If you can plan the separation together, it will be better for both of you.

Here are some tips. In the examples on this screen, whats important is not what Gerald and Paula decided to do, but rather the fact that they talked these issues through in advance.

Duration. Determine a duration for the separation in advance. Since Gerald and Paula hope the marriage will recover, they set a separation of two weeks. A separation of anywhere from a weekend to six weeks is a reasonable time. At the end of two weeks, Gerald decides he wants to "renew" the separation for another month. A separation of over six months is a long time. And most couples who remain separated for nine months end up getting divorced.

Family Calendar. Gerald and Paula decide in advance that Gerald will join her for Paulas cousins wedding, but that Gerald will not go to Paulas family for Thanksgiving. 

Social Calendar. Gerald and Paula decide to both go to an upcoming teacher conference. They decide not to let the teacher know about their separation, at this point. Gerald lets Paula find another friend to go to a concert for which they already had tickets. They decide to sit together in Church at Christmas. 

Therapist. Gerald and Paula choose a therapist recommended by a friend of Paulas. This is not for everyone, but a good therapist can help. 

Finances. Gerald agrees to continue to pay the mortgage and the couples main credit card and all the expenses of the house. Paula agrees that she will not charge anything that would be her personal expense, such as clothing, on the main credit card. 

Property. Paula decides Gerald can take with him the portable player and three or four of his favorite DVDs, but Gerald leaves all the art and furniture. They agree that this will not affect how they ultimately divide things if they get divorced. 

Meetings. Paula and Gerald decide where, how often, and for how long they will meet each other during the separation. They decide to meet on Friday afternoons for lunch at a neutral restaurant. They decide in advance whether they are going to have sex with each other. If the answer is "no," they both stick with it. 

Phone calls. Paula and Gerald decide about phone calls to each other. They decide to limit phone calls and discussions to once a day, at most, and to discussions about logistical matters only. For weekend separations, or one-week separations, if one partner wants "zero communication," the other partner should respect that. Paula knows that a needy-sounding phone could trigger Geralds premature decision to make the separation permanent. 

Paula and Gerald make ground rules about seeing and caring for the children. They decide that Gerald will come three evenings a week for an hour after dinner, and that the kids will spend Saturday with him. They both stick to these rules. 

Dating. Gerald says he will continue to see his mistress Susan during the separation. He leaves Paula free to date, but Paula does not want to. The key here is that they were clear with each other about the nature and extent of their dating during this period. 

Space. It is a separation. Paula gives Gerald space, and vice versa. Paula intensely wants to know how its going in the apartment with Susan around, and how Gerald is managing at work, but she resists trying to find out. She does not ask for reports from the children.