Hang with me on this one. It will take awhile to get back to the answer to that question. Sometimes the back door is the best way into a proper understanding of the text.
I think I stumbled upon a significant insight about this just the other day. I sat with a co-laborer and we counseled together on the best way to help a couple with a stuggling marriage. The issue of separation came up. My friend asked, "what do you think is the right length of time for a separation?"
The classic text often used to support the idea of separation is 1 Cor. 7 (esp. verse 5). Many Christians use this text to support the modern idea of separation. The reality is that for most people, talk of separation is a veiled way of stepping on to a fast train toward divorce. They are committed to divorce and simply don't want to admit it to anyone, especially their pastor. They have given up on seeking God's solution; they just want out and if using "separation" language will keep others from knowing the truth-- great.
So how was I to answer my friends question? Is this text appropriately applied to the concept of separation in a struggling marriage. Yes, I think it is but not separation as practiced in our modern setting.
5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by
agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Now my thought had always been that Paul probably didn't have more than the length of a woman's cycle in mind, (at an upper limit). And so I said that and then I looked at my pastoral friend and said, "You and I both know that if you really mean business with God, it doesn't take a month to get an answer from God."