Why Trial Separations Do Not Work

November 1, 2019

Often, the idea of a separation comes out amidst an argument when people are at their wits’ end.

Or it may seem like a kind of release valve. A way to get some distance from the pressure and frustration attached to working through issues. 

The idea can seem like a relief. Is it really, though?

The Idea Behind a Trial Separation

Proponents of trial separation believe there are benefits to be had. They say: 

  • Separation provides time and space to realize your partner’s worth.
  • Time apart allows you to let go of petty issues you have with one another.
  • The break offers a fresh start and a healthier perspective on your life together.
  • You’ll be able to focus on yourself and sort out your personal issues.

That last one’s got it partly right. Healing and strengthening any relationship does begin with you. However, there are some big problems with the other supposed positives.

What’s Wrong with the Idea of Separation

When you are successfully working through personal issues, this is a positive experience. And if you achieve a breakthrough, your natural inclination will be to examine all of the elements that led to that achievement. 

So, think about what it means to reach a goal and feel better than before... without your partner. None of those positive feelings will be associated with them.


  • A trial separation severs communication… at least to some degree. 
  • Temporary independence may feel good, but your responsibilities don’t just go away.
  • Returning to a situation that hasn’t really changed may make it easier to let the relationship go.   
  • If you achieve a positive feeling while avoiding doing the work together, it may justify more future “breaks.”

The healthier, more long-term route for a committed couple is to directly confront and try to resolve conflict. It can be tougher. But it provides longer-lasting and more satisfying results. 

Wouldn’t It Be Better to Just Start Over?

You may be asking yourself whether scrapping this relationship might be a better option. After all, you can just start over fresh, and the next one will be different, right?

Not likely, according to researchers with the University of Alberta. The recent completion of one eight-year study proves what relationship therapists and couples counseling have seen for years: “Although some relationship dynamics may change, you are still the same person, so you likely recreate many of the same patterns with the next partner.”

What You Should Do Instead

Instead of starting all over with someone new, Imago therapy tells us that working together on improving relationship issues is a better answer. 

The trick is to set the stage for honest conversation and create realistic expectations for your partnership. One way partners can do that is in a couple’s therapy session. 

Or, you can start with a workshop. Over a single weekend, you’ll dive deep and learn some easily applicable tools to help you rediscover your potential together. 

Working through personal issues as a unit defines how you find your “couple’s answer” to the various conflicts you may be having instead of solving your problems alone (and apart).

Ultimately, building and sustaining a loving, emotionally nourishing marriage is more difficult than we imagine during the new romance phase. It takes work and practice and time. But you’ll find rekindling the flame is incredibly satisfying!

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How Marriage Workshops Are Helpful at Any Stage

September 25, 2019

The term “marriage workshop” may conjure up images of couples on the brink of divorce making a last-ditch effort to save their broken relationship. The truth is, weekend workshops actually have the potential to help you at any stage. 

Each is typically designed for a particular set of challenges, improving healthy and struggling marriages alike. In fact, here at the Delaware Relationship Center, we even offer guidance for those who aren’t currently in a committed relationship! 

Do workshops really help?

I can safely say that in my 25 years of doing workshops, 75-80% of attendees benefited significantly from attending. 

Here are the four typical stages of a relationship, and what opportunities a marriage workshop might provide...

STAGE 1: Looking for Love and Finding Yourself

For individuals either looking for love or working to find themselves, workshops often include a combination of lecture and imagery exercises that can help you delve deeper within and learn new skills in connecting with others.

Individual workshops actually cater to a wide variety of people, including: 

  • Singles
  • Divorcees
  • Widows and widowers

We believe there is always something to be learned from our history that will help us move toward nourishing and enduring love in our future. 

STAGE 2: The Newly Betrothed

Brief lectures, exercises, lighthearted activities, and private time help you and your new fiancé deepen your thriving relationship’s foundation. 

Premarital education, like an Imago Therapy-based workshop, can bolster your future marriage’s chances for success!

Addressing things like nourishing your relationship daily and developing the skills you need for “important” conversations helps prepare you for the inevitable challenges every couple faces together. 

