If you follow my vlogs on YouTube, you are aware that my husband and I have been separated a while. Since late August, actually, when I left Missouri and went to Arizona to stay with my parents. Soon, this separation is ending, and I’m going back to Ft. Leonard Wood with Tumbles to reunite our little family.
Before I left, I thought and prayed a lot about even the idea of separation. I read about it a lot online, and I came across very mixed messages. I don’t know if anyone will end up coming across my website sometime when they’re looking for answers, but, just in case, I want to throw my opinion into the mix. Take it for what it’s worth. I’m a young, married, Christian woman with some life experience under her belt, but I’m no psychologist, clergy member, or anything like that.
Is Separation a Good Option?
After going through marriage and separation, I have to say that I do not believe separation is a good option for any marriage. I can understand why it seems appealing, I can understand feeling you need space, and I can even understand feeling that the space and time apart could do you and your marriage good. In spite of understanding these things, however, I have to say that my advice is to do your very best to avoid separation if reuniting is your end goal. (If you are aiming toward divorce for whatever reason and do not wish to reunite, that’s sort of a separate issue.)
Before I left, I read on both sides of the issue. Even within the Christian community there were conflicting messages about whether it had any possibility to be helpful to a marriage or not. I believe the ultimate answer is that it is not helpful, but rather it is harmful to a marriage to go through a separation when the goal is ultimately to keep the marriage going and reunite.
What Happens When You Separate
There may already be emotional distance between a husband and wife, but, upon separating, that emotional distance is increased as well as the physical distance. Without the ability to touch and see your partner, you lose a sense of intimacy. Without that physical intimacy (even if it’s just a hand on the arm now and then or a hug) and without the exchange of words you get when living together, the emotional distance becomes even greater. You go from feeling a little disconnected to being extremely disconnected.
Is that bad? Isn’t that sometimes what we hope to gain from separation? Maybe you feel like you need that space because you’ve been fighting so much that resentment is building up and building up and you’re worried you’re going to hate each other or head straight toward divorce if you don’t create that distance!
To that, I would say that’s exactly what the world and the devil want you to think. That’s just my honest opinion because that’s exactly where I was! There was fighting, resentment, and serious issues that needed to be worked through, and I believed whole-heartedly that things were not going to change – could not even be worked on – until we’d had some time apart. I believed that staying together with our relationship in that state would only cause the hurt feelings and bitterness and resentment to grow to a point beyond repair. This is, I would guess, the main reason Christians who don’t want to divorce would end up separating.
Why the Distance is Bad
You think you want that distance, and you think that distance could help, and you think that if it doesn’t help, well, you were doomed anyway — something like that, right? But the truth is that the distance itself rips things even further apart. You can’t work on your issues when you’re apart. Maybe you can wait until the hurt feelings subside, but once you see your partner again, everything is going to resurface. And in the meantime, while you’re physically and emotionally distant, it’s easy – it’s so easy to allow yourself to behave towards your spouse without the love and/or respect that they need to be treated with, and it’s so easy to be tempted into indulging in various vices (cheating, drinking, flirting, squandering money, etc) because there’s no one there to call you on it and (so it seems) no one there to get hurt by it.
Basically, distance brings more distance. You can’t get close by being distant. When two marry, they become one flesh, and they need to be together and foster that togetherness, growing closer. Distance, for whatever reason, tends to be unhealthy. Being apart lets you each be pulled in different directions, and the longer you are apart, the further you get from each other. For my husband and me, the distance hurt us tremendously: emotionally, financially, relationally. It was harder to communicate, and we couldn’t get counseling. We got used to being independent again and making decisions solo. And as we got used to being apart, we seemed to pull away from each other even more until there was almost no closeness or intimacy left.
Divorce, at a point like that, becomes almost inevitable. You left angry, you didn’t resolve anything, you grew apart, and now there’s nothing left of that closeness you once felt. Even worse, if trust has been broken at some point there may be literally nothing pushing you to reunite.
Stick it Out
I have to just encourage everyone to please stick it out. It sounds crazy some times that staying together could be the right thing to do even when it hurts, even when you’re unhappy, even when you can’t seem to get along with each other. Obviously, things aren’t going to get better without change taking place, but don’t choose the route of separation. I believe it is almost always going to do more damage than good and will more often than not lead to divorce!
Get back to being friends. Maybe split up your finances, if you’ve been pooling resources. Maybe sleep in different rooms. Maybe redefine things in your marriage (chores, responsibilities, duties, expectations). Definitely get some good counsel, preferably from a good Christian therapist or a pastor. Keep telling your spouse that you love them, and keep trying to act out that love. Keep praying. Pray HARD. Pray seriously and whole-heartedly. Pray face-down on the ground, pray in your car, pray in bed, pray over your meals, pray for your marriage constantly.
If things are going to get better – if your marriage is going to flourish and begin to be repaired – it’s going to be while you are together and working jointly toward the same goal.
No two people, situations, or marriages are alike. I understand that some people may think, "That doesn’t apply to me because my situation is ____." I understand that. There are so many problems that could be taking place. All I can say is that I encourage you to stick it out if possible and if you want and hope to keep your marriage alive.
The exceptions are when you either want a divorce or when there is ongoing unsafe behavior taking place (any form of abuse). If you must separate but still hope to reuinte, I cannot stress enough how important I believe it to be to have a pre-determined time limit, rules, and goals, and it is also really important to remain close to each other so you can get counseling! I would say a 2 hour drive, max! If you plan to divorce anyway, that’s a totally different issue. Separate and do what you must.
But if you plan to reunite, and if you want your marriage to last, stick it out. Stay together. Get in counseling. Maybe crash on a friend’s couch for a few nights, but don’t leave. I left, and I thought it was necessary, but it ended up creating so much distance between us that we almost went past the point of no return. I can only attribute it to God that he worked things out in a way that brought us to a point of trying to reconcile.
I just wanted to express these things. Feel free to
contact me privately or leave a comment if you want to talk about this further
(either my situation or your own). I’ll do my best to answer.