The modern view of separation is an anti-biblical substitution for the biblical requirement of reconciliation or (in some cases) divorce. These two options alone are given by God. Modern separation settles nothing; it amounts to a refusal to face issues and set them to rest. The world may have no way of solving problems – and so opts for an uneasy cease-fire – but the church does, if she will only avail herself of the biblical means.
Every counselor knows that the way to put people together is not by taking them apart. Separation heats up desire that it shouldn’t, but cools concern that it ought not. The cooling that often occurs is due to a sense of relief from the previous problems, a false sense of peace that is interpreted (wrongly) as a solution to the problem. Nothing actually has been solved. But because of this temporary relief, it is very difficult to effect reconciliation. Often one (or both) of the parties says “I never had it so good” and is loathe to rock the boat. That peace will leave in time, but for some time can be so great a deterrent to reconciliation that it can destroy the prospects altogether. Separation is another means of running from problems instead of solving them God’s way. The first thing a Christian counselor must do, when dealing with separated persons, is to bring them back together again (at this point their great reluctance to return will be seen) so that he can help them to work on their problems in a context (marriage) where solution can be reached. Two people, under separate roofs, will find it nearly impossible to solve problems that occur when they are under the same roof. Separation, therefore, only widens gaps and deepens difficulties. Of course, very brief separations (a couple of hours, an overnight at a friend’s house) – where one doesn’t pack his/her bags and has no intention of leaving – may at times (when one is violent, confused, etc.) be desirable. But in such a case the brief separation is to avoid situations that destroy problem-solving and make communication impossible. The design (in contrast to extended separation, no matter what is said or thought to the contrary) is to make it possible to face and solve problems God’s way – not to avoid them.
The Word of God (does not) provide for (or) sanction separation apart from the dissolution of the marriage bond. Divorce for adultery is by divine sanction; it is a divinely instituted provision for a certain situation and it dissolves the bond of marriage. But there is no such provision for mere separation. The divine institution is that those united in the bond of marriage are bound to the mutual discharge of all marital debts until the bond is severed by death or by dissolution on a proper ground.
Prevention is better than cure. Even a temporary separation should be the last resource, and every possible effort made to avoid such a tragedy.
In general, separations should occur only as a last resort. But there are times when one’s life, children, or sanity are involved, and the seemingly prudent thing to do is to allow for a temporary separation with the hope expressed that the guilty party will repent of his/her actions and the marriage will be saved.