Does the Bible accept this kind of marriage? If it doesn’t, do I have a responsibility to do anything and inform anyone?
Real Family Talk
Separted by Work
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
How can we have a good marriage, despite the fact that we live in different countries because of work?
Marriage is wonderful yet challenging, regardless of the circumstances. Usually the most intimate and important relationship in a person’s life, marriage can also be a source of tremendous stress if the spouses are not on the same page. Marriage works best when husbands and wives live together. After all, this was God’s plan for marriage from the very beginning.
The Bible states: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” (Gen. 2:18).
We find it remarkable that in Genesis 1—the creation account—as God is involved in His work of producing a new world, He invariably pronounces that which He has just made as good, until He comes to Adam, the lone human being. Then God changes His refrain—in Genesis 2:18—that it is not good for man to be alone.
In fact, to make His plans for the human race abundantly clear, God’s intentions are recorded: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
These two statements clarify the structure and function of marriage as God designed it: that there should be a male and a female in the marriage, and that they should be together to provide companionship and support each other.
In response to your direct question, it is very difficult to have a good marriage if the spouses are away from each other for long periods of time. Since marriages, like most other relationships, are either growing or dying, for a marriage relation to grow it is critical that spouses constantly interact with each other, not simply by artificial means such as telephone, Skype, or other electronic means. Rather, it is important that people who are married to each other be able to embrace and be physically connected to each other on a regular basis.
The apostle Paul was very direct and plain-spoken when he wrote: “But since sexual immorality is occuring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and likewise each woman with her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). This leads us to believe that since most adults naturally experience the need for physical intimacy, Paul is saying that it is preferable for human adults to be married so they may have legitimate access to intimate physical fulfillment. And, just in case he has been misunderstood, later in that same chapter he wrote, “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (verse 5).
Married couples should prayerfully consider whether God can be pleased and honored by their living away from each other on a regular basis and for long periods of time. In different parts of the world, many have shared with us that the reason for this temporary arrangement is usually for better job opportunities and stronger financial realities for their families. However, these prospects cannot deny the negative impact living apart has on most marriages. So each couple contemplating living apart needs to seriously consider the consequences of this choice, and whether it is worth it for their families in the long run.
Your question is truly paradoxical. We don’t believe it is possible to continue to have a good marriage and live in a different country than your spouse for several months or years at a time. Therefore, we encourage you to have a serious conversation with your spouse about your current living arrangements. Pray for God to give you faith in Him to provide for your temporal needs.
We are certain that God honors those who honor Him. And you honor God by doing marriage the way He outlined it in the Bible.
Please know we are praying for you and your marriage. Be assured that if you leave this matter in God’s hands, He will help you and your spouse solve the difficulties that led you to this decision.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, and family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries. You may communicate with them at Family.Adventist.org or HopeTV.org/RealFamilyTalk.