Intimate Clarity

Clarity On Marital Separation

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript



Series Code: IC

Program Code: IC180111A

00:01 The following program discusses sensitive issues
00:03 related to sexuality.
00:05 Parents are cautioned this presentation
00:07 may be too candid for younger audiences.
00:32 Welcome to Intimate Clarity.
00:33 I'm Jason Bradley, and I'm here with Jennifer Jill Schwirzer.
00:36 Now she is a licensed professional counselor,
00:40 and today we're going to talk about a sensitive topic,
00:44 but it's a conversation we need to have.
00:46 That's right.
00:48 Jen, in case of extreme problems in a marriage,
00:50 do you think that separation can be a good thing?
00:54 Personally, I do.
00:55 I want to give deference to other schools of thought.
00:59 There are marriage counselors,
01:01 you know, Christian marriage counselors
01:03 that say that separation is a step toward divorce,
01:06 and we want to preserve marriages.
01:07 And so, you know, that's true, it's a fact.
01:10 But I think that sometimes
01:12 a separation can save a marriage.
01:14 But let me...
01:15 Before I go into that, let me talk about
01:17 how God feels about His marriage to His people.
01:21 God said about marriage, "What God has joined together,
01:24 let no man separate", Mark 10:9.
01:28 And we're told in Malachi 2:16 that God hates divorce.
01:33 But even though God hates divorce,
01:35 I'm not convinced that He hates separation
01:37 because He Himself separated from His people.
01:42 Often His people would descend into idolatry
01:45 and He would say things like what He said in Isaiah 54:7,
01:49 "For a brief moment, I abandoned you,
01:51 but with deep compassion, I will bring you back."
01:53 The people would descend into idolatry
01:56 but the absence of God's presence,
01:58 so God's Spirit would give them that wake-up call
02:01 that they needed to come to their senses,
02:03 they would repent of their sins,
02:04 and then they would be reunited with God.
02:06 And so sometimes separation...
02:09 Sometimes our presence gives the message
02:11 that what you're doing is okay, even what's not okay.
02:13 Okay.
02:15 So kind of like you become an enabler type of thing...
02:17 That's right, that's right.
02:19 Where ends up being like a codependent
02:21 situation in some cases.
02:23 That's right, and it can very quickly
02:25 become very dysfunctional where even the person say
02:27 it's an abuse situation,
02:29 even the person being abused can,
02:31 in an unconscious way,
02:32 contribute to the abuse cycle by enabling,
02:36 by being codependent.
02:37 And so sometimes, they need the separation
02:40 in order to kind of break that feedback loop,
02:42 that continuum in their own mind,
02:45 so that they can get kind of a reset.
02:46 Okay.
02:48 And come back, you know, with, you know, a better attitude,
02:52 and with more clarity,
02:53 and better boundaries in that relationship.
02:56 I love that you used "more clarity."
02:59 Yeah, because that's the name of our program.
03:00 That's right, Intimate Clarity, that's right.
03:02 So the problems in a marriage may not be sufficient
03:05 to justify divorce but it might be
03:08 that there needs to be a wake-up call, like I said.
03:11 So let me give you some examples of that.
03:13 Of course, any type of physical abuse and some people,
03:17 and I respect them,
03:18 believe that physical abuse
03:20 is grounds for divorce and I can see
03:21 where they're coming from on that.
03:23 But I can't seem to get around the words of Jesus
03:25 where the only grounds He gave were adultery.
03:28 And I have seen marriages
03:30 in which there was physical abuse,
03:32 recover from it.
03:34 So I'm not saying you have to stay in a marriage
03:36 where there's physical abuse, not saying that,
03:37 it's your choice, your decision but...
03:39 Yeah, say, like for me,
03:41 I would think that
03:42 it would be in terms of...
