TO SEPARATE OR NOT – That is the Question!

Separate Separation divorce AdobeStock_102819041 copyTo separate, or not to separate… THAT is the question! That question was settled when one of you left and took up residence at a separate location. Clothes and personal belongings may not have been moved, but you are living apart. The very word may bring fear to your heart, and you may not like it, but you are separated. And you may as well say it: “I am separated.”

Separation is not death, although it is most certainly the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). It is so near death that you may feel the same grief and pain experienced by those who release a loved one to death. But the shadow of death is not to be equated with death itself.

Restoration Process

Separation may be the valley of restoration. The pain you feel may be the labor pains that will give rebirth to your marriage. On the other hand, separation may be the beginning of the end. The fruit of your separation will be determined by what you and your spouse say and do in the next few weeks and months.

In a very real sense, separation calls for intensive care, much like that given to one in grave physical danger. The condition of your marriage is “critical.” Things can go either way at any moment. Proper medication is essential, and surgery may be required. That will call for the services of a counselor or pastor. What you do in the next few weeks will determine the quality of your life for years to come. Be assured, God is concerned about the outcome. You can count on Him for supernatural help.

Separation is not the time to capitulate. The battle for marital unity is not over until the death certificate is signed. The dream and hopes you shared when you got married are still worth fighting for. You married each other because you were in love (or thought you were at the time). You dreamed of the perfect marriage in which each made the other supremely happy. What happened to that dream? What went wrong? And what can you do to correct it?

Restoration of a Dream

The dream can live again, but not without work. It will demand listening, understanding, discipline, and change. It will require work that can result in the joy of a dream come true.

I know some of you are saying, “It sounds good, but it won’t work. We’ve tried before. Besides, I don’t think my spouse will even try again.”

Perhaps you are right, but don’t assume that the hostile attitude of your spouse will remain forever. One of the gifts of God to all men and women is the gift of choice. We can change, and that change can be for the better. Your spouse may be saying, “I’m through. It is finished. I don’t want to talk about it!” Two weeks or two months from now, however, your mate may be willing to talk. Much depends on what you do in the meantime, and much depends on his or her response to the Spirit of God.

Others of you are saying, “I’m not sure that I want to work on this marriage. I’ve tried. I’ve given and given. It won’t work, and I may as well get out now!” I am deeply sympathetic with those feelings. I know that when we’ve tried again and again without success, we may lose our desire to try once more. We see no hope, so we conclude that we have no alternative but to give up.

Losing Our “Want To”

Our emotions no longer encourage us to work on the marriage. That is why I never ask people, “Do you want to work on your marriage? I always ask, “Will you work on your marriage?” At the point of separation, we have lost much of our “want to.” We must now rely upon our will and not our emotions. We must remember our values, our commitments, our dreams, and we must choose to do what must be done to be true to them.

Where shall we go for help? For those who are Christians there is one stable source to which we turn when we need guidance —that source to which we turn when we need guidance. That source is the Bible. Non-Christians may or may not turn to the Bible. But the Christian is drawn by the Spirit of God to the Scriptures. In the Bible we find not only what we ought to do but also the encouragement to do it.

Even the non-Christian who sincerely seeks help in the Bible can find meaning in Paul’s statement, I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). When we come to Christ, we find the outside help we need to do what our own resources are inadequate to accomplish.

Renewed Determination

Sometimes separation brings a sense of emotional peace to the individual. That peace is mistakenly interpreted as an indication that separation and divorce must be right. One husband said, “This is the first week of peace I’ve had in years.” Such peace is the result of removing yourself from the scene of battle. Naturally you have peace; you have left the conflict! Retreat, however, is never the road to victory. You must come from that retreat with renewed determination to defeat the enemy of your marriage.

Separation removes you from some of the constant pressure of conflict. It allows time for you to examine biblical principles for building a meaningful marriage. It permits self-examination in which emotions can be separated from behavior. Separating may stimulate a depth of openness in your communication that was not present before. In short, it places you in an arena where you can develop a new understanding of yourself and your spouse. Separation is not necessarily the beginning of the end. It may be only the beginning.

