The Non-Divorce Divorce

Divorce is painful, costly and disruptive for everyone’s life including the kids. Some folks say they have found a “solution”: feel divorced while continuing to live together and not get a divorce. Making a conscious decision to neither split up nor work on the marriage seems to me to potentially have a place as a temporizing measure for a relatively modest period of time. But it is certainly not a good long term solution.

Divorce is traumatic because:

  • You are terrified of being alone for the rest of your life.
  • The turmoil of splitting up all your possession is very scary.
  • You will both take a serious financial hit.
  • You will have to divide your time with the children and the long term effects on the children may be significant.

You can see the big theme here is fear. True, divorce is very scary. But to be too afraid to either be vulnerable enough to keep working on the marriage or take the leap to be on your own is akin to hiding under a rock (psychically a very dark and tight place that nothing much good will come out of).

I am a believer in working hard on almost all marriages (not where there is abuse, not when the disdain for each other is so impenetrable as to be truly toxic). You both cheat yourselves when you stay but don’t try. You leave no chance for real intimacy, sex and love either way. Often enough because humans do crave intimacy, sex and love, one of you will go off and find that anyhow in the form of an affair and the other will be deeply hurt even though you had ostensibly given up.

On the other hand, staying together temporarily when you know it’s over — whether you say it’s for the children because they need to grow up a little more, because financially you will both be bankrupt, or for health insurance — may be a reasonable compromise while working towards an amicable split. During that time you may work on the road toward a “healthy divorce” which is as important for the children as a healthy marriage. Overall, however, I would not view the non-divorce as a state to accept and retreat to, but rather a temporizing measure to make it to the other side, which, with work, could be an improved marriage or if not, a healthy divorce.


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