03:43 Well, I would think that it would be grounds
03:46 and the reason why I would think that is because,
03:49 like, you don't want to stay in a situation
03:52 where somebody could beat you to death, or kill you,
03:54 or whatever the case may be.
03:55 That's right.
03:57 Well, kind of prevailing wisdom in Christian circles is that
03:59 the three criterion for divorce are abandon, the three A's,
04:04 adultery, abandonment, and abuse,
04:07 and I respect that thinking.
04:09 However, I think often it may be worth it
04:12 to try separation first because sometimes
04:16 separation can salvage the relationship.
04:19 So if there's physical abuse,
04:20 financial abuse, emotional abuse,
04:22 you need to get away from that situation
04:25 because you're going to get hurt.
04:27 And what you're doing by staying in that situation
04:30 is you're actually giving the abuser
04:32 an opportunity to hurt you.
04:35 And by giving them that opportunity,
04:37 you're actually, you know, in a sense
04:39 indirectly contributing to their sin problem.
04:42 So you want to remove yourself from that situation
04:45 if there's any kind of abuse going on.
04:47 And like I said,
04:48 that can sometimes
04:50 create an environment in the relationship,
04:53 even though you're withdrawn from the relationship,
04:55 where they can start to come to their senses.
04:57 It can kind of give God a direct shot at them.
05:00 Sometimes in a relationship,
05:02 we actually block the access
05:03 of the Holy Spirit to that person,
05:06 and if we remove ourselves,
05:07 then God will be able to get a direct shot at them.
05:10 Yeah, you can do that in less extreme ways
05:13 than physically separating, moving out of the home,
05:16 by simply emotionally withdrawing,
05:18 for instance, from an argument.
05:19 But if it gets to the point where you know
05:20 you're in a dangerous situation,
05:22 and you're losing your own bearings,
05:24 and you're putting yourself in harm's way,
05:26 and through prayer and council you come to the point
05:29 where you need to separate
05:31 and you know you need to separate,
05:32 it can save a marriage.
05:34 But I think it needs to be done
05:35 in a way that I call structured separation.
05:38 Unpack that, what is structured separation?
05:41 Okay, structured separation is not just "I'm leaving,
05:43 I'm so mad at you, I can't stand you,
05:45 I'm not staying here anymore."
05:46 Structured separation is more deliberative than that,
05:49 it's more intentional than that.
05:50 So what the individual
05:52 that is seeking a structured separation does
05:55 is usually they write a letter to their spouse,
05:59 and in the letter they begin with love and commitment.
06:03 They say, "I love you,
06:05 I am committed to this relationship,
06:08 I am not seeking another relationship,
06:10 I'm not looking to end this relationship
06:12 and seek another.
06:13 I'm committed, I'm here, I want you and me.
06:17 But I want you and me
06:18 in a better form than we currently have."
06:21 We're better than this
06:22 is basically what you're saying.
06:24 And then you very carefully identify the problem,
06:27 this is what's going on that I cannot accept,
06:31 that I cannot tolerate,
06:32 and you talk about the effects of the problem,
06:34 how it's affecting you, how it's affecting them,
06:37 how it's affecting children if there are children involved.
06:40 And then you very clearly state your requirements
06:43 for returning to that relationship
06:45 or to a live-in situation in that relationship.
06:48 Sometimes it's simply...
06:49 We need to go to counseling,
06:51 that's all I'm asking is counseling.
06:52 Sometimes you need to get counseling
06:55 and you need to get past your sexual addiction
06:57 or you need to get to the place
06:59 where you've gotten to the bottom
07:01 of why you get physically or verbally violent.
07:04 Uh-huh.
07:06 You need to get to the bottom of that,
07:07 and you need to give me evidence
07:09 that you have gotten better and there need to be
07:11 other people in your life,
07:13 professionals that are impartial people
07:15 telling me that now it's safe to live with you now.
07:18 Yeah.
07:19 And so it really depends on the situation,
07:20 what your criterion for reuniting happens to be.