This article comes from the book, Hope For the Separated: Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed, written by Dr Gary Chapman, published by Moody Publishers. It deals with the question of dating while separated, how to relate to your children during this time, and ways to improve communication. Assignments are given to encourage growth both as individuals and as a couple. The ultimate value comes not in reading but in applying truth. It’s a practical book for both the separated husband and wife.

— ALSO —

The following are links to additional web site articles that could give you further insights when you read them:

SEPARATED BUT HEALING

SCRIPTURE SUPPORTS FOR SEPARATION FROM A DESTRUCTIVE SPOUSE

WHEN SHOULD A MARRIED COUPLE SEPARATE?

If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

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43 responses to “TO SEPARATE OR NOT – That is the Question!

  1. (USA)  A controlled separation may be a good thing. But too often, the separation is just a means to have an affair, to hide an addiction or something else. If there are no boundaries on what happens during the separation, no plan for restoration, it’s probably a bad thing.

    So with boundaries, I can see it as a good thing. However, typically it’s a unilateral decision by one spouse who is already violating the marriage vows. That spouse is unwilling to do the work, unwilling to attend counseling or mentoring during the separation and unwilling to acknowledge the changes the abandoned spouse is making in his life.

    So unless the decision to separate is suggested by a qualified 3rd party profession who will set up boundaries both spouses would agree upon, I’d not suggest a separation.

  2. (USA)  I am feeling anxiety to the point of chest pains when I am around my husband. I truly want our marriage of 25 years to work but he does not seem willing to surrender his life to God. He is born again but hasn’t developed an intimate relationship with God so therefore, has not been able to develop an intimate relationship with me. He has been emotionally shut down for years. (I just found out.)

    I feel if I ask him to leave that it will be an excuse for him to divorce me. At this point no one other than our pastor and marriage counselor know of our situation. My husband is well respected in the community and an elder in our church. If he is "exposed" will that then remove all the restraints he now has? This has been going on for 6 months now. Do I ask him to leave or do I endure the pain of having him here? Will the pain be greater if he goes?

    1. (ENGLAND) This sounds like churcheanity rather than Christianity. That’s why the church is open to false doctrines. People no longer love Jesus’ commands. Husbands must love their wives. The churches are full of them. Pray and fast for him, for a change. Prayer is the most powerful weapon.

  3. (SOUTH AFRICA)  Hi Ladies and Gents, I am particularly going to comment about Rebecca’s situation.

    Rebecca I strongly believe that God has put you in a position to use his Word to resolve your situation. I would like you to focus on doing what God requires us to do in correcting and disciplining each other. Church discipline is important. This is correcting our family and loved ones to repent and change their ways so that the can gain salvation and walk in the light. In this way we are exercising true faith.

    Your husband needs to be reminded of his role as an elder and how he must conduct himself. This is very difficult to do, but it has to be done. If not other people in the congregation might follow suite.

    If he does not change his ways he needs to be exposed and church discipline needs to take place. Please examine what the scriptures say about keeping the faith and keeping the congregation clean. Church discipline is crucial and needs to be exercised.

    Your husband needs to be informed about what God requires of him as an Elder and a husband. Scriptures highlighting conduct that is pleasing to God must be highlighted as well as the role and responsibility of an elder if he doesn’t want to repent and work at being a good husband and an examplary elder, church discipline needs to be enforced. This is a necessary action.

    Let us remember that God doesn’t just shower us with undeserved Kindness, love mercy and grace but also that he punishes those who turn their backs from him like he did with the Children of Israel in the desert when they refused to change their ways.

    I pray that all the pastors, elders and parties involved in helping you resolve this issue will be guided by the holy spirit and God.

    Good Luck Rebecca. These are the last days and we need to stand fast in the Word of God. Exercise it even if it is difficult. Study the Bible more and more and look at how the other apostles and disciples stood for what is right. Last, but not least, do the right thing even if it is difficult to do.

