Separation as an Act of Love

Photo of a man and woman sitting on opposite ends of a couch, taking their wedding rings off. They have decided to separate as allowed in the Bible due to their unhealthy circumstances.
While reconciliation is God's desire for struggling couples, there are all sorts of situations that can bring a marriage to the crisis point — and separation can be an act of love.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Are you going through a terrible season in your marriage? One you never thought you’d encounter when you first said “I do”? Maybe it doesn’t seem like your marriage can continue anymore. Maybe you’re looking for an out. You may not know what the Bible even says about separation and divorce. But know this: God values marriage.

Reconciliation is hard work, but it is possible. Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the famous 5 Love Languages, has a wealth of insight to share on the matter of separation in a Christian marriage.

Find a Counselor Before Making Your Decision

While reconciliation is God’s desire for struggling couples, there are all sorts of situations that can bring a marriage to the crisis point. Whether it’s suffering physical or verbal abuse, living with an alcoholic or discovering that your spouse has been unfaithful, there are times when separation can be an act of love for a couple in distress.

Before making the decision to separate, Dr. Gary Chapman advises:

“Don’t go to that length, don’t go to the separation step without spending time with a counselor, a pastor … somebody [who] can help you assess that. Don’t make that decision on your own because once you make that decision, you’re going to need somebody you can process your emotions with afterward.”

Dr. Chapman highly recommends soliciting the help of a Christian counselor. Too often he’s seen friends and family members who have listened to the stories of pain in a marriage, and they’ve simply confirmed a spouse’s right to leave the relationship.

A Christian counselor, on the other hand, will still identify with the pain. But they can also offer hope as he or she shares about seeing others in similar situations recover. A spouse considering separation needs to understand that they hold a great deal of power to change the marriage. And they need to exert this power of influence before giving up hope.

Close up of a young, pensive Asian woman listening to someone talking to her on her phone

Talk to a Counselor

If you need further guidance and encouragement, we have a staff of licensed, professional counselors who offer a one-time complimentary consultation from a Christian perspective. They can also refer you to counselors in your area for ongoing assistance.
Reach a counselor toll-free at 1-855-771-HELP (4357).

What does the Bible Say about Separation and Divorce?

Although Focus on the Family advises against separation in most cases, there are instances that the Bible allows for separation and divorce. And sometimes it becomes essential as a step of survival and an act of love.

If you feel you’re reaching a breaking point or have been betrayed, it’s best to verbalize that your marriage is in serious trouble and you intend to do something about it. Find a godly counselor and a good support system. Also inform your spouse of your plans to get help, welcoming him or her to join you.

What if My Spouse and I Are Separating?

For those who find themselves in a time of separation, Dr. Chapman encourages couples to be intentional about doing the hard work of restoration. In his book Hope for the Separated, Dr. Chapman unpacks a list of guideposts that he feels are essential in taking constructive action during a time of separation. Tips to consider include:

  • Guard your attitudes and actions; keep them positive.
  • Avoid or abandon any romantic relationship with another adult.
  • Understand that divorce will never lead to personal happiness.
  • Move slowly in completing any legal separation papers.

Living Out Bible-Based Love During Separation

True love involves looking out for the best interests of the other person. It’s not natural to want to serve another. It’s natural to love and be kind to the people who love and are kind to us.

But Dr. Chapman believes that, with God’s love, couples can do the hard work during separation that leads to an ability to show unconditional love to a spouse. By choosing to love, husbands and wives can become instruments of God to touch each other’s hearts.

Establishing boundaries, trusting God, and doing the hard work of moving toward reconciliation will not be easy. But each of these elements are essential at this point in your marital journey.

There are no guarantees that separation will prove to be a new beginning in your specific situation. But Dr. Chapman offers hope:

“Over and over again I’ve seen couples that when I first encountered them, I was so empathetic with them — I felt the pain. I understood why they had no hope. But nine months later, I saw them walk out of the office holding hands with each other, having settled some major issues and now having some tools of communication and an understanding that’s going to lead them to a lifetime of a happy marriage.”

If you or someone you know is in the midst of a marital separation or divorce, and needs Bible-based guidance, the Focus on the Family Help Center counselors are here to listen and pray with you, as well as provide initial guidance and resources to help. Call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Mountain time.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

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