Q: We are separated right now, but we want to work this out. How can our marriage be saved?
A: When the two of you have decided that you just need to be apart for awhile (whether by mutual consent or if only one of you has made this decision), there are a few things you can do doing the separation in order to get your marriage back on track. Listen to Steve:
“I’m separated right now from my wife. She left me about six months ago because I had an anger problem. I found out about a week later that she was involved in an affair. She tells friends that some days she’d like to try the marriage out again but at this point she’s just kind of confused and doesn’t even know who she is anymore. She’s a Christian , but is just in a backslidden state at the moment. Spiritually, I was backslidden too when this first took place. Immediately I sought God on this and rededicated my life to Christ. I knew I couldn’t make it through this without him. And there’s no way I could help her without God.”
Steve wants to make his marriage work. What can he do?
We advised Steve—as we would advise any spouse who has been left behind—to stay the course and to continue to grow in the Lord. We encouraged him to give his wife someone to come home to—a godly, tenderhearted man who is laying out a battle plan for restoring their marriage. When his wife sees such a man—a man who is offering forgiveness and grace—she sees not only a changed man but the hope of a changed marriage. Of course, the issues that caused the separation will still need to be worked out, but you both can go at it as redeemed people who are ready to fight for your marriage and your family.
If the two of you have mutually decided to separate for awhile, what can you do during this time to actively work on your marriage? We suggest the following:
Make a list of broken dreams. Write down the hurts, the disappointments, the things that just haven’t worked out the way you thought the day you got married. Maybe you experienced the loss of a career. Maybe children never entered the picture. Perhaps family crises affected your life. These hurts and disappointments are not always against your spouse; many times these are situations outside of your marriage that ended up heavily impacting your marriage. Consider everything that may have contributed to this separation.
Conduct a funeral service for your disappointments. Take your list of broken dreams and burn it. Get rid of them and prepare to stand up and start over with another year.
Make a list of “God sightings.” Where is God working in your life? What in your life is a blessing? Perhaps being parents is a blessing, or a ministry you’re involved in is very fulfilling. Are your kids a blessing to you? Perhaps your spouse did something wonderful for you this year. Take a count of the blessings of the year, and give thanks to God in all things.
Be supportive of each other. Look for ways to encourage and build each other up. In the midst of hard times, find ways to be grateful.
*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!