I Think We Need a Separation in our Marriage. What Does the Bible say?

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If I were to do a google search of the words, “separation in marriage bible” what do you think I’d find? Well, I’d find it’s something people are searching, and I’m not surprised.

When we were going through the very early stages of recovery, separation wasn’t really on our radar, but as we learned more that changed. In time, we too wanted to know what the Bible says about it.

See, we were trying to give our marriage the best chance of survival, and everything we thought we knew said separation was the first step towards divorce. As we healed, though, we both realized those perceptions were not based in reality. We were being driven by our fear more than an objective evaluation of what situation would truly give us the best chance at healing and restoration.

After looking at what the Bible has to say we now honestly believe a period of separation is almost always a good idea in marriages attempting to recover from intimate betrayal and sexual addictions. (We’ll look at one example of this from the book of Hosea a little further down.)

But there are a lot of different types of separation, (some healthy, and some not) and different situations call for different solutions. So let’s cover several of the healthy options available to us and discuss when each is likely the best choice. 

Therapeutic Separation (The best Biblical Option) 

A Therapeutic Separation is the most ideal form of separation in marriage Bible-wise, but it is a very specific thing. In a Therapeutic Separation, everything has been agreed upon, and the objective is always restoration. It covers a very specifically set amount of time, has clearly defined objectives and parameters for both partners, and often even includes a contract that is signed by both parties.

Therapeutic separation offers the individual members of the marriage time to re-establish safety, focus completely on personal healing, and figure out his/her goals for the marriage moving forward. It offers perspective to both partners as they evaluate what life would be like without the other. 

A Therapeutic Separation is only possible when both spouses are wholly committed to the healing process. It can only happen when there is mutual respect, determination, and commitment. When that is the case, though, it is one of the most valuable tools available to a successful restoration of the marriage.

Both my love and I attribute a great deal of our quick success in recovery to our own Therapeutic Separation, which you can read a little about here.

A Therapeutic Separation is only possible when both spouses are wholly committed to the healing process. It can only happen when there is mutual respect, determination, and commitment Click To Tweet

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separation in marriage bible
Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer... 1 Corinthians 7:5

In-House Separation 

An In-House Separation is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It is a separation in which both parties continue to live in the same house, but in separate bedrooms. There is a great deal of variation in how this can be set up, and an In-House Separation can still be a Therapeutic Separation.

Sometimes, while both parties are under the same roof, that’s where the connection ends. There is no contact or interaction at all, simply shared living space. Other times, life goes on almost completely unchanged and it is only at night that there is any difference to the relationship as the two partners head to separate beds and bedrooms. 

An In-House Separation is often chosen for couples with small children as it offers the most stability for the kids while avoiding placing the full responsibility of their care on one parent or the other.

Another reason to choose an In-House Separation is if there are very limited resources within the marriage. Finding a safe but separate place for one spouse to live can be difficult and pricey. If there isn’t a great deal of support available from friends or family, and money is tight, an In-House Separation might be the only safe and healthy option. 

Sexual-Detox Separation 

A period of sexual detox is vital to the recovery of anyone addicted to pornography, lust, or sex. Unfortunately, it won’t do any good unless the addict is ready and willing to take this step. If you’re the spouse of a sexual addict, this can’t be your call. It just won’t work. 

When the addict IS serious about recovery though – like really really serious – a period of at least 60 days and preferably 90 days with absolutely no sexual stimulation or release of any kind will give him the chance to re-wire his very broken brain.  

A Sexual-Detox Separation gives the addict (and the partner for that matter) the best chance available to discover what truly healthy, God-honoring sexuality looks like. It re-opens the door to intimacy. It proves to the addict that he doesn’t “need” sex. It breaks his dependency on it, and releases his brain from the toxic hold of the neurochemical concoction released when he acts out.  

A Sexual –Detox Separation is the bolt cutter in the hands of anyone enslaved by the chains of sexual addiction! And we find strong Biblical support for this idea in the book of Hosea.

After God told Hosea to bring his sex-addicted wife back into his home and “love her again.” We find that a period of sexual detox was called for first, and it was done in the style of an in-house separation.

Hosea 3:2-3 – So I bought her back for fifteen pieces of silver and five bushels of barley and a measure of wine. Then I said to her, “You must live in my house for many days and stop your prostitution. During this time, you will not have sexual relations with anyone, not even me.”