  4. (USA)  I have been separated for a month, and I really never wanted the separation. I don’t want to be divorced, but it seems that the separation is just one step in the divorce process for me. My wife of nearly 20 years recently returned from a military deployment and wants a divorce.

    I hope that the separation will give my wife an idea of what it means to be divorced. For now, it gives her some time with a “new friend” she met while on deployment. I have seen a couple of discussions about dating while separated, and I often wonder why someone would date unless they have already written the marriage off. It just does not make any sense to me. We are Catholic, and she has already talked about annulment (which may signal her desire to remarry quickly).

    I just hope that separation will show her that getting divorced takes work – she claims not to want to work on the marriage because of the amount of energy it takes.

    The separation has done me some good. I am getting closer to God – praying more for guidance. And I am getting closer to family. I just hope that the separation will be just a dark time in our marriage – that we will reconcile. I want to do what is right, and I can’t imagine that is divorce.

  5. (SOUTH AFRICA)  Hi, What if after years of praying, waiting, hoping and believing nothing changes? My husband lives the life of someone who is single. He never comes home, contributes financially, communicates with me or his children and feels no remorse.

    It has now reached a stage where being married or trying to save my marriage is impacting my health and the emotional health of my children. They are becoming withdrawn, their schoolwork is suffering and I have been advised to take them in for councilling. I can’t help but feel, had I walked away earlier I could have saved my children from reaching this point.

    Sometimes walking away is a much better option than holding on a fighting. Some things are just not meant to be. There are times when we have to let go in order to survive. Cheryl

    1. (SA)  Hi Cheryl, I can’t believe you just wrote out my situation as it is. I’m going thru the very same thing except, I have one daughter who is 7 months old. I pray, fast & quote the scriptures everyday, but then often wonder if I should stay or leave before it’s too late. I say, maybe it’s better if I leave while my daughter is too young to understand anything, and then I’ll later rebuke myself thinking that I don’t trust God enough to turn my situation around. It’s so painful being shut out by the man you love and I’m sure it’s even worse when your kids are grown enough to witness the tension.

    2. (US) Wow, wow, wow. I am married to a man whom I NEVER sleep with. He works nights, I work days. On the weekends when he is off, he comes home after 3 am. He doesn’t even try to sleep with me. He just sleeps on the couch (if I’m not there already). We both have absolutely no energy for this marriage. We do not speak or acknowledge each other in any way. So why stay? Why does he even put his key into the door? Why not leave?

      I asked for a divorce as much as possible, and he agrees, as long as I pay and give him half of everything. I then asked for a separation. He says I’ll need to evict him and until he is ordered to leave he will make everyday hell for me! I am truly at a crossroad! I’m disappointed, hurt, ashamed of this marriage!

      My daughters are 9 and 2 1/2. My 9 year old knows not to speak to him because “daddy has an attitude”! What kind of example am I setting for my children?! Lord help me! Lead me! Guide me! Strengthen me!

  6. (NIGERIA)  Hi. I have been separated for 17months now from a wife who walked out on our marriage. It was a unilateral decision on her part. I never wanted it because even as a teenager, I prayed to have a long and fulfilling married life without divorce. I guess, she believed that she could do better than having me as a husband. This was deduced from the fact that her lack of respect for me was made very obvious both in words and deeds.

    I am a Christian but I sincerely do not know if I can ever find it in my heart to forgive or take her back after all she has done to me… including depriving me the opportunity to see my son who she delivered after she moved out. YES!!! She left while pregnant with our first child. We had been married for about 23 months when she left.

    A lot of things could and would have happened during this period of separation. Trust and fidelity were already issues, and of course it will be compounded by the separation. How does one cope with that? I really think that separation is the first step to an inevitable end… brought about by the person who initiates it. May GOD help us all.

    1. (U.S.)  You must forgive or your heavenly Father will not for give your sins. And hear a word of truth. Maybe you have to let go and give God the chance to pick your wife because the one you marry you pick. Go to God in prayer and ask him to form for you a wife as he did for Adam because there is nothing too hard for God. Or fast three days and three nights as you pray asking the Father to turn things around with your mate and He will do it as you speak the word only. May God bless you in your life.

