Divorce or Separation

I generally do not approve of divorce.  I am, however, a big fan of separation. I think that there are things that happen during a separation that can radically change perceptions, mindsets and the state of a relationship. Sometimes it is just the thing that an offending spouse needs to jerk the slack out of them.  It helps them to wake up and smell the coffee!

When a separation occurs, it often gets friends, family, the pastor and people at their church involved… which is exactly what should happen. Too many couples live a big lie, showing up at family and church functions pretending that all is well, when in reality, all is hell. But when separation occurs, all of this under the radar stuff is blown out of the water and now they can really get the help, support and involvement of others that they really need.  Sadly, most couples bypass separation and go straight to divorce, oftentimes creating an environment where no one can do anything to help save the marriage.  It becomes “too late.”  They wait too long and get themselves into so much misery that either one or both just doesn’t care anymore.

Here is one of the reasons why clicking into “divorce mode” is so problematic and destructive:  it creates instantaneous war. Separation doesn’t do that. During separation you are still in the frame of mind to solve issues and work at making things better. Not so in divorce mode. Once you hit that mark, the whole thing takes on a life of its own. Now you are no longer considering what you can do to save your marriage; you are in the mentality of “kill or be killed” and “take or be taken.” Everyone is out to guard, defend and protect their own interests be they financial, property or children. And fight they do.

There is no way to work at saving the marriage when everyone is lawyered up and ready to wage war to the end. The legal system isn’t in the business of reconciliation. They will steer and direct you to watch out for yourself and fight for what’s yours at all costs. And don’t forget that the lawyers get paid more when the fight drags on. They aren’t going to help you salvage your marriage.  Their incentive is quite the opposite.

Divorce mode effectively kills the chance of working out the problems, but separation leaves all of that out and can actually be very beneficial. It can get everyone’s attention and help to bring things to a positive turning point. It can often be the perfect lifeline or parachute when the marriage is crashing. Jumping to divorce, however, is like jumping off the cliff without a parachute… it usually puts a very quick and destructive end to the marriage because by then, one or both no longer care.  Better that couples separate while they still care.

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25 Responses to “Divorce or Separation”

  1. Mabuye Mokoena says:

    Good day, I am currently residing in South Africa. A few months ago, i had the privillege of watching” Laugh your way to a better marriage. Since i am based in SA, is there a way that i can be able to get the above-mentioned DVD plus any other interesting materials your company might have?
    Hope to hear from you soon

    Kind Regards

    Mabuye

  2. Chris says:

    That is more true than anyone can know! My wife and I recently went through hard times. Me, being stubborn and a “manly man”, wanted to shut everyone out and call it quits when in reality, that’s not what I really wanted. (The devil tries to seperate the body.) My wife being the strong woman that she is, took the problem directly to our pastor. I went into the meeting with him with my defense up and ready to kill. When actually I didn’t even need to because he saw problems on both ends of the marriage. She was doing wrong just as much as me and neither one of us saw it! Now, I’ve been to the Laugh Your Way seminar and ready a book called For Men Only and saw Fireproof the movie. All of these have helped me to understand what she is really saying when she says the total opposite and I would never think of divorce ever again. Thank Mark-you da man man! HOOOOO RAAAAAA!!!!

  3. Sue says:

    Hi Pastor Gungor,

    Your article really touched home with me. My husband left me almost 2 years ago. We were separated for more than 1 1/2 yrs. At that point we had been married for 13 years. Being apart did make the difference for us. It gave each one of us time to look inside to see what changes we needed to make. By the grace of God, Don did realize that our marriage was worth saving. He asked to come back and I accepted. We still have our challenges, but I believe we are both committed. The biggest benefit of the separation was the closeness to God. I believe God put us through this test because both of us were not where God wanted us to be – but we are closer to Him now. There is hope for troubled marriages. Couples need to stop giving up so easily and thinking that a marriage is disposable. During this time I got very close to God and His word. One of the scriptures that stayed in my head was Luke 18:1. To me it said “Never give up – keep praying.”

    Sue
    Tampa, FL

  4. Jayne says:

    I totally agree that separation is the better then going straight into a divorce. I am separated from my husband at the moment and it has finally got him to move and get the help he needs. Thanks for making me laugh.

  5. hargis Pennington says:

    What about when one of them starts dating someone else while seperated?
    In some cases they will go to another Church and start attending the singles class. And many Churches don’t bother finding out about the new people, whether they are married or not. One Church told those that were seperated that they were divorced in God’s eyes.