A Sexual –Detox Separation is the bolt cutter in the hands of anyone enslaved by the chains of sexual addiction!  Click To Tweet

Separation Due to Boundary Violations 

A Separation Due to Boundary Violations is not ideal, but it is often necessary. It’s not the option that’s going to come up in the “separation in marriage Bible” search. But, unfortunately, not every sexual addict is ready to give up his addiction. Not everyone will choose healing.

God has made His forgiveness, healing, and redemption available to all, but not all will receive them. If your spouse refuses these gifts, you have to make some really hard choices. I’m so sorry my friend! 

But just because many religious people are shouting otherwise doesn’t mean God has actually called us to abide with sin. We’re not supposed to look the other way while our spouse continues to live immorally. Healthy, Biblical boundaries (which you can read about in this series) are our best option, and when these boundaries are violated separation might become necessary. 

*If you need to work through these issues and figure out what you need to do, the Biblical Boundaries Workbook, which you can find here is a great resource!  

A Few Unhealthy Options 

We’ve covered the healthy options available to us when it comes to separation. There are also quite a few terrible ones. Separations that happen as retribution or as a hasty reaction out of anger, for example, are never good ideas.

Trial separations, in which both parties are sort of “testing the waters” of the single life to see if it’s something they would prefer to marriage, don’t line up with a Biblical approach to marriage either. They’re not a good “separation in marriage – Bible” answer!!!

But the worst one to me is when couples separate because they feel pressured from a counselor, or from friends and family, and not because it’s what they actually believe will help them.

Separation has the potential to be a tool which helps achieve healing, but only if it is used appropriately. Plus, God leads us all differently in this journey. If something isn’t settled in your heart over the idea of a separation, don’t do it! Wait until you’re sure it’s God who is leading you to it and not man.

Separation in Marriage and the Bible 

1 Corinthians 7:10-11  But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord. A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife. 

Obviously, separation is not something we should just jump into. It’s very serious, and should be avoided whenever possible. There are times, though when it becomes needed, and these are the exception, not the rule. In these cases, we shouldn’t be looking to find a “better option” in someone else, but to find a way to reconcile the marriage if possible. 

 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer... 1 Corinthians 7:5

If a Therapeutic Separation is possible, it’s the best option! It’s agreed upon, according to the passage in 1 Corinthians above, and if it can incorporate the 90-day detox (even better)!

If your spouse has no interest in healing, though, and remains unrepentant, then I believe (as I’ve said many times before) that 1 Corinthians 5 gives us everything we need to know that separation is not only okay, but what God ask us to do. Here is another passage that communicates something similar: 

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – Don’t team up with unbelievers. How can a righteous person be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols?

For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 

I was fortunate in my own marriage, that by the time I was dealing with the idea of separation, my love had reached the point in which he was ready and willing to fight alongside me to save the marriage. He was ready to do whatever it took.

We chose a 90-Day Therapeutic Separation and incorporated a Sexual-Detox into it at the same time. God blessed our efforts greatly, and when we came back together things were very different than when we separated. Healing was well underway!

I felt much safer to be able to explore the idea of rebuilding intimacy. It really helped us, and if you need help figuring out how to do something similar in your own relationship please feel free to contact us via email anytime.

Amos 3: 3 – Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction? 

*How about you? Have you considered all the options when it comes to a period of separation? How might this help your marriage recover? How might it hurt?

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24 thoughts on “I Think We Need a Separation in our Marriage. What Does the Bible say?”

  1. Pingback: A Loveliness of Links ~ June 2019 - The Forgiven Wife

  2. I recently separated 3 weeks ago . Because my husband cheated on me last year with a co worker he has being working for the last 6-8 years. He says it has being over for the last 6 months and the affair was for 3 months. Do u recommend still leaving in the same roof in separate bedrooms , even though he is still working with the woman he had an affair with ? That has made it very confusing and painful for me . I do want to give our marriage a second chance and we do have 3 kids

    1. Hi Maggie. I’m so sorry for what you are going through! What a terrible, heartbreaking situation. You will be in my prayers.
      As far as what I recommend in your specific situation, I can’t really say. I would need a lot more information to even begin to help you figure that out. Every situation is different, and most importantly, we have to listen to God’s leading, because He may tell one person to stay and another to go in what appears from the outside to be a very similar situation. But He can see hearts, and future events, and so He is the only one who can really tell us what to do.
      But here’s what I can tell you. You don’t have to figure it all out today. Give yourself the space you need to spend some time just seeking God on this. Fast and pray. Read your Bible. Cry out to God for help, and ask Him to show you the right path to take. Then begin to determine where your boundaries need to be, and how you can move forward as He leads you.
      Feel free to email me at [email protected] if you would like more specific help working through the details.