    2. (ENGLAND) This sounds like mental illness. Children need dads to keep in contact with them and not to get another woman. It is mine to avenge sayeth the Lord. Forgive, and bless her. Sometimes it can be lust. She got what she wanted, now moved on. Lust always wants something but never gives anything. I hope this wasn’t the case. I pray Lord for restoration. Where satan has robbed, seek GOD. Fast and pray; seek his perfect will, cry out for salvation.

  7. (USA)  I am separated from my husband for about two in a half months know. My divorce will be final next month. I will always love him and we have five wonderful children together. I wouldn’t change anything for them. But when a man puts his hands on a woman time and time again and says he’s going to change and he won’t– trust me ladies out there. The reason for our separation is he tried to kill me in front of our oldest child.

    I know in God’s eyes he wants all of us to forgive people of their sins. I don’t think I could ever in this lifetime forgive him for what he has done to his family. I took my vows seriously he didn’t. I didn’t say in my vows it was alright to hit me and try to hurt me all the time. When he put the cord around my neck all I could do was pray that my children wouldn’t see their dad try to kill their mom. I started praying and God helped me out even though he knows it wasn’t right. So everyone has their reasons for divorce and I think the only one you have to answer is to God up above. If he wants us together he will do it, if not, it wasn’t meant to be and for this I could never trust a man. I don’t ever see myself getting married again either.

    1. (ENGLAND) When things get hard in marriage the grass always looks greener on the other side. Obviously if there is violence, separation for a time for each person to sort the problems out could take years and years through church groups, and anger management. Why do men want to control their wives? Work becomes a drudge, monotonous, boring, and self destroying pressures build up and they often taken it out on the family in some sort of self destructive way.

      Marriage is hard. Jesus said and it depends on what each person wants out of the marriage. If it was lust then one person will use the other for their own goals and to get what they want, children, a house, a degree. And the husband will feel completely used. If anyone has sufferd rejection then they will need to feel loved more, and easily feel rejected. But second marriages fail and third. Basically children need dad for security and dads need their little children too. Marriage is a big test of personality and character but the children suffer when separation occurs. The children do not belong to moms or the dads. They’re the product of the marriage union and sacred convant made to GOD, which is a profound mystery. Many outside influences and spiritual attacks destroy marriages, i.e. lust, materialism, coveting. What really matters is in eternity there will be no marriage in heaven exept his church and the bride. I pray for God to restore your marriage, in the name of Jesus.

  8. (USA)  I just finished a book by Jay Adams about divorce and remarriage in the Bible. In it he says that in the Bible, there is no distinction between separation and divorce. The Greek word translated separate/leave in 1 Cor 7, for example, is also used for divorce.

    There was no understanding among the Jews that you could separate and not divorce. If you left a marriage, you divorced. And divorce, in their understanding, from the laws of Moses, always gave a legal right to re-marry. The notion that you can separate but not divorce, and that if you divorce, you cannot remarry is quite a recent one. The Jews of the Old Testament and the early New Testament times didn’t carry those beliefs.

    I take it that the word separation used in this article refers to living in a separate place while trying to preserve or repair the relationship. It would be useful to be able to make a distinction and use a different phrase, like a “temporary therapeutic separation.” Some Christian couples need it, with the intention not of divorcing but strengthening what is weak. But if a person leaves and stays out a relationship, then in essence he is divorced, even though he might claim to be Biblical by being separated but not divorced.

    1. (SA)  According to Mat 5:31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement, which then leaves me with the conclusion that there is a difference between Seperation and Divorce.

      Secondly, the fact that Moses did write the law of divorcement does not give a Christian a free will/permission to divorce as Jesus Christ himself said in Mark 10:5, “And Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept’ (law of divorcement).”

