Will God Let Me Separate From a Toxic Spouse?
What do you do when you have no biblical grounds for divorce but you can’t take another minute living in your toxic marriage? Perhaps you’ve considered separation, but are there biblical grounds for separation from a toxic spouse?
The answer is simple, and it’s, yes. But there are many nuances that you need to be aware of before taking this drastic step. For starters, if you are struggling because you are not getting along, not equally yoked, have differences of opinion, or having arguments that you think are unnecessary my friend these are not biblical reasons for separation. And God often uses people to change people and just because there may be grounds for separation also doesn’t mean that God is pleased with it.
1 Corinthians 7:10-11 says “a wife must not leave her husband, but if she does leave him, let her remain single or else go back to him and the husband must not leave his wife.” Separation, my friend is never an ideal situation, but because of sin, it is sometimes necessary. If your spouse is addicted, adulteress, or abusive these would be biblical grounds for separation.
Abuse is a word that unfortunately is thrown around far too easily these days. He got snippy with me can be packaged as abuse. If all you’re looking for, is an excuse to, get away from this man. But on the other side, physical, emotional, and mental abuse are very real and they should be taken seriously. And for those going through this abuse, it is no picnic. But the problem with abuse outside of physical that is, it’s subjective. It’s difficult to prove. One could have an intense way of communicating that works well for them. While someone else would say no, he’s abusive to me. On the other hand, the term abusive can be used by abusive people to create hurt and harm to another.
I knew this woman that would keep a book of abuse from her ex-husband and she would share this book with her children, and had you not known this person yourself you would have actually believed that she had been through a tremendous amount of abuse. But here’s what’s interesting is, it took quite some time, even for her children to recognize it. And she was actually the abusive one, but she would take all of these little interactions that she could blow out of proportion and call abuse. This woman was in no way abused. In fact, she was the abuser.
This does a great disservice to those who are truly being abused in relationships and the separation should be a step towards restoration. It should not be an excuse to get away with and get on with your life and that’s how the world does it. The world does separation as one step further to divorce as Christian separation should be used towards reconciliation and restoration. So if you’re not sure, I want you to please, keep in mind that the Lord often uses relationships to refine us, not divide us. So I want to encourage you to start with a healthy self-examination and ask God to show you how you need to grow and perhaps grow in your ability to set boundaries or your ability to deal with the anxieties that come from the awkwardness of the relationship or work through the differences of opinion or let go of a controlling nature. Learn how to have grace in another’s weaknesses, that could be one of the things that God could be dealing with you on. Again, this is not permission to allow abusive behavior.
There are other things that God could be using this tense relationship for. He wants to help you to heal from codependency. He wants to help you cleanse, your heart from bitterness, any and many of these things need to be taken place inside healthy and unhealthy relationships, but if you are dealing with addiction, adultery, or abuse, and there is no positive effort that is being made for change my friend. The most loving thing that you can possibly do is potentially separate. Separating doesn’t say I hate you. It doesn’t say I want out separation saysI love you. I need you to love me too.
I need you to get help so that we can have a healthy and a Godly relationship. I’m not leaving you, but I’m not staying in this. I need this to change know, some may say to me, Kris it isn’t that manipulation? No manipulation is when I threatened to get you to do, what I want you to do for evil and selfish gain. You are separating because of evil and selfish behavior and you need it to stop if you want to be in relationship with me. The purpose of Separation should be positive for starters. It takes you out of the toxic cycle. Secondly, it hopefully wakes the other person up to the severity of the issue to potentially prompt change.
So many of you are frustrated because you keep begging and threatening and cajoling and controlling your spouse. And you’re mad because nothing is changing and there is a high likelihood that nothing will change until you change it. So let’s say you now go through with the separation. Now, what do I just apply the old adage will X going to heal all wounds or do I wait for him or her to come begging back?
No, there need to be proactive steps on both sides during this process. And remember the purpose of separation would be for restoration, but a lot of healing and behavioral changes need to take place in a process. So each party should be in counseling, they should be in counseling for themselves separately and then together for the marriage. The goal is to make progress on both sides. Each party should be working with a pastor or spiritual mentor to help them. Also draw closer to God remember, there are only two ways that this will go either, the relationship will work or it won’t. And either way, my friend, do you want to be the best most Godly version of yourself possible? So this way, you can thrive in either outcome.
Okay, so you’ve done it. You’ve separated, you’ve taken the steps needed for restoration. How do you know when it’s okay to go back in?
Number #1 – There needs to be substantial time, not two weeks or even two months.
This problem didn’t happen overnight and it’s not going to change overnight. And if the other person is begging manipulating or otherwise, trying to convince you that they’ve changed my friend, I want to encourage you to stand your ground and wait.
You will see the true truth come out, plus that begging, manipulating, and convincing are really just forms of that same toxic behavior. Just disguised a little bit better. There needs to be repentance. Repentance is more than saying, “I said I’m sorry what more do you want from me?”
Repentance requires true acknowledgment of the wrongdoing and a desire to turn from that behavior because they find it repulsive not because they’re remorseful because they got caught and they didn’t get away with it.
Number #2 – There needs to be significant change.
If you are itching to stop paying two rents or you’re lonely because you don’t have a date for Friday night, my friend, you’re likely going to let somebody back in sooner than you should and sooner than they’ve truly changed therefore leaving no motivation for them to change whatsoever. True change is sustained over time. It’s not a mask that one puts on to pretend, but then over time you see the cracks in the mask.
Number #3 – There needs to be accountability.
This person needs to have others whom they are accountable like a pastor, a spiritual mentor, or a support group. Otherwise, there is little to no chance for lasting change. Separation can be one of the best things for a failing marriage. But separation needs to have a purpose. So here are four things that can happen during a separation.
- You can deal with abandonment.
One party just takes off with no interest in the relationship
One party betrays the marital vows and then either one of these first two cases. Now you have biblical grounds for divorce.
I’ve seen several toxic Partners come to themselves when boundaries are finally put in place.
- Get stuck on repeat.
And this is when you go back into the relationship before the necessary changes have been proven and you end up back in that same toxic cycle. If you are truly struggling in a marriage that seems hopeless, my friend don’t give up, God wants to help you to restore your marriage and strengthen and love you in the process. The question is, will you let him the reason to separate is to rebuild the relationship on the foundation of Jesus Christ?
And if you are struggling with a toxic person in your life or anyone toxic for that matter, I want to invite you to grab a copy of our free Toxic People Survival Guide.