      1. I think a lot of what you said is helpful I’ve been a Christian for 50 years and have study the Bible on my own for the last 40 so again I think very helpful information to consider however the biggest problem I have with any teaching is if we can’t find a couple of scriptures in the Bible for it I’m not sure it’s going to have a solid foundation for success. I don’t think out of house separation is taught in the Bible obviously unless there’s physical violence and sometimes verbal psychological violencethat I believe is a potential divorce issue and if you choose to divorce you have a right if you choose to stay married you just stay in the house together and work things out so obviously with outside help if someone has been unfaithful I think this is a potential divorce issue if you choose to stay married then I think you all live together and work the problem out. The couple may need a lot of outside help but staying in the same house together and even abstinence from sex certainly not 90 days nor 60 + 30 is questionable this is a gender issue and certainly not something for women to decide for men. No more then it is for men to decide how much love and affection and kindness women should receive.the world has a lot of ideas about marriage which most of probably aren’t in the Bible once we leave the Bible we have no foundation one should be very careful.

        1. Hi Ray, I agree with you that the Bible should be our starting point, and our only source of absolute truth. However, I do think there is value to be found when people use the tools God has given us, such as our brains and the scientific method to further our knowledge – as long as it does not contradict the Bible.
          While I agree 100% that a long period of abstinence is not appropriate in most cases, I do believe that breaking a sexual addiction is a special circumstance, and I believe that Hosea demonstrates the value in a time (the Bible says, “many days”) of abstinence to break the chains of that addiction. As far as how long that time should be, that is where science comes in. We have studied addiction, and the process of breaking the hold it has on the addict, and we have learned that something happens in 90 days that does not happen in lesser periods of time. My husband researched the issue and chose 90 days based on that information. We agreed on it together, and he can testify that something really did happen during that time period that seemed to free him from the bonds of his addiction. We were seeking God for answers, we believe He gave them to us, and we are so thankful we obeyed. Our redeemed marriage is a testimony to His power to heal when we simply obey. But if I ever communicate that someone should listen to what we say over what God leads them to do in their individual situations, then I have erred. I don’t believe that is the message I have communicated here. Follow God’s leading. That is my message.
          As far as your belief that the Bible does not support out of house separation, I respect your interpretation, and respectfully disagree. God bless you, and thank-you for your comment.

      2. My husband and I have been separated for a few years and I want a divorce. My husband’s other woman is alcohol. I’ve met someone who I think is the best thing that’s happened too me in years. We’re both believers. We go to church together. Our feelings for each other are so real. He’s been separated for 16 years. We want to be together in every way. I know what the Word says about divorce so why is this relationship feel like it’s from God?

        1. Well, to be blunt, Stephanie, I would say the reason this relationship “feels” like it is from God is because the enemy is crafty and prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour and masquerading as an angel of light (1 Peter 5:8 & 2 Corinthians 11:14) and because the human heart is deceptive above all else and desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9)
          Something that is from God will never go against God’s standards. He will never lead a married person into an intimate relationship with someone else. Period. And frankly, as people who are married, why are you even opening yourself up to develop a relationship like this in the first place?
          My advice is run! Run to Jesus and allow Him to be your everything. You don’t need another person to complete you or fulfill you. Jesus is enough.

