Couples usually want to know that they have really tried to make a marriage work before ending it. For couples who need time to work through their struggles, and who do not want to risk destabilizing their existing situation I have been able to use my experience as a mediator to help them craft what I have come to call a “Standstill Agreement”.
Many married couples try therapy when they realize their marriage is in trouble. Family counseling works for some couples but it also entails significant risks. For example, therapy works best when people can be open and honest but sometimes certain disclosures can push their spouse over the tipping point.
A Standstill Agreement can help minimize this problem. It is a confidential agreement between the spouses that they enter into after marriage and with the full understanding that their marriage is floundering. They realize they need time to work on their marriage without the looming threat of abandonment or divorce and so we negotiate an enforceable agreement to maintain the status quo for a specified period of time. These agreements are tailored to the needs of each couple and so I will not go into specifics here. The main idea is that neither party gives up rights by staying married. Furthermore, both parties agree to give themselves and their partner’s time to sort out specific personal and interpersonal issues and often they come up with a clear action plan as well.
A variation along these lines is when I mediate to help a married couple who decides they need some space from one another and to physically separate but want to avoid the cost and drama of filing for a legal separation. The Standstill Agreement sets up the financial boundaries as well as physical limitations so that they can maintain the status quo of their relationship while working through difficult times knowing they have a certain level of security and continuity.
If your marriage is in trouble and you do not want to divorce, then perhaps a mediated Standstill Agreement can help you like it has helped other couples.