07:24 But, you know, wise woman told me once that...
07:26 And I'm going to be a little bit
07:29 stereotypical here,
07:31 in an abuse situation, it's not always the man,
07:33 believe me, it's not always the man
07:34 abusing the wife but it often is.
07:37 And often the wife will be telling the husband
07:41 that she's unhappy, and that this is terrible,
07:44 and she'll be laboring with him verbally
07:47 and he won't hear a thing she says,
07:48 and nothing she says seems to impact him.
07:51 But once she moves away, suddenly...
07:55 Yeah, that speaks volume.
07:56 He hears thunders, that's right.
07:58 Uh-huh.
07:59 And this woman told me, you know,
08:00 "Men often don't hear what women say,
08:03 they hear what they do."
08:04 So sometimes the only thing
08:06 that will speak to that person is "I'm leaving."
08:09 It goes back to that saying,
08:10 "Actions speak louder than words."
08:12 That's right. Let me ask you this question.
08:13 So how do you end that letter? Like how do you end that?
08:17 Yeah, good question.
08:18 You have to close the letter with hope, and faith,
08:21 and that basic message that we're better than this,
08:23 in Jesus, we can get through this,
08:25 we can experience change,
08:26 this doesn't have to keep going this way.
08:28 I will not live in this situation
08:30 if it's going to be this way,
08:31 but I believe it can be different.
08:33 So it's kind of like a criticism sandwich, right?
08:35 It's totally an affirmation sandwich.
08:37 You're starting with the good. Yeah.
08:39 Then you introduce the issues, like,
08:41 that need to be addressed and then you end with...
08:44 And you establish the fact that you're, you know,
08:47 you want to work this out,
08:48 you want to be there and work it out.
08:50 It's just like Revelation 3 and Jesus talking to His bride,
08:52 the church, and generally as He speaks to each, you know,
08:56 church which represents an era of Christianity,
08:58 He'll say, this is what I'm happy with,
09:01 this is what I'm not happy with,
09:02 and this is what I want you to do,
09:04 and then He'll say something that
09:05 that generally that engenders faith and hope
09:07 that things can change.
09:08 So yeah, it's a very, very good model.
09:10 It's a good model to follow in any relationship,
09:13 in friendships, in parent-child relationships,
09:15 when you have something negative
09:17 to bring to that person,
09:19 to affirm what's right in the relationship,
09:23 and then issue the criticism,
09:25 and then follow it up
09:26 with what's right and what's good,
09:28 and the hope that you have in that relationship recovery.
09:31 We call it an affirmation sandwich in our family.
09:34 And, you know, the reality is that...
09:38 The criticism to affirmation ratio
09:41 in relationships needs to be...
09:44 It used to be 6 to 1, you know, the experts would say.
09:48 Now they're saying 20 to 1.
09:50 So we need to do a lot more affirming
09:52 and a lot less criticizing.
09:54 However,
09:55 and this is a very important sort of disclaimer.
09:58 Marriage counselors working with couples
10:01 will say that there's a set of rules that apply.
10:06 But really kind of all bets are off, everything changes
10:09 when you're dealing with an abuse situation.
10:11 Okay.
10:12 For instance, in counseling couples, I will often try,
10:16 if an individual comes to me says
10:18 they're having trouble with their marriage,
10:19 I'll try to get the spouse into the counseling office
10:23 so that we can work together to try to resolve that.
10:26 But if there's abuse going on,
10:27 I won't do that
10:28 until the individual perpetrating
10:30 the abuse has received counseling
10:33 and has come to the point of change in themselves.
10:35 And then I'll try to bring that couple together
10:38 because what'll happen is all the empathies
10:40 that would normally work in a relationship
10:43 on the part of the victim
10:45 will be exploited by the abuser.
10:47 Yeah. Yeah.
10:48 So...
10:50 And then if you make that reintroduction too soon,
10:52 you're just entering them back into a hostile situation.
