To 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.
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.
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:
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