Most marriages have rocky patches. Some couples become stronger, having worked through their issues and found a new commitment to their relationship. Others, however, discover that their marriage is truly over and take steps to move on.
Legal separations allow couples who have serious trouble in their marriage to take a break while remaining married. Some people who establish a legal separation feel they need to test new relationships to assess how strongly they feel about staying with or ending things with their spouse. But is dating OK when you’re separated but not divorced? Opinions differ, but if you’re considering dating while separated, you should think hard about the potential implications.
Dating Is a Signal You’re Done
A separation is supposed to be a time to regroup and sort out what you want. If you dive into dating, you’re sending a signal that you’re done with your marriage. It can destroy your spouse’s incentive to reconcile. If you are already involved in an extramarital relationship, your separation is probably just a way station on the road to divorce.
Dating While Separated Can Have Legal Consequences
Depending on the law in your state and the type of separation (trial, legal, or permanent), dating someone who is not your spouse while separated can have legal consequences. Your spouse could sue your new partner for “alienation of affection,” and your spouse can accuse you of adultery, which in some states will put you at a disadvantage in future divorce proceedings. You could put your property interests at risk, and you will damage your position in negotiations about child custody.
Dating Complicates Things for Your Children
When you and your spouse agreed to separate, you probably also agreed on how to explain it to your children. If you start dating someone else, even discretely, your children will likely find out. They could be hurt, confused, and angry. Think hard about the effects it could have on your children before getting together with someone new before you’re divorced.
Are You Emotionally Ready To Date?
Dealing with a separation presents profound emotional issues. You are getting used to living apart or sharing a home but keeping an awkward distance from your spouse. Ask yourself if you want to date for all the wrong reasons. Do you want to make your spouse jealous, revenge for infidelity, or do you want to try to recapture a past version of yourself that simply doesn’t exist anymore.
Don’t kid yourself. If you’re asking yourself, “Is dating ok when you’re separated but not divorced?” you should take a step back and focus on the reasons you and your spouse separated. Take the time to figure out whether you want to fight for your marriage or proceed with a divorce.