When Tina’s husband left, she was devastated. Even though she and her husband had struggled with problems, she was shocked that he would actually leave her. When she asked him why he was leaving and what he planned to do, he had no answers. His only response—he needed space.
This common beginning to many unplanned separations is the first surprising reality about marital separation. Although it seems logical to seek answers from a spouse about his or her intentions and reasons for leaving, spouses who leave often can’t give answers because they have no answers. They honestly don’t have a plan. The only thing they do know is they need space.
If you are in this position with a spouse who left and you want to save your marriage, I’d like to share five surprising realities about marital separation you should be aware of.
1. You need to give your spouse space.
Deciding to reduce the pressure by giving your partner space to sort through his or her confusion is the most helpful response you can make.Giving space to the one who rejected you and caused your pain may be a hard step to take, but if you want reconciliation to take place, it’s also the most necessary. Spouses who leave are usually running from conflict, whether it be conflict in the home or conflict raging within themselves. Either way, chasing after them with questions or accusations only pushes them further away. By giving your spouse time to clear his head, he may come to a better place where he’s comfortable talking with you again.
Giving space means not calling, texting or emailing for a period of time. When contact eventually starts to take place again, refrain from talking about issues in the marriage. Instead (and this is another hard one), think of positive things to say to your mate. Encouraging words, which don’t show acceptance to his or her behavior, but acceptance to him or her as a person, can turn things in a positive direction. Cling to the Scripture that says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NIV). Ask God to give you courage and strength.
2. Separation doesn’t have to lead to divorce.
There is hope. When handled in a prayerful, thoughtful, and prudent way, a separation doesn’t have to lead to divorce. Many, many marriages have suffered through separation and gone on to enjoy a lifetime of happy years together. In fact, a separation can sometimes jolt couples from lethargy to face issues that have eaten away at their relationship for years. The heartbreak and shock may cause each of you to take a hard look at yourselves to see changes you personally need to make, not only to restore your marriage, but to become the healthier, stronger persons God intends for you to be.
In the late 90s, my husband and I endured a three-year separation, and when we reconciled, we were each better people than before.
3. There is no time limit.
Change takes time, and it’s important to give God time to do the work in each of you he wants to do. This means not trying to force reconciliation before you and your spouse are both ready. Although our three-year separation seemed like a long time (and it was), I realize now how necessary that time was in order to reconcile with a new marriage instead of the old broken one we had before.
A common mistake separated couples make is setting time limits, believing if the leaving spouse doesn’t want to reconcile within a certain designated time, all is hopeless. The truth is, if you are handling the separation wisely and trusting God for the outcome, time can be your friend. God uses everything for his purposes. His ways are perfect. If you want to see true healing take place, surrender this time to God without putting restrictions on him. God is an omniscient and powerful God, the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last (Revelation 22:13). Time to him is like the blink of an eye. Give it to him.
4. Feelings can change.
Even if your spouse told you he or she doesn’t love you anymore, he or she may feel very different six months or a year from now. Feelings are only temporary, and people make a tremendous mistake when they allow emotions to shape their decisions. My husband makes this point regularly in the crisis marriage classes we lead by writing “Feelings change” on the whiteboard and stressing its truth. He knows this because like many who find themselves separated, he questioned his feelings of love for me when he left. Now he has no doubt and tells me daily he loves me.
5. God has the answers for you.
He is the source of hope and direction. If you focus on him instead of your spouse and your situation, he will guide you step by step.
Use this time to get alone with God. Let him strengthen you to give you the necessary armor for the battle. Life is a journey of change and growth. During this period of your life, as you come closer to the Lord and put your trust completely in God, he can show you any changes he wants you to make that will fulfill you as a person and perhaps bring peace and healing to your marriage. Proverbs 3:5–6 (NKJV) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths”. God has a plan for you, and he will guide you through this battle. Humbly seek God’s direction.
FIGHTING FOR YOUR MARRIAGE WHILE SEPARATED: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED
In this transformative guide, men and women who are separated but hopeful for restoration will discover life-changing truths about God, themselves, and their marriages.