Living apart while married is an arrangement that some couples pursue for various reasons. However, for Christians, especially those of Evangelical and Charismatic traditions, living apart while married can raise important spiritual and practical questions. As believers, we want to honor God in our marriages and make choices aligned with Biblical principles.
In this post, we’ll explore some potential motivations for living apart while married, look at relevant Biblical perspectives, and consider the practical implications. My goal is to provide an overview to help Christian couples prayerfully evaluate this unique arrangement in light of their faith.
Why Do Some Couples Live Apart?
There are various reasons why married couples might choose to live in separate residences, including:
- Career or education goals – One spouse may relocate to pursue a job, schooling, military service, or ministry opportunity. Maintenance of two households can enable the couple to still be together while pursuing divergent opportunities.
- Health considerations – A serious health condition of one spouse may necessitate special care or accommodation best provided in a separate residence. For example, one spouse may need to live in an assisted living facility.
- Financial motivations – Maintaining two separate properties can be advantageous for tax purposes or real estate investments in some situations.
- Relationship issues – In some cases, living apart is an intermediary measure for spouses experiencing relationship difficulties. A time of separation while still legally married can provide space for working through problems.
- Personal preferences – Some couples prefer to keep their own residences as a matter of lifestyle, privacy, or convenience. Partners with highly divergent schedules, perspectives on shared space, or personality approaches may do better with separate living quarters.
Of course, motivations can be complex. Prayerful discernment, open communication, godly counsel, and understanding of both spouses’ perspectives are essential when considering this path.
What Does the Bible Say?
Scripture does not directly address living apart while married, but certain biblical principles can inform our understanding of this arrangement. As Christians, God’s Word is our source of wisdom when evaluating life choices within marriage:
A. Unity and togetherness are God’s design for marriage
Several biblical passages describe God’s intention for unity, intimacy, and companionship in marriage:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24 NKJV)
“Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11 NKJV)
“The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” (1 Corinthians 7:4 NKJV)
While not an absolute prohibition, these passages convey an ideal of togetherness, sacrificial love, and intimacy in marriage. Living apart challenges this principle.
B. Marriage provides companionship and guards against temptation
Marriage is intended to offer companionship for emotional and physical needs. Separate living arrangements deprive spouses of these benefits:
“Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love.” (Proverbs 5:18-19 NKJV)
“But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-33 NKJV)
Living apart also removes a guard against sexual temptation:
“Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:5 NKJV)
C. Separations advised only in cases of unrepentant sexual immorality
Jesus permitted separation in cases of repeated, unrepentant sexual immorality:
“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9 NKJV)
Yet even here, the heart of God is forgiveness and restoration:
“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4 NKJV)
D. Marriage reflects Christ’s relationship with the church
Marriage is meant to symbolize the union of Christ and the church. Separations should be temporary measures only:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…’For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:25, 31-32 NKJV)
Overall, Scripture upholds marriage unity as God’s ideal plan. Living apart permanently should not be undertaken lightly.
If living apart is considered, couples should carefully evaluate practical matters including:
- Financial costs – Funding two households can be expensive. Is this sustainable? What tradeoffs are required?
- Legal implications – Issues like taxes, insurance, property rights, medical decisions, inheritance, and more become complex. Extensive planning and legal counsel are advised.
- Physical intimacy – Separate living quarters can present challenges in maintaining a healthy marital relationship. Couples may require guidelines for intimacy during times of geographic separation.
- Social stigma – Well-meaning friends and family may misunderstand. Are we prepared to explain this extra-biblical arrangement?
- Church involvement – Maintaining active participation and fellowship in a shared church while living apart takes effort.
- Family impacts – Consider effects on children or dependents. Is adequate care and unity maintained?
With wisdom and intentionality, some scenarios may justify living apart while still honoring marriage. More often though, seeking creative solutions to live together may better align with biblical ideals.
Here are some questions for reflection as you evaluate the option of living apart while married:
- What motivations are driving considerations of separate residences? Are they honoring to God?
- How does living apart affect companionship and intimacy in marriage? Are accommodations needed to foster unity?
- Might living apart increase temptation toward emotional or physical infidelity? How can we guard our hearts?
- Does living apart reflect positively or negatively on our marriage and Christian witness?
- Could other solutions achieve goals while still living together? What tradeoffs are involved?
- How do our spouses feel about this arrangement? Are we promoting mutual love and respect?
- Have we sought wise, godly counsel? What perspectives does our church community provide?
- Does living apart have defined timeframes and goals? Or open-ended separations that drift apart?
- Most importantly – Is this decision bringing us closer to Christ and each other? Or creating distance in the marriage relationship?
As you reflect and pray through these questions, God can provide wisdom and direction for your specific situation. While living apart is not intrinsically wrong, it warrants thoughtful spiritual examination to promote marriage health and wholeness.
- Living apart while married is sometimes pursued for career, health, financial, relationship, or lifestyle reasons.
- Scripture upholds ideals of marital unity, companionship, intimacy and interdependence. Living apart permanently challenges these principles.
- Separations are only advised in specific cases of repeated unrepentant sexual immorality. Even here, the heart of God moves toward forgiveness and reconciliation in marriage.
- Practical considerations around finances, legal planning, intimacy, family dynamics, social perceptions, church participation and more require careful thought before undertaking separate living arrangements.
- Couples should prayerfully reflect on motivations and implications, seeking godly counsel and creative solutions to promote closeness and spiritual growth together through life’s seasons.
Living apart while married is an extra-biblical arrangement that warrants thoughtful and prayerful examination by Christian couples. While sometimes pursued for legitimate practical reasons, it often departs from God’s ideals for intimacy, unity, spiritual growth, and witness in our marriages. Scripture upholds togetherness as the healthier path, even through difficult seasons and challenges. As believers, we want God’s purposes to thrive in our marriages. With wisdom, creativity, obedience, grace, patience, forgiveness, and reliance on the Holy Spirit’s guidance, Christian couples can discover solutions that honor their vows and God’s desire for marriages to reflect Christ’s redeeming love.