Evangelical: 'Separation' for Married Couples Can be a Good Thing

"Separation" for the Gores may serve as the "salvation" for their marriage as they take a breather, said an evangelical marriage expert.

Though Focus on the Family marriage expert Glenn Stanton says it's becoming clearer that the trajectory of Al and Tipper Gore's marriage is more in the divorce direction, he pointed out that the famous couple hasn't used the D-word just yet.

"It's important to understand the difference, not necessarily that separation doesn't lead to divorce but that separation is not necessarily divorce," he told The Christian Post Wednesday. "Divorce is the absolute death of marriage.

"Separation can sometimes be the salvation of a marriage to give the relationship some intensive emergency breathing time to allow the couple to take a second look at their marriage ... and to intentionally work on the problems that are facing the couple."

After being together for 40 years, the Gores announced to family and friends this week that "after a great deal of thought and discussion" they "decided to separate."

The decision was mutual, they said, and they do not intend to comment further on it.

As some try to speculate the cause of the Gores' separation after decades of a seemingly solid marriage, Stanton believes the former U.S. vice president's tremendous success financially and professionally following his political career may be a factor.

"Success in some sense can be a very dramatic failure to a marriage," he said. "One of the things that brings couples close together is working together to achieve what they want to achieve. There's a bonding mechanism when you're trying to find success in what you're trying to find success in.

"Once they've achieved, or one or the other has achieved it, that's when marriages can fall apart."

"Looking at the biblical side of things ... that is caring for the success of your career, your financial world more than the marriage itself," he added.

Stanton, who has been with Focus on the Family since 1993, made clear that the Scriptural justifications for divorce is when the covenant of the relationship has been broken – that is through sexual infidelity or desertion.

"Beyond that, you'd have to be pretty creative with Scripture to justify [divorce]," he said.

But in light of the Gores' much-talked-about announcement, Stanton wants to relay what he feels is a very important but rarely stated message to Christians.

Separation, he said, "can actually be a very pro-marriage action."

Largely, the decision among couples has usually come down to either you're happy in your marriage or you divorce. And people haven't really appreciated the pro-marriage value that separation can be, he lamented.

The church community hasn't helped much either in this matter.

Traditionally in churches, couples have had to put on a happy face and hide marriage troubles, the long-time marriage expert noted. But many churches and Christians are beginning to take a more realistic view of marriage and "they're more dissatisfied with the 'let's just act like everything's OK' attitude," he said.

Announcing to the community that everything's not hunky-dory allows friends and family to step up and help couples cross the finish line, he noted.

"There's no shame in admitting that 'our marriage is less than we're putting on,'" Stanton commented.

And being open and transparent does not set out for more failed marriages. Rather, it could lead to more successful marriages, he stressed.

"When a marriage is plagued with a kind of illness, we just kind of cover over it and pretend it's not there ... [and] it's going to get worse."

Since Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson left the ministry earlier this year, the Colorado Springs-based organization has noticeably taken on a softer and less divisive image.

Stanton said there has been "no change whatsoever" in how they're doing things and addressing issues but there is a change in tone.

"It's not that we're running away from things. In fact, quite the opposite," he said. "There are a lot of issues that we have always been about but we will do it more in a conversational way, that we will engage our opponents in a more conversational way."

"It really comes down to two different callings. Dr. Dobson clearly had a prophetic calling and there is a place for that in the Kingdom of God and Focus on the Family. But God is really taking Focus on the Family to its next stage and that is where Jim Daly (president) is more of a pastoral and evangelistic [leader]."

After transferring the leadership of Focus on the Family to Daly, Dobson started a new radio ministry called Family Talk last month. He told supporters that he has no intention of taking a "softer, gentler" approach and will continue to speak out boldly on issues such as abortion and marriage.

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