      God puts it clearly in Malachi 2:16, “‘I hate divorce”, says the Lord God of Israel.” So if God hates something then we should hate it too, and these are not new/recent laws. We need to search the scriptures, and also be vigilant of the truth. There are so many corrupted versions of the Bible out there.

  9. (S. AFRICA)  Separation is not to be taken lightly as it can either make or break a marriage. Think very carefully and prayerfully consider whether moving out is going to help or break your marriage. I had hoped that my husbands moving out would give him and myself time to think. WRONG! During this time he was free to engage even further in the affair he was having. With no turning back, this was to be the beginning of the end.

    If the separation is not undertaken with constructive reconciliation in mind it will just end up being one step further to the divorce courts. Read also the article “Can I date while separated” – NO you are still married. This is adultery. As long as you are still married, you are NOT divorced, and need to act according to Gods words and instruction. Yes, may God help us all.

  10. (SOUTH AFRICA)  My husband and I have been sleeping in separate rooms for three years now, we don’t do things together anymore. Does this qualify as separation?

  11. (USA)  My husband called me and told me that he wants to seperate. He’s been feeling like this for months now and I have been trying to fight for our marriage. I’ve spoken to pastors and he refuses to speak with them. I’m lost and confused. We’ve been separated before and it lasted two yrs and I don’t want to do it again.

    Our daughter is 7 and is old enough too realize whats goin on, and that hurts me so much. I don’t want her to go through all of this again. I’ve spoken to him but nothing works. He says that we are not compatible. He tells me this after being married for 7 years!!! He also says he wants someone to bring out the exciting him, not the quiet him. I think he is full of excuses and wants someone else. He says if I were to leave that it would not bother him. (NOW THAT’S A MAN WITH A HEART!)

    I have given my heart to God this year and I feel that he has pushed me away. I love him with every being of my soul and I am so devastated that he wants me out. Please, someone out there help me. GOD help me.

    1. Dear Olga, I’m so sorry that you are dealing with such a painful situation. When I saw your posting, my heart immediately went out to you. How I wish that there was something that we could personally do to help you. The best we can offer you is to pray for you and your husband — that God will open his eyes to the sacred commitment he made and the example he is setting for your child as far as the importance of keeping the vows we make… and the importance of persevering in making your marriage a good one, rather abandoning you. How we pray this!

      As much as I wish we had some “magic words” or a “magic formula” for you that could be applied to your situation that would cause your husband to turn around for the better in his thinking and his actions, we just don’t have them. That would be our hearts… but it isn’t reality as far as what we can humanly do for you. What we can offer is to join you in prayer and hope that you will find help through our web site. We post every article we can find that God shows us, that can help marriages and pray that God breathes life and help into them for the reader to grab onto. What you see is what we can offer.

      I hope you can find a support system through your church fellowship — one that is marriage friendly and won’t be so quick in telling you to “move on” to build a new life. Your husband may make choices that will make this necessary, but don’t discount the power of hanging onto God, expecting miracles! We’ve seen a lot of them. Those that pile on discouragement and negate the importance of persevering are not the ones you want to surround yourself with, now, or ever. If your husband’s poor choices cause you to build a “new normal” for you and your daughter, we pray the Lord will bless and guide your efforts.

      If you need a counselor to help you cope and lead you in a way that God would have you, while you are in this “waiting room” time, we have a section of our web site titled “Marriage Counseling” that can help you find “marriage friendly” counselors (when you read through it, you will understand what I mean by that term… not all, and in fact, not many counselors are helpful in guiding marriages to recover when they’re “broken”… but some can).

      Olga, I pray a blessing upon your life and upon your daughter’s. I pray the Lord will give you hope — that you will sense that He will never leave you, even if your husband makes horrible choices. I pray the Lord helps you, and guides you, and comforts you, and speaks to you, and works in and through you, giving you wisdom and discernment. I pray the Lord will redeem this painful season in your life and draw you closer to Him and teach you things that you would never know otherwise that will help you in the future. May you never lose hope nor the sight to see His Light guiding you and helping you.

