A marital separation is the first step to divorce for some couples, while others use the time apart to define what they really want out of life and figure out how their spouse fits into that picture.If you’ll use your separation period to determine whether you wish to stay married to your spouse, dating plays an important role.Although it might make sense for a couple not contemplating divorce, a physical relationship with your wife when you know divorce is imminent will only cause emotional pain.

Rather than assigning blame for problems, discuss what went wrong and what each of you could have done differently. If you reach a point where you know reconciliation is no longer an option, voice that to your spouse. When dates with your estranged spouse go well, physical intimacy seems a natural progression.

Decide before you begin dating your spouse if sex is on the table.

Never go on a date with your spouse during separation out of guilt.

Trying to let him down gently by dating will backfire. Dating during separation is not a time to sweep marital troubles under the rug.

The laws vary by state, so it's important to check with your lawyer to make sure there are no legal consequences if you start dating your spouse while separated.

In some states, dating doesn't cause any issues, but moving back in together can affect your legal separation.

En español | In the course of my work as a sex and relationship educator, I frequently run workshops about dating after age 50.

My audiences are people who are motivated enough to show up at such an event — but scared silly about diving into a dating world they hadn't even thought about for decades!

See also: Find love in the new year with AARP Dating.