STAGE 3: Spicing Up the Long-Term Relationship

A huge part of us as individuals craves normalcy and routine, but there are parts of our lives - like our needs for intimacy and enjoyment - that require change and excitement. 

If everything is going great in your relationship otherwise, the Delaware Relationship Center hosts an intensive two-day workshop strictly focusing on passion and intimacy issues. 

It’s the kind of workshop designed to help you gain new insights into you and your partner’s intimacy styles, and what may be preventing you from feeling that intense “in-love” feeling that seems to have naturally waned over time.

STAGE 4: Breaking Down Barriers

No relationship is immune to its seasons. We are always individuals, and those who’ve committed to the long-haul understand this best. We choose to stay with our partners. 

Even when we know how to weather a storm, problems can form if we aren’t equipped to actually recover. When we see couples at this stage, they know they love each other; they just need help figuring out where to go from here.

A marriage workshop designed with this in mind can teach you how to utilize your relationship for personal change and growth, and to restore empathy and stability in it.

Marriage workshops give couples and individuals a break from the stresses faced in everyday life. Carving out time away from the demands of your children, careers, and so on provides the opportunity to focus on just the two of you again.

Take a look at our upcoming workshops to learn more about how the Delaware Relationship Center can help improve your relationship.

And if you need to, feel free to reach out! We are always here to answer your questions. 

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Staying in Love Is a Choice

August 20, 2019

New love feels like a magic carpet ride. You don’t appear to be in control of where you’re going, but you’re thrilled by the adventure and the view. Everything is exciting - you get butterflies before each date and each new milestone is more thrilling than the last. 

But the magic carpet ride does not last forever. As you start to spend years - and then decades - with your partner, you find yourself on a different type of adventure. 

If new love is like a magic carpet ride, long-lasting love is like a road trip.

Changing the Way You Choose to Love Your Partner 

How exactly is a long-term relationship like a road trip?

Because you and your partner are both in control, and you have to work together and navigate where you are going. Stop paying attention to where you are and what turns you’re making will only get you lost.

Fortunately, getting lost is normal. You can recover and get back on track by making the choice to stay in love. That’s right - staying in love is a choice.

Sure, the first few years of your romance may not have felt like a choice - it just felt like a fun ride. But don’t think of this new phase of your partnership as something to dread or something to be ashamed of. 

Road trips still provide a beautiful opportunity to see new things and live through beautiful and exciting experiences. You just need to make more choices. You have to choose to continue on this journey together, even when you get lost. 

Feeling Lost on Your Road Trip? Talk to a Delaware Relationship Therapist 

Every adventure has moments where you get lost and moments where you want to turn back. Don’t let discouraging pit stops end a journey - there are still many exciting destinations to go to and beautiful sights to see. 

A Delaware relationship therapist can help you and your partner take hold of your road map and make conscious choices to help you fall back in love and continue on this journey together. 

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How to Maintain Your Marriage after Baby Comes

July 30, 2019

You and your partner have a lot of preparation to do before your baby arrives. But while you decorate the nursery and stock up on diapers, take a moment to think about how to maintain your relationship as well.

You might have heard friends or family members talk about how children affect marriage. This is more than just a few people complaining. 

Satisfaction rates drop twice as fast for couples with children vs. couples without children. Intimacy may decline as your baby demands more from you physically. 

Simply put, being a parent makes having a satisfying romantic relationship a lot harder.

Why do children appear to negatively affect marriage? 

There are a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is the fact that many couples just aren’t prepared for these changes. They don’t plan for them. 

If you and your partner can anticipate obstacles and put a strategy in place, you can embrace the changes that come with a child and maintain your beautiful partnership.

What exactly should you do? 

Practice Mindfulness - Starting Now

Becoming a parent for the first time comes with a lot of new experiences. You will need to adapt to a new sleep schedule. Your priorities will change. You’ll have new roles and responsibilities. 

These changes may affect the way that you experience and see the world… and the way that you see your partner. Oh, and while you are going through these changes, your partner will also be having new experiences and feelings as well.

