“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:6 (NIV)
Nearly half of marriages in the United States end in divorce. Some couples often decide to live separately as an initial step towards divorce. Separation has become all too common in American society. This approach seems counterintuitive as the majority of separations typically lead to divorce, which leaves a small percentage of marriages that survive after separation. How do these relationships survive and others do not? Is it possible to save a marriage after a separation? Have you heard of the saying “Time heals all wounds?” I would like to add to that. I believe that healing is predicated on what happens within that time spent apart. I believe that time can heal wounds, if you nurse those wounds. Left alone the situation could worsen. Couples often separate to give each other a “time out” to reflect on their marriage. What you do with this time is vital to the future of your relationship. I strongly recommend that you do not stop working on your marriage just because you have decided to no longer live together. Staying connected with your spouse and working towards common goals will strengthen your bond, which decreases the likelihood of additional marital strain attributable to drifting apart. Experts have coined this approach as therapeutic separation, enhancement separation, controlled separation, and healing separation, just to name a few. The point is whatever the method you decide, be intentional regarding your approach to separation. If you are currently separated, I recommend creating a plan of reconciliation to help you navigate your way through this time apart. You may appeal the help of clergy or a Christian counselor to help with this process. Couples who adopt this approach need to be dedicated to doing the hard work necessary to sound results.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
Mutual repentance and forgiveness can be the first step to the healing process. Process what went wrong as it is important to address the problems that led to the separation. No one is perfect. We are to forgive one another as God has forgiven us. Remember, forgiveness is a process. I encourage you to create a space where your spouse feels safe to share and open up without fear of judgment and criticism. The first step to forgiveness is addressing the offense. The Bait of Satan by John Bevere defines offense as one of the most deceptive snares Satan uses to get believers out of the will of God. Pray fervently for your spouse. If they are wrestling with sin, pray for them. Consider this scripture, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” Galatians 6:1 (NIV)
Effective communication is essential. Prepare to communicate in calm and nonjudgmental manner. Avoid communication traps such as blaming or stonewalling. Avoid “You” statements, which may cause defensiveness. Take ownership of the way you feel. Use “I” statements to minimize defensiveness. Using “I” statements helps you take responsibility for your feelings while tactfully presenting the problem. Use your words and actions to build up your spouse. The book, The Five Languages of Love, by Gary Chapman is a great resource for principles to understanding your spouse’s unique needs, which helps you express your love more effectively.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12 (NIV)
Be kind to one another. Make a commitment to change and personal growth by exploring your own unproductive and maladaptive behaviors. Practice new skills and ways of relating to each other. Learn practical skills such as problem-solving and conflict resolution that reduce stress in the relationship. Be patient during this process. Change does not occur overnight. Explore ways to practice humility and gentleness towards your spouse. Accept characteristics of your spouse that are unlikely to change that may cause some discomfort but is not damaging to the relationship. New habits take time and persistence.
As you move closer to reconciliation start dating again. Create a safe environment where intimacy can grow and the relationship thrives. Discuss needs and expectations. Keep the focus on rebuilding and strengthening your marriage. I am a firm believer in the sanctity of marriage. I’ll be the first to tell you that it is not easy. Marriage is a lot of work! The word of God is your number one resource for keeping your marriage together.
Is Christian counseling your next step in rekindling your marriage? If so, you can reach us at (405) 921-7776. Or, you can go to our website to explore videos and contact us at newvisioncounseling.live.
By: Donnulette Dulaney, LPC