When a husband says,
“I want a separation. There is nothing you can do or say to change my mind. I’m done.”
A wife has the biggest challenge of her life ahead of her. How will she respond?
God’s Word gives us His wisdom in I Peter 3:1-6 and I Corinthians 7 about if an unbelieving spouse leaves.
I have seen wives respond in very different ways.
1. Some try to tighten their grip and verbally force their husbands to stay – they fight, argue, cry, beg, nag, criticize, lash out, cuss and scream to try to MAKE their husbands do what they want them to do – to stay and repair the marriage.
2. Some treat their husbands with respect and honor, repenting of any sin on their part, seeking to learn to treat their husbands with dignity. I have seen wives respect their husband’s choice to leave and trust their husbands to God.
3. Some fall apart and go totally silent and just sink into depression and paralysis. Turning on themselves on the inside.
Have you ever been in either of these situations? What did you do? What was your husband’s response, if you are free to talk about it?
I am so thankful that some wives have shared a bit about their stories. I pray these might bless you. I am not an authority on this topic, but I hope to start a meaningful and helpful discussion that might greatly bless some who are in the midst of much pain right now. My goal is to point us all to God and His Word. He IS an authority on this issue, thankfully!
I was number 2!!! He even got a divorce, I never participated or went to 1 day in court. He went off and had another relationship and children. I stayed faithful and stood in prayer everyday for the restoration of our marriage.
On Nov 21, 2009 we remarried. He is a completely different man than the boy I married in 2005 we are so much in love and I would do it all over again even though it was the darkest part of my life.
God is good!! I got my strength from the scripture that tells me how God feels about marriage. I knew what my responsibility was and I knew that did not change because of my husband’s choices.
I knew God would bless me and I prayed for my husband and his soul. I prayed over him when we were together even if he was sleeping – I would lay hands on him. I stood firm in God’s word and He came through.
We have done the Love and Respect conference as well as taking a class at church on 5 Love Languges. We also attended marriage retreats. This thing is WORK but it is worth it. I have 3 stepchildren now who are a full part of our family, after court battles we get them once a month. Our God is a Restorer. We were high school sweethearts and I can’t imagine my life without him.
The more I do #1, the worse things get. When I work on #2, things come to a stalemate, which isn’t necessarily good, but at least they aren’t getting worse. I have lost control while in the midst of #2, and reverted back to #1, which did not help at all. Now, I need to work on #2, and trust God, long enough to see positive, long term results.
It is definitely a challenge, but I’ve also noticed the peace that starts to fall when you give the entire situation to God. It’s hard to do, but there is a relief that sets in, and if you stop yourself in time, before freaking out again, you feel a sense of freedom. It’s not your responsibility. You can only control yourself, your behavior, your thoughts. Anything else is in God hands.
I have done the first, and have attempted/am attempting the second with God’s help. I am not perfect, I am a sinner saved by God’s grace, and this is a hurt more devastating than anything I have ever experienced, but with God’s strength I can learn to let go and give my husband to Him.
It’s hard to let go when things are not going the way I want them to, but I never had control over his actions in the first place. It is all in God’s hands, and always has been. This is a battle in my mind – please pray for me and for all marriages.
My husband asked for a separation and we were separated by distance at the time. It was then that I found the Peaceful Wife’s blog and took the steps that April suggested. I asked for his forgiveness and took my own steps to repair my heart and my relationship with God.
I was finally able to rejoin him in July and our marriage has only grown stronger! We had an initial period of quietness and getting to know one another again.
After that, he learned to trust that I was not the same wife that I had been (the demanding, overpowering, and disrespectful wife that I had not realized I had been). We have grown closer and things are going really well!
Although my husband never threatened to leave or talked about divorce, he did totally shut down on me for long periods of time – not look at me, not talk to me, not want to touch me – earlier in our marriage.
That was very painful. (In my case, he was responding to my control and disrespect – I just didn’t know that for a long time.)
But for a husband to want to leave – that would be so much more painful. I can’t begin to imagine the temptation to completely panic for a wife upon hearing these words from her husband – particularly when a believing wife wants to make the marriage work.
I believe that separation and divorce can be more painful and devastating than losing a spouse to death. My heart just completely breaks for each of you (women and men) who are living this kind of nightmare.
Different Approaches When He Wants to Leave
A bit more detail about the two ways wives generally respond when a husband wants to leave or does leave…
1. A wife completely freaks out and reacts in her flesh. She may:
- try to force her husband to stay
- scream and maybe even curse at him
- lash out in anger
- say very hurtful, hateful words
- threaten him
- throw things or hit him
- think if she can just explain herself more and use many words, that he will understand and change his mind
- try to cling tighter emotionally to her husband
- try to control him
- try to make him do things her way because she believes she is right
- lecture her husband about his “ungodly decision to leave”
- try to use guilt to manipulate him.
- respond with a victim mentality or a the mindset of a “martyr”
- try to turn the children against him
- want to seek revenge
- want to hurt him so that he will feel as much pain as she does
- make demands
- criticize him
- respond with a spirit of offense
- list all of his faults and sins
- blame him
Or she may shut down, go totally passive, and become very depressed. This is also not a healthy approach. It is understandable! But as she heals from her grief, my prayer is that she will seek the Lord and respond in His power.
These tactics will not work, my precious sisters! They only cause more damage and destruction. Everything in a man’s nature will be repelled by this approach.
For a husband to return to his wife in this situation, he would have to be willing to submit to her. That is not God’s design. He is supposed to be the leader. He needs to be able to make this choice freely and willingly and return on his own.
