Couples who are struggling with marital issues often consider other options before deciding to end their relationship. Couples counseling, spending more quality time together and trial separations are just a few examples. Marital separation stands apart from couples counseling and quality time, though, as it emphasizes giving each spouse the time and space to consider what they really want. For many, this means divorce.

Around 80% of couples who separate ultimately go on to divorce. This is sometimes because the spouse requesting the separation has already made an immense psychological and emotional investment in the decision. Someone may take months considering his or her options, feelings and bottom line. By the time that spouse asks for a separation, he or she could have even spoken to a financial adviser already.

Another reason that separation often ends in divorce is fairly simple — getting away is a relief. Leaving a situation that is full of tension, criticism or anger can be an empowering experience. Someone might also develop a renewed sense of self and being unattached, perhaps for the first time in years.

As a separation goes on, contact with a spouse usually becomes increasingly painful. If a couple shares a child, then regular drop-offs can be a minefield of emotions. A spouse who is pushing toward reconciling will then make the other feel worried or guilty about the separation, causing him or her to withdraw even more. Fear of judgment from others — even loved ones — is another reason that a spouse may lean toward divorce.

Considering a marital separation does not mean that someone is destined for divorce. However, if he or she has reached this point, then it is important to acknowledge that it is a possible outcome. Preparing for this possibility is a realistic approach to what can be an unpredictable process, and speaking with an experienced attorney about one’s options may be helpful.