Divorce… Separation… What's Okay?

Infidelity is pervasive in our culture, and it's no longer rare in Christian marriages. On a regular basis, news of pastoral affairs (even homosexual ones) comes to light — and the impact on the church is devastating. Surely infidelity is a contributing factor in the 50 percent of marriages that end in divorce. The Barna Research Group reported in a 2004 study that the likelihood of divorce among born again Christians was identical to that of the general population. The study also cited attitudinal data showing that most Americans reject the notion that divorce is a sin.

God is very clear, however, that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). He also says, "So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19:6). According to the New Testament, there are two justifications for divorce: infidelity (Matthew 5:32) and desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Divorce also means losing the security of an intact family. It can destroy the network of family and friends. For the custodial parent (often the wife) it can mean a loss of financial stability; and for the non-custodial parent (typically the father) it means much less time with the children.

It's easy to see why God has set certain boundaries and prohibitions in Scripture. God will provide couples great help in sustaining this holy covenant.

Separation is also a drastic step. It may, however, be necessary in the healing process. A deep sense of betrayal and humiliation may make it difficult to live under the same roof with a spouse who has recently announced their battle with homosexuality, especially if infidelity is involved. In the book Someone I Love is Gay, Anita Worthen and Bob Davies outline reasons to temporarily separate:

  1. The gay spouse is spending major unaccounted time away from family.
  2. The gay spouse appears to have given up trying to solve the homosexual problem. Or he or she is unrepentant for his or her actions.
  3. The gay spouse (especially in the case of a husband) shows a constant disregard for his partner's physical and sexual health. Both men and women can bring incurable diseases into a marriage from another sexual partner.
  4. The gay spouse blames his or her partner for all the problems occurring in the marriage and refuses rational discussion.
  5. The gay spouse is engaging in other destructive behavior, such as heavy drinking or illicit drug use.
  6. The gay spouse continues to exhibit a pattern of habitual deception.

Joe Dallas, in his book When Homosexuality Hits Home, urges that separation not be used as punishment, but to determine the future and direction of your marriage. He says of separation, "Do so with a redemptive purpose in mind, not a knee-jerk reaction."

Dallas also suggests enlisting the help of a counselor or pastor to determine on what terms you're willing to stay in the marriage. He's not suggesting divorce, but for you to draw up boundaries and then determine what you'll do when they're not honored. He encourages including the following:

  • Separating from the behavior or person involved. (Example: If it's been Internet porn, you expect your spouse to get a new Internet service provider or do away with the Internet altogether. If it's a relationship with an individual, you require total severing of all communication with that person.)
  • Joining you for marital counseling to determine how your marriage is to be preserved.
  • Seeking help from a pastor, counselor or ministry specialized in help for repentant homosexuals.

In all of these decisions, it's vital to be in ceaseless prayer and to be receiving wisdom from a pastor or professional Christian counselor.

  1. {{ footnote.fullText }}

Copyright © 2007, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.