In order to get to know your partner as “mother” or “father,” you will need to communicate. Express your feelings and allow your partner to truly see you. 

This process begins with mindfulness. Tap into your feelings and where they might be coming from. Slow down and get in the habit of sitting in the present moment with yourself. 

When you get more in touch with your feelings, you will be able to understand how parenting is affecting you and communicate those changes with your partner. 

Of course, it’s important to realize that mindfulness and empathetic communication cannot be achieved with the snap of your fingers. It requires practice, an open mind, and a specific set of tools. Talk to a relationship therapist about how you can acquire these tools and put you and your spouse on a path toward open communication to embrace your new journey together.

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Commitment in Marriage

June 18, 2019

When you stand together with your partner at the altar and read your vows, what are you doing?

You’re celebrating your love.

You’re officiating a lifelong partnership - legally and through the eyes of others.

But most importantly, you are committing to a lifetime with your partner.

A ring on your finger doesn’t guarantee that you will feel happiness and bliss all the time. Marriage licenses don’t expire. But they also don’t include clauses that eliminate the risk of obstacles or hardships. It’s only through commitment that you can secure a lifetime of being together with the one you love.

Commitment Requires Effort

Letting go of your commitment is like letting go of the steering wheel of a car. Things may seem okay for a short period of time. But once you hit a bump or an unexpected turn, you may lose control entirely.

You must grip the wheel at all times to keep your love safe and sound.

The most important phrase to remember is at all times. Many couples wait until after an indiscretion or during a rough patch to recommit. Unfortunately, this requires picking up more pieces - and doing a lot more work - than they might have thought.

If you want to ensure that you and your partner remain committed throughout speed bumps and unexpected turns, you have to work on that commitment and communicate it to your partner regularly.

Showing Your Commitment

How can you show your partner that you are committed to creating a lifetime of love and happiness with them?

The answer may lie in small gestures. For example, making changes based on a partner’s suggestion or simply telling them that you are committed. And it may include some larger efforts, too.

It’s not always as easy as putting your hands on the wheel. You need to know where you are going. And you need a plan for getting there.

Build a roadmap together. Reach out to a marriage therapist for more information on how you can recommit to your partner and continue to enjoy a lifetime of love.  

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Learning to Trust Each Other

May 24, 2019

Do you trust your partner?

This may be a hard question to answer, especially in the weeks or months after a betrayal. Sometimes, it feels like without trust the entire foundation of your relationship has crumbled. Betrayals, lies, or even miscommunications can shake this foundation like an earthquake.

But it’s possible to rebuild. It’s possible to learn to trust each other, or learn to trust each other again.

Like learning to do the dishes or validate your partner, learning to trust each other is a lifelong process. Are you ready to bring trust back into your relationship?

How to Begin the Process of Building Trust

Before reaching out to your partner, look within. Do you trust that you will make the effort to learn to trust again? Do you trust that you will open up and face uncomfortable truths through this process? You don’t have to answer with a confident “yes” just yet, but know that this road is not always smooth.

Once you’re ready to rebuild within your relationship, it’s time to communicate your intentions to your partner. This can be hard. Many people fear that telling this to their partner implies that they don’t have any trust in the first place. Find a good time to talk to your partner and tell them the ways that you do trust them. Follow up these affirmations with your intentions and an invitation for your partner to share their feelings.

When both partners are on the same page, it’s time to start making the effort to build trust within the relationship. It’s important for both partners to recognize that building trust requires forgiving or allowing yourself to be forgiven for any past issues. It also requires being honest, taking responsibility for your actions, and embracing self-growth.

If this process is the result of a break of trust, it can feel hard to pick up the pieces. Things may crumble a second or third time. But when both partners are committed to building trust through honesty, self-reflection, and effort, the foundations of your trust can be rebuilt into a strong home.

The blueprint for building trust is not always easy to find. Talk to a relationship therapist for more information about learning to trust each other and using that trust to build a strong, loving relationship.

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Walt Ciecko, Ph. D., BCB
605 Wynyard Rd
Wilmington, DE 19803