I generally do not approve of divorce. I am, however, a big fan of separation. I think that there are things that happen during a separation that can radically change perceptions, mindsets and the state of a relationship. Sometimes it is just the thing that an offending spouse needs to jerk the slack out of them. It helps them to wake up and smell the coffee!
When a separation occurs, it often gets friends, family, the pastor and people at their church involved...which is exactly what should happen. Too many couples live a big lie, showing up at family and church functions pretending that all is well, when in reality, all is hell. But when separation occurs, all of this under the radar stuff is blown out of the water and now they can really get the help, support and involvement of others that they really need. Sadly, most couples bypass separation and go straight to divorce, oftentimes creating an environment where no one can do anything to help save the marriage. It becomes "too late". They wait too long and get themselves into so much misery that either one or both just doesn't care anymore.
Here is one of the reasons why clicking into "divorce mode" is so problematic and destructive: it creates instantaneous war. Separation doesn't do that. During separation you are still in the frame of mind to solve issues and work at making things better. Not so in divorce mode. Once you hit that mark, the whole thing takes on a life of its own. Now you are no longer considering what you can do to save your marriage; you are in the mentality of "kill or be killed" and "take or be taken". Everyone is out to guard, defend and protect their own interests be they financial, property or children. And fight they do.
There is no way to work at saving the marriage when everyone is lawyered up and ready to wage war to the end. The legal system isn't in the business of reconciliation. They will steer and direct you to watch out for yourself and fight for what's yours at all costs. And don't forget that the lawyers get paid more when the fight drags on. They aren't going to help you salvage your marriage. Their incentive is quite the opposite.
Divorce mode effectively kills the chance of working out the problems, but separation leaves all of that out and can actually be very beneficial. It can get everyone's attention and help to bring things to a positive turning point. It can often be the perfect lifeline or parachute when the marriage is crashing. Jumping to divorce, however, is like jumping off the cliff without a parachute...it usually puts a very quick and destructive end to the marriage because by then, one or both no longer care. Better that couples separate while they still care.
Mark Gungor is one of the most sought-after speakers on marriage and family in the country. Each year thousands of couples attend his Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage® seminars. His take on marriage issues is refreshingly free of both churchy and psychological lingo. Mark is pastor of Celebration Church in Green Bay, WI. He speaks for churches, civic events, and business meetings and is even a speaker for the US Army. Mark has been featured on national broadcasts such as Focus on the Family and ABC News. His daily radio program is heard on over 250 radio stations nationwide. Visit www.LaughYourWay.com