Question: "What does the Bible say about a trial separation in a marriage?"
Answer: When a couple enters into the covenant of marriage, the Bible tells us that God joins them together into one flesh. “Since they are no longer two but one, let no one separate them, for God has joined them together” (Matthew 19:6, NLT). Marriage is intended to be a lifelong commitment, not a temporary solution for loneliness or other emotional needs. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and never intends for a couple to separate once they are married (Matthew 19:8).
Because separation, whether it is legal or physical, involves the division of a married couple, it displeases God. First 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 is never an ideal situation, but because of sin, it is sometimes necessary. If a spouse or child is being physically abused, for example, he or she should immediately seek help outside the home and separate from the abuser until appropriate help and treatment have been provided to all parties (see our article on domestic violence for more on this). Prayer and counsel from their pastor are also necessary for the restoration of the marriage and family.
Marriage vows should not be taken lightly, and separation should not be undertaken casually. Far too many couples decide to have a “trial separation” in order to discover what they truly want out of life, but they do so without any attempt to rebuild the marriage during this time. Instead of reconstructing the family on a foundation of faith in Christ, they drift farther apart until they eventually divorce. This is not in God’s perfect plan for marriage and family, even if it has become acceptable in our culture. “Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you in this world. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil” (Ecclesiastes 9:9).
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