  12. (S.AFRICA)  Dear Olga, Your words reflect such pain and rejection. I know how you feel; I have been there. The hardest part is realizing you have no control over your husbands desires and wishes. I urge you to draw near to God and leave the rest to Him. Only God can change your husband’s heart; sometimes we have to “let go and let God.” I was left by my husband for over two years (sometimes in the depth of despair) but during this time never gave up hope and worked on myself and never forgetting to pray for my husband and God’s intervention in his life.

    God came through for me as he will for you. Our divorce was in the 11th hour. My husband was determined (he wanted to marry another woman) but I never gave up hope. He is back! He is a changed man who realizes the consequences of sin.

    1. (PHILIPPINES)  Dear Rose, I’m glad that your husband is back. Your faith has guided you well. I hope I could have the same as yours. My husband has a different family and although he does not want to separate from me, the legal wife, I felt that I was violated by his actions. I’m just starting to consider separation because my present married life seems to be a big lie.
      I wish you well. You gave me hope that everything will be all right. God bless!

  13. (US)  After 25 years of marriage, my husband met a woman and in the matter of five days they became very very close. I saw a message to her, asking her to wait for him to get a separation so they could be together. I blew it. I kicked him out. I know that his new medication had something to do with his judgement and that this person was known to have broken up more than one marriage. Yes, he planned on leaving me for another woman, for two days, so he says. My trust in everything I thought I knew is gone.

    When my husband became disabled, we spent over a year moving from place to place, doing the paperwork and follow ups, finding food, and essentially surviving. I am also on disability and was unable to support us. When I need to work the most is when I am the sickest, as stress will do to my condition. His depression continued for over another year after we had a stable home and life.

    The words I read were so hurtful, I feel I can’t get past them, and my heart feels like a building feel on it. My world is upside down. I am ashamed to return to church after praying with the pastor for his heart to be healed. I am having a crisis of faith and can’t let go of the pain those words caused me. I want my marriage back, I want my husband back. But how can I heal while he is here every day 24/7. Just to see him, I feel better, and worse at the same time.

    We have agreed that this separation should be a healing separation. I hurt so bad, though, and am trying to take control of situation. In my fear I am trying to make sure every little detail is in order so we can be together again, and I know I’m making things work and can’t seem to stop.

    I feel abandoned, by God, by my husband, by the world, although I am the one that asked for the separation. I still need to talk to him everyday, and see him if I can. He is coming back for two weeks during the holidays, and I am afraid to have him here and happy at the same time. The last time I asked God to take it from my hands, he attempted suicide and wrote a suicide note that he was worthless. This woman made him feel worthy? All I can think is WHY? Who does that after 25 years, and in a day, for two days he wanted to leave me for another woman. I know there must be something I am missing to honor my husband and I can’t find it, other than my need for control.

    How, how do I let go and let God? How do I beg forgiveness when I feel I haven’t done anything to ask forgiveness for. How do I get out of myself? I pray and pray, and I don’t feel the spirit. I hurt so bad. I hurt all over although it has been two or three weeks. I can’t even keep track of the time that goes by. We have no children at home, and as they put it, it doesn’t affect their lives. They have a mother and a father they love, and they still do.

    Please pray for me, am I asking too many people to pray FOR me while I am alone and without the Spirit in me? What do I do to get my marriage back, stronger than before? How do I set my boundaries and stand up to them when he returns. Where is today and not yesterday or the unknown tomorrow?

  14. (USA)  I need some direction on how to deal with a Christian husband who is a notorious PACK RAT. We have been married for 26 years, and I am at my breaking point with him and his clutter in our home. I put up with it over the years believing and trusting that he would clean it up, but would always hear scriptures as to why I need to put up with this issue. I am embarrassed to bring friends and family over to the house, and when I do, I always ushered excuses for his mess. I have smiled and cried through this journey with him.

    He denies the need for counseling, but we did attend a few sessions, and he never followed up with his assignments to start cleaning it up. I am always the reason when he can’t get it done. He keeps giving me 6 months promises, but when the time comes he extends it to another six months.

