On Separation

What about separation in marriage? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

After writing on divorce yesterday, an appreciative reader asked my thoughts on separation. Now as I said, I think on some level divorce is always an evil even when it should be done. It’s an evil that someone did something to break a promise before God and man and someone can often be an innocent victim of that.

Sometimes though, a couple might just need some time apart. Even healthy couples need some time apart for each one to focus on some of their own hobbies, interests, and development. I love having my Mrs. around, but there can be times when she’s away with a friend and I do some of the things I like to do that she doesn’t really care for.

I was asked to share the thoughts from Scripture on separation. I really don’t think that category existed in the ancient world. I could be wrong about that, but I haven’t seen anything on that. Also, Scripture tells us how to do marriage and the purpose of marriage, but it really doesn’t tell us about marital counseling.

So what are some guidelines I would do?

If this is done, I think the goal should be to try to save the marriage and not to end it. Christians are to focus on redemption. In that case then, let it be that you will spend time working on your own problems in the marriage, even if you’re just hypothetically 1% of the problem. It’s easy to focus on what your spouse needs to do, at least in your eyes, but you have no control over that. You do have control over yourself.

As a Christian, pray for them and for your marriage and to go back to the first point, ask that you would be shown what you’re doing wrong in the situation. We all have sinful tendencies in us that need to be improved. We all have areas where we are less than perfect people.

I’d advise you to stay faithful in a separation as well. Don’t be dating other people and definitely not having sex with other people. If you’re a Christian, this will reflect badly on you. If the marriage doesn’t work out sadly, there is time for that later.

There are times that separation can be needed. Definitely go with separation if there is abuse going on that puts someone in danger, be it you or children. It is imperative that the spouse get therapy and take steps to show that they are serious about recovery, such as a 12-step program in Celebrate Recovery.

Another example could be pornography. Since this is normally a problem for men, though women can have it too, this might be a case where a wife is justified in saying no to bedroom privileges. Again, I always think that is a drastic step, but a wife needs to show how hurtful pornography is to her.

Definitely any couple undergoing separation needs to undergo marriage counseling together. Many a pastor is trained to some degree in marriage counseling, though they could recommend a specialist as well. My wife is a catechumen in the Orthodox Church and her mentor has informed me that all priests in that church are trained in marriage counseling as well, which I highly admire. This is also why I think those who lead a church should strive for higher education.

Divorce is always a tragedy and while separation can be sad, hopefully, it can lead to healing. Our Christian culture needs to do a better job upholding the sacredness of sex and marriage today. If short-term suffering can lead to long-term joy, it could be the answer.

In Christ,
Nick Peters