Marriage Conflict and Separation

 No marriage is perfect.  Husbands and wives sin.  Every marriage has at least some conflict from time to time.  I probably don’t need to explain this fact since most of us know it from experience!  Sadly, however, some marriage conflict is destructive and dangerous.  There are husbands that emotionally and physically abuse their wives and children, and there are wives that regularly manipulate and deceive their husbands.  In fact, sometimes conflict gets so bad that separation is one of the few options on the table.

Of course there are many factors to marital conflict and every situation is different.  After weighing the options, praying, and consulting with wise Christian friends and/or counselors, separation can be a legitimate choice.  Leslie Vernick puts it this way:

Jesus calls us to be peacemakers instead of peacekeepers,who pretend all is well in order to maintain an illusion of peace.  Terri tried that for years with John (see chapter 1), and her passivity almost ended up destroying her and their marriage.  Seeking genuine peace between two individuals may require tough action, especially when one party continues to be blind, unresponsive, or unrepentant. As a Christian counselor, I do not advice marital separation lightly; however, in some cases it is the only way to obtain the necessary space to think clearly, pray, and heal, as well as to communicate to the destructive partner in the strongest possible way that the relationship will not continue without change.

Paul encourages us to distance ourselves from other believers who are sinning and refuse correction.  (See for example, 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15).  If the circumstances of your relationship are not changing in spite of everything else you have done thus far, it may be time for you to consider separating for the purpose of genuine reconciliation (2 Corinthians 7:10). [pg. 169-170]

Another similar angle is to think of the Proverbs that wisely tell us to “leave the presence of a fool” because “the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 14:7, 13:20).  It is not unbiblical to flee harm, pain, or abuse.  I realize a blog post is not the best place for discussing all the nuances of marital conflict and possible separation.  Face to face is best for that.  However, it is worth noting that sometimes marital conflict gets to the point where separation is a hard, but viable option.  See chapter nine of The Emotionally Destructive Relationship by Leslie Vernick for more on this topic.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

3 comments on “Marriage Conflict and Separation

  1. Steve Bloem says:

    My problem is that the writer, who is a Christian counselor, fails to realize the grounds for divorce, which are found in the Scripture. They are adultery and/or total abandonment. The following sentence by the writer is telling, As a Christian counselor, I do not advice marital separation lightly; however, in some cases it is the only way to obtain the necessary space to think clearly, pray, and heal, as well as to communicate to the destructive partner in the strongest possible way that the relationship will not continue without change.”
    Scripture does not allow one mate to tell the other that the marriage relationship can be dissolved, ( except those mentioned above.) The apostle .Peter says, (I Peter 3:1 -2) “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” The same applies to the offended husband as well. He is to practice agape love toward his wife.

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    • Hey Steve, hope you’re doing well, brother. Thanks for the note. I don’t agree with everything in the book, but parts of it are quite helpful. I hope to finish it later this week.
      In Christ,
      Shane

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