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I am separated from my wife but we never got divorced. I have now become friendly with another woman. Must I divorce before living with someone else?
Thank you for your very honest question. I can see that you have had a difficult time in your circumstances. I am so glad that you are looking to God for an answer to your dilemma, because in obeying Him we find stability and wisdom.
I appreciate that you want a straight answer. This is it - if you are married to one woman, you cannot have sex with someone else and simply to live with another woman is wrong. So you must divorce your present wife.
I hope you will have patience while I explain why this is so, according to the Bible and Christian teaching.
You say that your wife has left you, but that you are not divorced. The Bible is quite clear that divorce is not an option in most cases, but it does give does some exceptions. The most important one is when your partner has committed adultery.
In the Bible, God says plainly:
“You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14)
This command was given by God to Moses, carved in stone. It was meant to be permanent! Our relationships really matter to God and He wants us to behave honourably within them.
Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. (Proverbs 6:32)
Because adultery is so damaging, the betrayed partner is allowed to divorce his wife.
"Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery." (Matthew 19:9)
When Jesus taught about marriage, he quoted from the very beginning of the Bible, the book of Genesis.
"Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh"? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)
Jesus was teaching that marriage is an exclusive relationship which takes priority over a man's other relationships, even that with his parents. When a couple have sex, they become 'one flesh' - profoundly united and ready to create a new family unit. You can't be 'one flesh' with two women, even if one relationship ceased several years ago. A relationship like that should be treated as very valuable. If you value your partner, then she deserves to be given the status of a wife and for you to make a lifetime commitment to her. When you show her that you are committed in this way, she will feel secure and know for sure that she is loved. You will have honoured her publicly as your wife and have made a binding, public commitment.
God's most important command is that we love one another as John 13:34 tells us. If you truly love your friend, ask her to marry you, after committing the whole relationship to God.
I appreciate that there is an expense involved. You would have to take legal advice in order to establish how much it would cost you, although there are websites that give basic information about this, including the government's own website. If you want to honour God in your behaviour, then you will have to pay this, and decide that it is worthwhile to obey God, as well as to give your friend what she is asking for - commitment and security.
I wonder whether your friend is a Christian, or whether you are one yourself, and that is why you have asked us for advice? If you are unsure whether or not you are a Christian, there is information on this site to help you become one, or you could message us again about it.
For a Christian, his or her most important relationship is not with their partner but with God. Because God has come into their life, they know Him personally. They love Him and desire to obey Him. God does not give commands because He wants to restrict our lives, but because He made us and knows what will make us happy and secure in the long term. Some actions are deemed sinful by God because they damage the wellbeing of other people. To live in a sexual relationship with your friend instead of marrying her would not be the best thing for her or for you, and so God says that you must not do it. So the issue is whether you are willing to obey Him.
I have been very direct with you because that is what you asked for. I hope and pray that you will be able to face up to this and decide to obey Him.
To summarise the Christian teaching quickly, sex was created by God and is holy when practiced within marriage. It is then a great blessing, expressing and creating love and intimacy and also has the potential to bring new life, children, within a loving family. Your partner deserves your full commitment and this commitment should be expressed through making the marriage vows.
In closing, it would help you to get more involved with your local church. You could speak to a Christian leader or another trusted person there about your problem. I know they would be delighted to help you, pray for you and support you as you continue your spiritual journey:
Please use our Interactive Answer Matrix and feel free to ask another question. We are praying for you and waiting to try and answer to you from the Bible. We will be delighted to tell you more about Jesus Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the world.
Here are some further Bible References for your consideration.
- Romans 13:9
- 1 Corinthians 7:1-2
*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline
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