  3. I am married, our Anniversary of eight years is coming, while I was on a Spiritual assignment I am Questioning my Husband if he had and affair on me he said no ,buthis behaviorist saying something else,we have been experiencing financial difficulties throughout our Marriage, so my Husband said because of this reason he wants a Separation not within the same home, I was put out of the house, in which we were living with his Mother, since he told me that he is Separating himself from me his family said I must leave the home, I have been asking my Husband for years for us to seek wise Christian Counsel and his answer is no still to this Day,I am now staying here and there with different family members, I am so hurt by his decision to Separate, God is not telling me to Separate or Divorce My Husband, I am willing to fight but not by myself, since the separation he still talk to me and spend some time but it’s limited, your article was very helpful to me. I am praying and Fighting for My Marriage to be Restore By God Almighty Blessings on Blessings Mrs Linda Gladden ♥️

  4. My husband is an unbeliever. I have a history of intimacy issues and turn in during life challenges. He was done waiting for me to work on my issues. He has reached a point in our marriage where he has moved out of Our bedroom, separated finances, no access to phone, says he has no intimate desire for me, won’t really spend time with me alone (without our adult kids who live at home). This has been going on for a year and a half +. He agreed to counseling after I told him to move out but refuses to follow Counselor’s suggestions. He was seen meeting a coworker the beginning of the year but said it was to go over boundaries of their friendship. He still refuses to open up to any form of transparency, to say the remarks above, and live in separate spaces. He loves this house and we have a grandbaby living here with our daughter. I have thought about out of home separation – to see if that helps in any way. He refuses to make any decisions except continuing to live this way. I feel like he had already left the marriage.

    1. I am currently 32 weeks pregnant with our 3rd child. This pregnancy is high risk. It’s been extremely difficult at this moment. However during my prenatal visit I mentioned to the doctor that I haven’t been feeling well. Doctor did an exam. Once she followed up she mention that I currently have a STD. I was torn. Mention to my husband he never admitted to cheated and haven’t been tested. My only reaction was to have him leave our home. I explained to him that it would be best for him to leave so I can regain my peace and have a healthy baby. He has been completely petty, angry and extra. But somehow I don’t feel guilty for having him leave our home. I just feel he is toxin and self centered. Did I make the wrong choice to make him leave? I refuse to have anymore intimacy because I don’t trust him, will the marriage work without intimacy?

      1. I am so sorry my friend, for what you are dealing with. How very difficult! I am saying a prayer for you right now:

        Heavenly Father, I ask that you would be with this precious lady. Protect her and her unborn baby from any further damage that might be caused by the sins of her husband. Lord, You are the Healer, and we ask for Your healing here, especially where innocent lives are concerned. Lord, give wisdom to Your daughter as she navigates the path forward. Lay each step for her, and bring her husband to repentance in Jesus’s Name. Amen.

        In answer to your questions: I think it was wise to have him leave, at least for a time. He has put your life in danger with his behavior, and it sounds like there is no repentance for those sins. And no, a marriage that is permanently without sexual intimacy (apart from physical injury that makes it impossible) is not a marriage that pleases God. You have a lot of options in front of you, but the only two I see as Biblical options are: divorce if he is unrepentant and is going to continue in this immorality, or reconciliation which would include the rebuilding of trust leading to restoration of physical intimacy. Of course, this is the way I see it, and I am not God. So my strongest advice would be for you to wholeheartedly seek God for the answers you need. He will lay out the path before you and mark out each step according to His own good timing and in line with His plan. God bless you friend!

  5. I have been separated from my husband for about a week I had gotten sick, so he came back to help the with our kids. Once I was better I asked him to go. He has been gone now for a few days. keep in mind this is not our first time separating , each time we have separated he does good and makes the necessary changes and gives me hope that things will be different, we get back together and he does good for a while then converts back to the person he was before. we have been together for thirteen year and married for seven. I’m tired of trying but I do love him and I am a believer. I don’t believe he will change this time but I do know that God is in the changing business. I guess my question is how long should a separation last before just moving on. I made a vowel to and I have done the best I can to stay true to those vowel, will God punish me for just letting this go?

    1. Hi friend, I am sorry for what you are going though. I can not tell you what God will or will not do, or what the specific parameters of your separation should be. What I can tell you, from personal experience, is that every time I had or have questions like these, if I seek God with all my heart for the answer, He is ALWAYS faithful to give it. He knows the specifics of your situation (even better than you do actually!) and He loves you more than you can even imagine! He wants what is best for you. So I would encourage you to dig into Scripture, and spend some time in prayer asking God to lead you to the answers you seek. He will.

  6. Hello, I been separated since June of 2020-I separated from my husband do to his excessive drinking habit. I been putting up with it for 15 plus years and love him dearly. I tried to encourage him to stop drinking but he won’t. It really got bad in June of 2020-where I had to call the police and put a protective order against him for verbal abuse and throwing things in the house (very threatening). I been knowing this man for 20 years-since age 15. I gave him a million chances-but it got bad on the night of June 2020. So now we are separate with the protective order in place for 1 year. We have two adult children together. I am hearing from our children he wants me back and he is sorry. But I just don’t know I am tired of going in circles. I have moved and bought me a nice car and have a good job-I like my new life.. I love him though-I seek god for answers..

