", Elizabeth Bernstein explores temporary separations as a way for couples to step back from their faltering relationships in order to re-evaluate them.
(The article focuses on marriages, but I think it applies just as well to any committed relationship.) Rather than a preliminary step to the foregone conclusion of divorce, these temporary separations, planned out carefully between partners for a predetermined length of time and with guidelines regarding finances and child care, provide a cooling-off period with the added benefit of allowing the partners to see what life will be like without each other.
But naturally, if the partners are without each other for any length of time, they may want to be with "other" others, as the article mentions: Then there's the fraught issue of whether each party is allowed to see other people during the separation. "If one of the parties wants to date, this is not a trial separation, it's the end," she says.
Some therapists believe that dating is OK, as long as both parties are truly comfortable with the decision. As Tigger says, you just can't argue with a word like "fraught" (well played, Ms. But if the Hundred Acre Wood isn't one of your favorite hangouts, maybe you remember the years many of us spent at Central Perk.
It may imply that the separation is less about re-evaluating the relationship and more about having a chance at guilt-free cheating for a while.
I also think that people are complicated and when you "couple" them it's even worse and can be very hard to figure out.
Having been through it myself, I think it's easy to create logical solutions and arguments for all kinds of advice, but in the end, I also think it's about giving people the space to figure themselves out.
As with everything within a relationship, it's up to the partners themselves to decide what they're comfortable with during the separation, especially regarding how much and what kind of intimacy in dating is allowed.
But I would have to imagine that intimacy during the separation would make getting back together afterward difficult (although not impossible).
The explicitly temporary nature of the separation implies the hope of eventual reconciliation and renewed intimacy within the relationship, but the experience of intimacy with someone else during the separation may only make that reconciliation harder to achieve, because that hope may seem less sincere.