10:56 That's exactly right and that's, you know,
10:58 to come right down to it,
11:00 that is the purpose of separation
11:02 is to try to salvage the relationship,
11:05 do everything you can to salvage the relationship,
11:08 which sometimes means temporarily getting away
11:10 from the relationship and giving that person
11:12 an opportunity to really think about what they're doing,
11:16 and really reckon with God over what they're doing,
11:19 and come to their senses.
11:21 Kind of like a self-reflection type of moment, yeah.
11:24 Yeah, and I'm a Seventh-day Adventist
11:27 and one of the most prominent of figures
11:29 of Seventh-day Adventists is a lady named Ellen White,
11:32 and she wrote volumes and volumes about marriage,
11:35 and really affirmed marriage in a powerful way,
11:38 and was very biblical in her view
11:39 with marriage and divorce by the way.
11:41 But she actually separated from her husband
11:43 for a period of time that's kind of a well-kept secret
11:45 but I have letters that she wrote to her husband
11:48 while they were separated
11:50 and they followed this formula of affirmation sandwich,
11:53 as we're calling it, perfectly.
11:54 Really? She basically...
11:56 "I love you, I'm committed to you,
11:58 I'll do anything for this relationship
12:00 but these things are happening
12:02 and I can't be with you right now.
12:05 When these things resolve, when you come to your senses,
12:07 then we can reunite, yeah, she was very, very strong.
12:10 I didn't realize that.
12:12 I have never read anything that's so perfectly
12:17 really manifested the love of God
12:19 in the way He deals with an abusive situation
12:23 as I read in her letters to her husband.
12:26 And apparently, what happened, and it's a sad situation,
12:29 apparently what happened was he had several strokes,
12:33 and the strokes affected his behavior,
12:35 and he became jealous, possessive,
12:37 and really emotionally abusive to her.
12:40 And for her own sanity,
12:42 she separated from that situation.
12:44 Yeah. Yeah.
12:46 Well, it sounds like it was a good move on her part,
12:49 they ended up getting back together.
12:50 Yeah.
12:52 And it was a strong relationship from...
12:54 From that point forward, yeah.
12:56 I believe that separation can save a marriage,
12:59 I believe it can done right and done,
13:02 led by God's Spirit and I would just caution people,
13:05 don't do it haphazardly.
13:06 Uh-huh.
13:07 Seek out counselors or safety in a multitude of counselors,
13:10 so if you have a handful of people,
13:12 pastor maybe or an elder at the church,
13:14 you know, friends that are,
13:16 you know, wise people that have capabilities of working
13:20 through difficult problems like this,
13:22 gather those people around you,
13:23 tell them what you're considering,
13:25 ask for their input, and pray, then pray,
13:28 take those things to God
13:30 because people can give bad counsel.
13:31 You take those things to God,
13:33 and really pray and fast over it,
13:35 and do it with God's leading,
13:37 God's guidance, and in God's Spirit.
13:39 And sometimes that can save a marriage,
13:40 personally I believe.
13:42 I know there's people that would question that,
13:43 but this is where I've landed as a marriage counselor
13:46 and as a human being.
13:48 Yeah, and that's...
13:50 If you can preserve the marriage,
13:52 ultimately that's the best what we need to do
13:54 is preserve the marriage.
13:55 That's what we want, that's the endgame.
13:57 Absolutely.
13:58 Even if it's inconvenient,
13:59 and that's a lot of the reason people don't separate
14:01 because it's so inconvenient,
14:02 you know, it's just easier to stay there.
14:04 You know, what's really inconvenient
14:05 is the fact that our time is up.
14:06 Oh, yeah. That's true.
14:09 Well, there's just not enough time.
14:11 Make sure you tune in next time,
14:13 but if you would like more resources,
14:14 go to and check out the website.
14:19 We'll see you next time.
14:20 God bless.


Revised 2018-10-08