casual and allow them to ask the next time around.
This is a very common mistake and it’s also a very detrimental one. Many people feel as if they have to take the temperature of their marriage during these dates or they use them to “work out” their problems. In my opinion and experience, this is truly a potentially costly mistake. The whole idea for these dates is to bond with your spouse again and to prove to both of you that you can get a long, have fun together, feel the spark again, and reconnect.
You make this less likely if you insist on diving into your problems when the marriage is already struggling. While I concede that you will eventually need to address any problems, the time to do so isn’t during a date that really should be fun. Many people don’t even realize that they are doing this until they look back on the date and ask themselves what went wrong.
The vast majority of people who contact me about this issue also tell me that their date destinations are usually either the old standbys or based on attempts to evoke nostalgic memories with their spouse. They’ll take their spouse to the location of their first date or continue on with their Friday night traditions.
This is fine every once in a while. But I would suggest not always relying on what you did in the past. You want to create a sense of new adventures and fun. You want to laugh and feel very alive during this experience. Try things that you haven’t done together before and always keep everything very light hearted.
I know it’s easy to fall back on the familiar, especially when you might already be struggling emotionally during the separation, but it’s very important that the dates go well so that you both want to have more of them. So the last thing you want to do is to find yourself on the other side of the same table where you’ve always sat having the same conversations you’ve always had. Shake things up a bit. I think you’ll be happy with the results.
People ask me about this a lot. Wives in particular usually ask if it’s a good idea to limit sex when you’re separated. The thought process behind this is that if she has sex with her husband when he’s not living with her, then what is his incentive to come back home?
I understand (and usually agree somewhat) with this thinking, but I also know that this is easier said than done. And, many people see things quite differently and think that if they can have good and regular sex with their spouse during the separation, this is going to improve their relationship, strengthen their bond, and make their spouse less likely to cheat or date other people while they aren’t living in the same house.
Both of these approaches have points with which I really can’t argue. I truly think that it depends upon the couple and where they are in the separation process. I would caution you against using sex as the main way to get your spouse back. I also have to tell you that sometimes having sex while separated can create some conflict and misunderstandings as this can mean different things to both spouses at the time. As a result, hurt feelings and resentment may follow.
I would suggest that if you’re going to have sex while you are separated, make sure that you are doing so because you want to express and share your feelings at the time, and not as a way to lure your spouse back or to play emotional games that may backfire.