By Penny A. Bragg—

Less than two years after we were married, I packed a few things in a suitcase and rolled it out our front door, leaving my husband, Clint, in a tailspin. My actions set him on an emotional rollercoaster. Clint contacted our pastor and some men from the church, but had no idea what to do to get me to come back home. Because we really didn’t want anyone to know our relationship was on the rocks before the night I walked out, the gap between us widened until we eventually separated and divorced.

Eleven years would pass before our paths would ever cross again. Unbeknownst to one another, we both decided to get some help to deal with the years of bitterness, anger, and regret. We never imagined that we would ever see each other again, let alone remarry each other in 2002.

In hindsight, we now understand that our marriage could have been saved before divorce if we would have allowed our struggles and separation to teach us some important lessons, instead of trying to tough it out by ourselves.

Having served spouses in crisis for many years now, we’ve learned a great deal about how to support those who feel like they’re trying to save their marriages alone. The mistakes from our pasts have been redeemed by helping others find hope for the future. Here are a few suggestions based on our experiences.

SEPARATION IS A JOURNEY, NOT A RACE TO THE FINISH. Many people who are separated want a quick fix. It’s painful! However, it is essential to realize the methods and timing of what unfolds is just as important as the final outcome. Perhaps God is using this to call you to a journey of faith that cannot be measured in the outward signs (or lack thereof)? Be a willing participant in the process of separation. Do your part to get well. Own up to your end of the breakdown and be willing to admit your shortcomings. Seek counseling and quality reconciliation resources.

One tangible idea we suggest is to purchase a travel journal. Commit to a journey and surrender each of the following: your itinerary, hidden agendas, fears, options, ideas, opinions, baggage, obstacles, desired outcomes, and timelines. As time passes, add entries about what is happening in each of the following areas of your life during the separation: spiritual, relational, health, financial, home, professional, and future dreams.

WHAT’S HAPPENING IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST YOUR MARRIAGE. Often times as the drama and emotion of a marital crisis unfolds, our perspective gets short-sighted. Think of it as similar to what happens when you sit in the front row of a movie theater. Instead of allowing yourself to be consumed by your pain, take a few steps back. Gain a broader perspective and make an effort to see the grander scope and sequence of what’s transpiring.

One way to do this is to select a few Christian songs whose lyrics are meaningful to you. Compile a playlist of these songs and listen to them regularly, especially when you need some encouragement. You can do the same thing with some writings of encouragement such as those found in the Psalms. Unplugging from life, cell phones, work, etc. and taking a walk will also help clear your mind.

FIGHTING FOR YOUR MARRIAGE IS A POSTURE, NOT THE PURSUIT OF YOUR SPOUSE. Contending for your marriage is really an attitude of the heart and a resolve of deeper faith in the middle of the mire. It’s not about taking action to pursue your spouse or trying to singlehandedly save your marriage. Fighting for your marriage in your own strength (such as initiating contact, making convincing arguments, sending e-mails, stalking Facebook, relentlessly texting your spouse, visiting his/her workplace etc.) is extremely tempting. But, don’t give in. Pursuing your spouse will often backfire. We’ve seen it a thousand times and it was true of our own crisis. Instead of pursuing your spouse and trying to make things happen in your own power, remain humble and change the things inside yourself that need to be changed.

One idea is to take a photograph from your wedding and place a sticky note on the back of it. List any changes you know you need to make during this time of separation. Place the photo where you will see it each day. Ask a trusted friend (same gender) to meet with you at least once a week over the phone, or in person. Share your list with him/her. Allow this person to hold you accountable to the changes you need to make.

If you’re currently separated and you feel like your marriage is circling the drain toward divorce, take heart. There is hope! If you latch onto understanding and applying these three vital truths, you’ll do more than just survive this crisis. You’ll experience peace and purpose amidst the pain.





Penny BraggPenny A. Bragg spent the majority of her professional career in the California public school system as a teacher, principal, and district administrator. Through the miraculous reconciliation of her marriage after an eleven-year divorce and a distance of 3,000 coast-to-coast miles, God led Penny and her husband, Clint, into fulltime ministry in 2006. Together, they serve as marriage missionaries—sharing their testimony of marital restoration across the nation and abroad during their 40-Day Marriage Mission Trips. Through Inverse Ministries, their non-profit organization, Penny and Clint have written extensively about the ministry of reconciliation including their upcoming book, Marriage on the Mend—Healing Your Relationship After Crisis, Separation, and Divorce (Kregel, 2015). In addition, Penny ministers to those who, like her, have experienced traumatic loss. Her book, “For Those Who Weep—A Grief Response Journal,” (Redemption Press, 2014) is available at


  1. 11-12-2014

    Penny, this is one of the most generous blog posts I’ve ever read. I’m almost at a loss for words, which writers rarely are. Ok — I think I have some words:
    You have nothing to gain from this piece of writing, yet you share some difficult parts of your life with readers. You simply offer help. Not “simple” help — real help, practical suggestions not only for things to think and pray about, but things that women in this extremely difficult circumstance can DO. Yes, I think that’s what is most astonishing and hopeful and generous about this excellent piece or writing: you’ve turned your own pain into hands-on help for others. Well done. KB

    • 11-12-2014

      Kathleen, well now I’m speechless. Bless you for your kind words and thoughtful reply. It is the cry of my heart to help those who are in this painful place. So many don’t realize that women are GRIEVING when their marriage is in crisis or they are facing separation/divorce. Emotions are ALL over the place. -Grateful to generate some future hope out of our painful past.

  2. 11-12-2014

    Fighting for your marriage is a posture, not the pursuit of your spouse. Love it. Such a huge concept so well put. Penny, with your permission, I’m going to use this with our couples. 🙂 Love your wisdom and love you my friend. Thank you so much for sharing on this important subject. God bless,

    • 11-12-2014

      Sure thing, my friend. Glad you can use it. Missing you. Too many miles between us!

  3. 1-14-2015

    Separation is a journey, not a raíces to the finish.

    That’s exactly how I feel right now, After 3 months of being separated. And than called My atention
    So i reald it all

    Thank You for your help and your generosity Penny

    God Bless You


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