    The last two years of our marriage have deteriorated so much because of this issue, that we no longer go out of our way to help each other. There’s no intimacy, no caring, I feel like a single woman with a child. My plans were to move out Jan 1, 2011, and let him know that I will return after he cleans up the mess. He told me that only a foolish woman tears down her home; I must be patient. Separation was never my option, but I have reached the point of giving up now.

    1. Hi Elaine, I went on a search on the internet and came up with a few articles that might give you insight. First off, pray for insight as you read them. They are not written from a “Christian” perspective, but they make very good points. Not all of the points will be applicable. Glean what you can use and throw out the rest (kind of like your husband should do). The first is titled, How Do I Cure my Pack Rat Husband? (and will find additional articles on the side to read). The next one is written by someone who is one themselves… so you’ll get a different perspective and will also find additional links to articles on the side that you can read, as well. It’s titled, http://voices.yahoo.com/someone-cure-pack-rat-syndrome-its-too-late-646713.html?cat=70. And then the last one is titled, How to Cure Pack Rat-itis.

      I think the 15 minute timer idea in the last article might be a good start. I’d pray first and then look for a time when you can talk to your husband when things will be calm… not a “H.A.L.T.” time, which is a time when either of you is Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired… those are vulnerable times when resistance or a fight is more likely to ensue. Tell him you are at the end of your rope. Tell him you can no longer live in the mess… it’s making you crazy and either the mess has to go or you need to leave until it does — that it’s not that you want to, but that you realize things will never change if you don’t get away from it, besides it’s unhealthy to live in it and you refuse to continue. I would stop using the term “separation”… it’s more that you and your child need to get away from the mess — you don’t look at it as much as a separation as just trying to make things happen so you can eventually live together in more peace.

      I’d also tell him that you will give him the opportunity to start making progress on this –that you will stay as long as you see progress each day. Set a dead line for there to be true progress that you can see. Tell him about the 15 minute timer thing. He can do this twice a day… but it needs to be a productive 15 minutes and you will even help. Have 3 large containers ready for each 15 minute time… one for saving & putting into another container for use at another time, one for things that need to be thrown out, and one for donating to someone or an organization that will be blessed to have it — to bring joy to someone else because of the abundance you have. There needs to be true progress. When a container is filled, put it where it is supposed to go, either in the trash, stored somewhere in an orderly fashion, or taken to a donation center or given to someone in need.

      If within 2 weeks, you don’t see real progress (& the clean up doesn’t stop after 2 weeks… that’s just the first deadline), then you know that HE has chosen to tear down your home and that he has chosen to made his stuff more important than showing love to you by being the leader in this important issue in your home. After-all, how can you be “hospitable” as the Bible talks about when you’re ashamed of the mess? But try not to get into a Bible verse war with him… that’s how manipulation of the scriptures and each other happens.

      He will give you all kinds of excuses; count on it. But don’t budge… you did that before and nothing happened that changed things. Also, make sure you work on your stuff during those 15 minute clean-fests (& during that 2 week period, YOU do what you can, even if he doesn’t participate… possibly eventually, he will join you). And also, come up with some predetermined rewards along the way each week or month, realizing that even though it doesn’t make sense to you or me, this is painful for him to release that which he is sure will “be useful” some day. But enough is enough. Eventually that which seems useful will bury you alive and make your home unsanitary and anything but peaceful.

      If he doesn’t do this, you can do one of 2 things. Either start sorting through and getting rid of things yourself when he’s not around after that 2 week deadline. If he doesn’t like you doing that, he will be more motivated to do this himself… but please don’t be mean-spirited about it… ask God to help you to do this in the way He would have you. Or you can find a place to “stay” until he chooses to make positive changes. Don’t be argumentative; that won’t help matters. Keep the goal in sight, and that is to bring peace and orderliness to your home so things don’t overtake your relationship and your functioning life each day. The more disorganized things are, the more you become prisoners of your stuff, rather than experience freedom from allowing possessions to possess you. I hope this helps.