  6. carol says:

    i wish i Know alot I mean any of this 25 years ago maybe my marriage then had a chance but that was then and this is now and relationships are so hard to stay in for me feel it stems to that relationship you have several good program and a seminour that is great i really enjoy keep up the great work thank you

  7. Rose says:

    I really appreciated this and it makes so much sense. When a couple separates, do you recommend a time period for the separation? How do you know when the couple is ready to move back in together?

  8. Kevin Shorkey says:

    Mark, Just read your comments on separation over divorce. The real problem is that nearly all separations end in divorce. Both are tragic and reflect badly on the churches ability to let people be real – willing to help them work through their real problems. I would appreciate it if you would address how church leaders can help the church become a place for real people. Our church is attempting to acocmplish this. We want people to trust us to help before their issues get to a choice between separation and divorce. My experience as a pastor is that when a coule separates the damage added to their problems by initiating a separation actually pushes them toward divorce. Thanks

  9. Pastor Bev Sesink says:

    Mark,

    I agree with your thoughts. After 15 years of full time ministry, I am convinced action needs to be taken sooner than later with troubled marriages. In recent years we have had a number of marriages go belly up and from my perspective they might have been saved had either spouse stepped up quicker and said, “Enough, we need help!”

    Almost 20 years ago my very gracious wife said, “I love you Bev, but I can’t live with you this way!” And then my young son spoke the very cruel words I had spoken to my wife. I didn’t want him to become like me, so the combination of my wife’s gentle but firm rebuke and my son’s reflection of myself caused me to take action before further damage was done.

    In the end we did not separate but I know that would have happened if I hadn’t listened to her loving but pained words spoken from years of inappropriate behavior on my heart.

    Keep up the good work bro!

    Blessings,

    Bev from Edmonton

  10. Cami says:

    My husband and I had a seperation after 3 years. We both had issues that needed to be fixed, but we were both so upset neither one of us could see clearly, until we seperated. It was a costly seperation, but both my husband and I agree that it was worth it and has made us stronger because of it. Family, friends, coworkers and pastors became involved through it, and though we are very private people, it showed us that other people actually care. Its comforting to see other situations and realize we arent alone and there is support. I love my husband, and I would rather have spent that time and money during that seperation, than to not have him by my side.

  11. Monica says:

    Hello, this’ll be my 1st posting. I’ve been married for 22 yrs. End of Jan.’08 due to the industry my husband was in experienced a slow down and cost tremendous trickled down stress. He was a consultant to large companies which meant his head is on the line all the time. He always put in 120% of his effort 24/7 for long hours.

    Early Jan. ‘08 he was blamed for something that wasn’t cost by him at all yet because something happened the superior needed to save his own “hindny” had to jeopardize some people, 4 people, my husband was one of them. The stress trickled down to me with bills to pay and money running out, I lost it when he announced he’d to take his business overseas, some 12K miles away.

    By May ‘08 he started to become distant in his communication by July I suspected infidelity but had no proof. The evidences was revealed end of Oct. through Dec. At the same time starting Feb.’08 I experienced heavy bleeding due to fibroid in my uterus which subsequently ended up in me having a TAB (hysterectomy) in Dec.

    My husband refused to discussed about my findings re his paramour. We have 3 children, 19, 17 and 15. My whole world turned upside down, inside out, threshed and went through the spin cycle! Lots of tears, felt tremendously insecurity and I had suicidal thoughts. I was fighting for my life, my faith and what to do. I have to be grateful that due to my cry out to God that I wish to live that He help me walk through the valley of darkness. It wasn’t an easy walk! True to His faithfulness when I was contemplating suicide one morning He (God) put a voice in a dear friend of mine to call me on her way to work. When the phone rang I’d no intention to answer the phone but some nagging voice said to go pick up the phone. That broke my suicidal thought from progressing; I believe saved my life.

    I slowly opened up my troubled life to a small handful of closed friends and family in Jan. ‘09. Due to their relentless support and prayers I slowly grew stronger. I gained ground from under my feet reading the bible, counseling, reading blogs and materials on surviving marital affair and troubled relationships. I found out that I have to let go and let God. Take care of myself, forgive those that hurt me in the past. Learn to receive the Holy Spirit and trust it to guide me in the ways that’s pleasing to God. Help me to have compassion for all those who’d hurt me and ask God to help me see how He would see them. Pray for them and for them to open their hearts to receive the Holy Spirit. Believe God has a plan and He is God of all possibilities; He is the creator of the universe.
    -His love for me is unconditional
    -He loves me and will never forsaken me
    -I have strength according to His riches and glory
    -I’ll have all the needs I’ll ever need
    -My trust for Him will never be taken away from me
    -I have hope in eternal salvation

    Before my hope and faith in God, I focused on earthy and materialistic gains. I lived in constant fear and doubts that created a downward spiral in my mental instabilities and my physical health also plummeted. I became suspicious and distrusting. I became an ugly person with full of hatred. My undesirable personality traits emerged and sucked the life out of me. Life is about choices. In the bible it said when you’re hurt don’t sin. I also refused to lower my standard by rushing out to have another relationship because I want to keep my integrity. I want to work on my own personal issues; when I’m a stronger person the choices I make will be a more stable choice.