  7. My husband and I separated 6 years ago due to various abuse in the home and our son was still in school. We married young. I was 20 and he was almost 23. Now our son is in his twenties. We did several years of marriage counseling and I worked tirelessly on my part, though failing along the way. The abuse skyrocketed and now we can’t even speak on the phone without it causing so much pain that I can’t eat or take care of myself. So we decided to stop contact unless regarding our son. Everything I have read on divorce says it’s wrong unless there was adultery was involved, and to my knowledge, there isn’t any. And even if we did divorce it would be sin for me to remarry and be happy again. I have tried to take my life but God stopped it. I realized I absolutely need to stay for our son at all costs. I’m about 20 pounds underweight and also have a medical condition that requires more quarantine due to covid. I spend hours in the scripture and praying and have tried to be more of the wife he needed, not just desiring the husband I needed. But due to physical and emotional abuse we cannot live together or be alone. I’m too worn to keep praying about this after 6 years. I beg God to either take me or return. Because if his word I’m not permitted to ever find true love or be happy again. About two years ago I dedicated my life to doing what I could for others…sending cards, notes, gifts, abs taking prayer requests. We are called here to show God’s love and do what we are able. But aside from that, it is an empty void and the desire of my heart is to be loved and to love. Loving others doesn’t make them love us back. He even makes fun my my arthritis and mocks my autoimmune condition when my hands stiffen and inflame. I wish God was more merciful in divorce.

    1. Hi Nichole, I am sorry for what you are going through.

      I am including a link to a Bible teacher I really enjoy listening to. Perhaps he can help you understand what the Bible says about marriage and divorce a little better.

      But here is my biggest concern with what you’ve said. Happiness in this life does not come from a relationship with any person. If you think you can’t have any happiness in this life unless you are in a good marriage, then you have been misled and deceived. True joy comes from relationship with God, who is the only one who will ever love you perfectly. There is great peace and lasting happiness in passionate pursuit of Him. Even when life is really really hard. I know from experience. Nothing can satisfy like Jesus!

      I would encourage you to watch the video, but even more, I would encourage you to pursue God. Not out of duty, but out of a genuine interest in knowing Him and chasing after His heart.

      Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/N2pC6ZikbYo

      1. Thank you for the reply and link. I want to
        add that I do relentlessly pursue God in prayer, intercession, scripture, sermons, godly counsel, and through loving others. I have been very passionate about loving God and finding his heart for a long time now. But I do have a disease that can affect my CNS and causes great chemical imbalances. The consequent depression is not circumstantial, but as most people, we all experience some amounts of everyday depression from life as well. When we feel happiness, it’s because dopamine and other neurotransmitters allow that feeling. But I’ve had multiple tests and am deficit in those chemicals, and not producing the “feel good” response, much like imbalances from any other medical condition. When I made the comment of finding true love or being happy, I was talking about what we are supposed to find on some level through earthly relationships. After all, God ordained for man and woman to join. I want to feel the love of a man who doesn’t hit me and doesn’t hit our son. But I truly love and seek after Jesus daily. It’s hard to feel overwhelming happiness when someone you love so much has told you they would even kill you if they could. I’m not perfect but constantly repent and try to do it better the next time. I’m currently working on a scrapbook to give my husband of the good he has done and the things I’m sorry for. Thank you again for your concern and I’ll check out the video.

  8. Thank God so much for you spreading light in an very tabu topic among followers of Jesus. This information brought clarity relief, and understanding with instructions. God continue to bless you and your marriage and I’m continuing to pray for your marriage, please do pray for mine. The Reed’s.

  9. Pingback: A HEALING SEPARATION With Goals - Marriage Missions International

  10. Should separated couples (who plan to reconcile) engage in sexual relations with each other, while they are living separately? I am looking for scripture verse related to what should happen during a separation period.

    1. No, I think an agreed upon and limited time of separation in which there are no sexual relations and the individual members of the couple are dedicating themselves completely to prayer and seeking God individually is in line with the model set out in 1 Corinthians 7.

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