2. A wife seeks to live in the power of God’s Spirit filling her and to respond to her husband in obedience to God. She may:
- seek God first, not reconciliation with her husband, not allow her husband or reconciliation to become an idol (Matthew 22:37-38)
- spend a lot of time with God in prayer, journaling and seeking His face, His wisdom and His direction, crying out to God, laying on her face before Him in total humility, adoration, brokenness, weakness, faith and trust (Many Psalms describe this kind of intense searching for God and His will)
- wrestle, grieve and struggle with weighty emotions and decisions
- seek to treat her husband with honor and respect in any way that she believes God is revealing to her that He wants her to (Ephesians 5:22-33, I Corinthians 11:3, I Peter 3:1-6)
- seek to repay evil with good from a position of great spiritual strength in Christ (Romans 12:9-21)
- allow him the freedom to make his own choices
- focus only on what she has control over – herself and her walk with Christ
- respond with dignity, grace, and poise in the power of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
- guard her heart against bitterness
- sing praises to God all throughout each day
- write out all of her fears and then write out Scriptures that combat those fears and help her to focus on the power and sovereignty of Christ
- seek to speak respectfully about her husband to others, especially her children
- guard against unbiblical human advice – many friends and family members will not understand waiting on God and will encourage a wife to “just divorce him” or “just move on” not understanding that marriage is a sacred covenant
- seek to bless her husband and to pray for God’s best for him and for his welfare
- focus on laying down her dream of her marriage being healed and not cling to that dream, but cling tightly to Christ alone, determining that Jesus is sufficient for her, trusting her husband and their marriage to Him
- pray for healing for her marriage and for salvation for her husband but rest in God’s sovereignty to work out the end results and seek to be God’s partner in bringing beauty and good to the situation
- share her needs and desires respectfully, generally once
- seek godly support from family and friends
- realize that in some cases, this may not have anything to do with her but may be issues that the husband has and not take responsibility for things that are not her fault
- confront her husband about sin in his life only as God reveals to her that it is a good time to do that and as He shows her clearly what He wants her to do and say and how to approach her husband humbly, respectfully, and gently (this is usually not something to do right away when a husband wants to leave the marriage, God will give opportunities for this in time. But, when a husband has decided to leave, he will generally not be open to hearing about his sin)
- extend the grace, mercy, forgiveness and love of Christ to her husband, understanding that he is hurting and may be spiritually dead or in bondage and he may not be able to give her what she wants from him at the time
- respect her marriage covenant according to God’s wisdom and prompting (i.e.:, I cannot live with you if you continue the relationship with this other woman)
- seek to allow God to change and transform and refine her faith and character during this time of intense suffering
- focus on Philippians 4:4-8 things
- focus on waiting on God
- focus on being thankful to God in all circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:16)
- focus on not arguing or complaining so that she might shine for Christ (Philippians 2:14-16)
- focus on obeying God’s Word for herself and seeking to not get in the way of anything God may want to do with her husband
- be willing to allow God to change her first, even if she believes her husband has “more sin” in his life than she does in hers
- take responsibility for her own sin and repent to God and to her husband for it and take responsibility for her own obedience to God and her own spiritual growth and her own emotions
- seek to influence her husband for Christ by her example
Approaching things in a godly way is the only way that may win a husband back but it is not a guarantee.
Some husbands may choose not to return. But a wife who lives this way will have no regrets and can breathe healing into her marriage. If a husband is going to respond, it will be to this approach. He will feel honored and God will be honored.
I am praying for God’s wisdom, His Spirit’s power, His will, His glory and for great faith for each of you who are facing fiery trials right now in your marriages. I pray for God to draw each of you closer to Himself than ever and for Him to draw your husbands to Himself – to bring any to salvation who do not know Him – and to make something beautiful from the painful mess that things may be right now at this moment.
Just because a wife responds in a God-honoring, Spirit-filled way does not necessarily mean that her husband is definitely going to come back when she wants him to. But it will mean that God will be glorified in her life.
My prayer is that each of you might cling to Christ and that you might grow in your faith and trust Him more and more and that He might use this time to make you more and more beautiful in His sight.
Much love to each of you!
The Peaceful Wife book
Covenant Eyes (affiliate link)—resources and tools to help people overcome porn addictions
Finding Contentment in Christ Alone in Painful Trials (Stories of Christian wives and a Christian husband whose spouses left them.)
(Note #1 – If your husband is involved in drug/alcohol addictions, infidelity, has uncontrolled mental health problems or is abusive, please seek appropriate help ASAP. I am not able to address these kinds of severe issues here on the blog. You may need much more specialized help. In certain cases, wives may prayerfully need to consider separating from their husband in such cases, at least for a time. Some resources that may be helpful are The Salvation Army, Celebrate Recovery and Al-Anon.)
(Note #2 – if you are a wife who wants to separate from your husband or divorce him, please be extremely careful about doing this. I know there are times when separation is unavoidable in extreme cases and circumstances. Sometimes separation is a necessary step for a couple being able to work things out and eventually reconcile. Sometimes it is not safe or wise to continue to live together. I do understand that. And maybe there are some – even more rare cases – where divorce is necessary.
But there are also some times when we choose separation or divorce when we actually could stay and focus on becoming the wives God desires us to be and we could trust and wait on God to work miracles. If the issue is that you are just not happy, or you don’t feel your needs are being met – I pray you will wait and seek God wholeheartedly before doing anything rash.
If you are considering divorcing your husband, please check out The Bible and Divorce. I want to be sure that we are listening to and trusting God’s voice, not our ungodly culture’s wisdom. God hates divorce (Malachi 2). I don’t want you to live in a broken marriage. I long to see God heal your marriage. I want God to say to each of us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I want to see you and your husband have a strong, healthy, vibrant, godly marriage as you seek to do things His way.
If there are severe issues in your marriage, please seek appropriate, godly, biblically based help. Or you may need medical help, legal help or help from the police depending on the situation.)