  12. Fred says:

    Hello my wife and i are seperated because i have a problem with internet porn.That is the reason she says is the problem I feel
    that my actions were terrible and i am very sorry. The worst part is after we seperated i felt like it was a lost cause and went to a singles website.My wife saw the emails that was sent to me and said she would never trust me again. I understand she is hurt I hope and pray I will learn to avoid those sites and she will find it in her heart to forgive me and give me another chance.Please pray for me i love her and dont want to lose her.thank you

  13. Dan says:

    I don’t see how any divorce attorney could possibly be a good Christian, based on this article. I have a dear niece who wants to go into family law; it sounds like I should do whatever I can to discourage her from that.

    • Theresa says:

      But when divorce is necessary, such as infidelity, severe abuse, etc, good Christian honest lawyers are needed. I wouldn’t necessarily discourage her.

  14. Jane says:

    Hi,
    My husband & I have been separated for 16 months now.
    He wrote me a letter one day saying he didnt love me anymore & didnt want to stay married to me anymore.What had really happened is he started communicating with an old primary school class mate, this developed into an affair, he left you get the picture. This person called herself a christian, was divorced for 5 yrs and had her own children who were vertually the same age as mine. (what mother cld do that?)
    16 months have past, the affair has ended & my husband wants to come back.
    I am in the process of finding christian spirit filled councellors (a husband & wife team) dont know of my chances.
    As yet my husband has not had a repentant heart in regards to what he has done, i feel i can not trust him back into my life
    until he stands up before God, me & my children/family and re-dedicates his love for me and commitment to our marriage.
    Am i asking too much?
    After all he did tell the children that he didnt love me anymore
    & didnt want to stay married to me, so i would like all that reversed.
    Without this i dont know wether he values marriage like he used to.
    I thank God for never letting me go, I am stronger, wiser, I respect myself & all i ask in return is that same respect.
    I will not be 2nd best, but will always be 1st best with Jesus!

  15. Tony says:

    I think some clarification is needed. What you are speaking about is a controlled separation with the goal of working on the issues in the marriage.

    Separation is a term this is misused just as married is. I had a soldier who told me he was not married. Come to find out he was separated. I saw this played out later with my ex-wife. She unilaterally chose separation so she could work on her affair.

    Separation, with some mentors and accountability may be a good thing. Separation just getting folks apart may signal one or both that they can re-enter the dating game.

  16. Varinia says:

    After reading your thoughts of divorce or seperation, I have to ask what if seperation didn’t help? where to then?
    - my husband has gotten us into financial trouble time and time again. He insists on handling his own finances and refuses to disclose his finances. Naturally this behaviour breeds distrust. We seperated for 3 months till November 2011. Thinking everything was ok, I said it was ok for him to come home. He promised that he had made numerous adjustments. It wasn’t long before I realised that nothing had changed, he’d lied to me and to his parents. At this point in time, I refuse to spend my everyday fighting, so I don’t even ask whats going on anymore. We sleep in seperate rooms and hardly talk, I have nothing to say to him. Where to now?

  17. Lee says:

    I can see the benefits of separation , but both parties should be in aggrement. It was forced on me thus it seemed like war was declared along with other actions that stemmed from her hurt just fueling the fire. Anything I liked about her was overshadowed by what I despise. She says she wants to save the marriage but her actions told me different. I have changed my mind and feel more at peace away. If it wasn’t for four children I would not even blink and would be moving back to Texas. I feel that what she doesn’t see will never be seen. I take blame for dropping the ball so to speak, and backsliding. I feel closer to god now but don’t plan on going back to her. Yes it has only been a couple months but if she hadn’t kicked me out for my shananagans I would have never considered divorce.

  18. Suzan says:

    My husband of three years moved out of our home last week Thursday. He cited reasons that he needs to sort himself out. Our marriage has been under stress ever since we got married. We have had constant fights abotu one thing or another adn we have reached a point where we not speaking to each other for about three weeks now. We shared the same bed but he was not speaking to me even to say hello or goodbye.
    Needless to say I support him moving out as it is not healthy for two parties living in the same house yet not communicating. However I am worried since we have not defined the terms of the seperation. I am not even sure whether we are seperated or it is all over. Our families do not know about this recent turn of events. I have not even told the kids (2yrs and 8 yrs)What do I do?

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