I have both the privilege and heartache of hearing from women in extremely difficult marriages. One has a husband with a sexual addiction. Another’s husband regularly comes home after midnight, refusing to share where he has been. Many marriage problems can be solved through counseling and communication. However, some issues, such as abuse, addiction, or a spouse who won’t work through serious conflicts, call for drastic intervention.

As a Christian who believes in the sanctity of the marriage covenant, I am hesitant to ever recommend divorce. As Jesus said in Mark 10:9, “Let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

However, I don’t recommend that women stay stuck in a relationship that is abusive, destructive, or riddled with betrayal; hence, the option of separation. Fortunately, most states now allow for legal separation, which addresses sensitive areas like money, safety, and child custody.

I find that many couples are unwilling to consider separation because they don’t understand the purpose for it. Is it just a way for Christians to avoid the stigma and trauma of divorce? Or is it simply a stepping-stone toward an inevitable divorce?

While some couples separate with every intention of divorcing, a therapeutic separation based upon biblical principles is an entirely different proposition. In a therapeutic separation, entered into with the help of wise counsel, the couple hopes for a restoration of the marriage rather than dissolution.

If you are separated or are contemplating separation, consider these five hallmarks of therapeutic separation to help you approach your decision in a healthy and God-honoring way.

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