There is no question that some divorces are justified. Situations arise or may even be present at the time of marriage that make it difficult for two people to live together. And even if an appropriate choice is made for a marriage partner, people can change over time to the point that he or she is no longer desirable for a marital relationship. Raymond Hull once observed "All marriages are happy. It's the living together afterward that causes all the trouble."

The decision to divorce is seldom made quickly. Years ago William Goode dispelled the quick-divorce myth in his book "After Divorce." He noted that there are usually several months between the time the divorce is first contemplated and the time the marriage is legally terminated. Goode further noted the intense deliberation that most couples undertake in trying to decide whether or not to end their marriage. This was particularly so if children were involved.During the past few years I have discussed with many couples the possibility of divorce. A number of couples who initially seek marriage counseling later decide to end their marriage for various reasons. Two factors usually help them make the decision: 1. the emotional and sometimes physical pain endured by staying in the relationship and 2. the final realization the "marriage" ended some time ago and the unwillingness of either or both parties to continue to live in pretense.

For many couples contemplating divorce, I have suggested the two-step process. In reality, it is simply a trial divorce. Rather than proceeding immediately to the lawyer's office with a public announcement to family and friends that the marriage has ended, I suggest they do it in two steps.

The first step is to physically separate, with one partner finding another apartment or place to live for a few weeks. The action is as private as possible, and if "inquiring minds want to know" the couple simply suggests "we are working on some things in our marriage." No intention of divorce is yet disclosed to anyone, including the children if there are any.

Either husband or wife may be the first to leave, and the one leaving may return to the home any time he/she feels inclined to do. The couple is encouraged to talk to each other as much and as often as possible. If and when times for sexual intimacy arise with each other, the couple is encouraged to act accordingly if they choose to do so. In reality, they are still married. I have yet to see a marriage continue where there is no degree of sexual intimacy on a continued basis.

What the trial divorce accomplishes is simply this. It leaves the door open for the marriage to continue if both partners desire to do so. In addition, they do not have to go through the public hassle with family and friends of separating. It gives the couple a chance to experience to some degree what it will be like living apart from each other. In addition, they can more easily continue the relationship if they desire.

Many couples who choose a trial or two-step divorce find themselves under much less stress during the separation and later continue on with the legal aspect of divorce. Others, as noted, physically separate and find the arrangement less convenient than they had anticipated. Many are then more motivated to return to the relationship and work a bit harder in trying to solve their problems. The trial divorce gives the couple a little more time to think about what they want to do.

If you are seriously contemplating divorce, you may want to try it in the two stages suggested. One or the other move out for two or three weeks and then rotate living situations. After four to six weeks you can still continue on with the legal arrangements if you desire. But, if you both have changed your mind in the process, you can more easily move back in together and continue your relationship.

If you have comments, write to 1230, SFLC, BYU, Provo, UT 84602.