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HomeRelationshipsFamilyYour Friend's Marriage Separation

Your Friend’s Marriage Separation

“I think it’s over,” Kelly confided as we ate a late lunch together at Panera Bread. “Sam and I can’t work things out.”

As I listened to my sweet friend share her struggles, I silently prayed, “God, what can I do? How can I help her?”  Kelly had separated from her husband, and she sounded serious about divorce.

My heart went out to her. I know what separation means. I had lived through a long season of marriage separation myself, and I wanted to support her in a way that honored God and truly helped her during this difficult season.

My experience with Kelly may echo your own heart towards a friend who is facing divorce. Regardless of whether she wants the separation or not, we know our friend is hurting. We see she is struggling, but we may not know what to say or how to reach out to her. We are concerned about our friend, but what can you and I do at this point?

Let’s look at seven God-honoring ways to respond to the difficult situation of separation in a friend’s life.

Respond with prayer. The Lord’s intervention in her circumstances can change things in ways we can’t imagine, and prayer is how we ask for that divine intervention. Committing to pray for our friend every day will be the most important thing you and I can do. God’s Word tells us in James 5:16 that effective prayer makes tremendous power available. Let’s tap into that power on her behalf. When she is discouraged, fearful, angry, and confused, you can stand in the gap for her through prayer. You may not be able to change anything about her current circumstances, but your prayers will break down spiritual strongholds in this marriage. You can sow seeds of prayer that have the power to shape and redirect your friend’s future.

Respond with hope. When God is involved, even the most desperate situations can be transformed. The bible tells us in Luke 1:37 that nothing is impossible with God. That includes the restoration of this wife to her husband. Hope isn’t denial. Having hope in what the Lord can do isn’t setting her up for more disappointment; it’s demonstrating faith in God’s power. Other people will tell her that divorce is inevitable and that there is nothing she can do about it. Her co-workers and family members may say that she’ll be better off without him and that divorce is the quick fix she needs. As a godly friend, you can have the courage and faith to point her towards reconciliation while praying for God’s will to be done in her marriage. Let’s not hesitate to speak hope into her life and remind her that God is able to restore his people.

Respond with encouragement. Separation hurts the spouse who is surprised by it, and it even hurts the one who initiated the break. There was a time when I thought people who divorced did so because they both wanted it. I’ve learned that this is not true at all. Your friend may try to hide or dismiss her pain, but it’s there. Even if you see every reason for her to walk away from this man, remember that she has emotional and spiritual bonds with her husband which are causing her heart to blister, bleed, and break. You and I can speak words of encouragement, send a card, or post a special bible verse for her to read as ways to minister to her grief. The reality is that separations can linger on a long time, and your faithful outreach, even months after the initial break occurs, can refresh your friend’s lonely, hurting heart.

Respond with grace. When a friends separate, we want to know what happened, and we naturally start to assign blame. Is she the victim or the culprit? While we don’t turn a blind eye to blatant sin, there are usually many things that have contributed to the breakdown of a marriage. Since we are only hearing part of the story anyway, judgment is best left to the Lord. She doesn’t need condemnation or affirmation her innocence from us; she needs us to model the forgiveness and mercy of Christ. We can support her by refusing to judge her or her husband.

Respond with love. Marriage separation creates an instant identity crisis in our friend’s life. She knows she’s not single, but she isn’t living married life the same way anymore. It can be very uncomfortable to be the only separated woman in a roomful of couples or the separated spouse among the crowd at church. Your friend may suddenly feel out-of-place with her married girlfriends. Give her freedom to form friendships with other separated women while you continue to offer ways for her to connect with you. Continue to invite her to social events even if you are met with rejection. You and I can show our unconditional love and commitment to her by refusing to abandon the friendship even if she takes steps away from us during this time.

Respond with sensitivity.  If you have social or relational connections to both the wife and husband of a separated marriage, your support can become a complicated matter. Even the desire not to choose sides can be interpreted as betrayal by one or both spouses. Yes, a part of her understands why you will maintain your friendship with him, but that doesn’t mean she is happy about it. If we are going to interact with both people, we can let our girlfriend know when we plan to have contact with her husband. It will spare her unnecessary pain if you and I are open about our social obligations upfront. We can make the choice now to support our friends by staying out of all the festering gossip that is sure to erupt and by refusing to let anyone slander either of them in our presence.

Respond with resources. When the husband moves out, a wife is usually left balancing a checkbook with less funds than she’s used to having. The loss of one income and the additional expenses of establishing a second household can create financial stress even for affluent families. Your friend may need to work outside the home now or sell possessions to make ends meet and pay legal fees. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate Christ-like generosity. The Lord may ask you to write a check—but not necessarily. You may be able to offer financial help, but resources can be shared in many other ways as well. Perhaps watching her child after school or bringing dinner over one night, helping her clean the house, or sharing a good book with her are ways we can provide for an overwhelmed, separated wife.

No one expects her marriage to come to this point, but, sadly, some of the strong, beautiful, Christian women you know will find themselves here. Your continued prayer and loving support of someone who is walking through marriage separation matters more than you may realize. If you are willing to reach out to a friend during this difficult season, your relationship can make a difference in her life.

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