Choosing Limbo: What Do You Think of Undivorcing?

7 years ago

The first time I heard of undivorcing was a few years back when I was being interviewed for a magazine. The interviewer said something confusing about her husband while we were making small talk and when I asked her another question about it, she admitted it was complicated.

They were neither married nor divorced.

"Separated?" I questioned.

"Not exactly," she told me. "Because we're actually very much together. And apart. At the same time. We have turned our house into two apartments and our kids can move between our two, separate spaces. He couldn't afford to live on his own nor was he able to take care of himself. And there is still a lot of love there, even if we can't be married to one another. I've freaked you out now."

I wasn't freaked out; only intrigued. I mean, even marriages that end start from a place of love, and it makes sense that a marriage that ends amicably can be sustained with what amounts to a very complicated friendship. Not everyone seeks divorce and the closure it can bring to a union. This woman was free to date other people and pursue her own interests, her children had an easy transition between co-parenting homes, and her ex-husband-yet-still-husband had the aid he needed in order to live. They had a situation they made work.

And according to the New York Times, there are many other couples in a similar space of undivorce, choosing to remain in the limbo of separation rather than return to their marriage or end it. According to the article, "Divorce lawyers and marriage therapists say that for most couples, the motivation to remain married is financial." Finances cover everything from needing your spouse's insurance to not being able to afford a separate residence.

Of course, not everyone sees undivorce as the perfect solution. Newlyweds Blog sniffs that she doesn't see anything admirable about remaining in a state of separation.

Love or falling out of love is impractical. Your divorce should be, too. It doesn't have to be insanity, but it shouldn't be as clinical as filing taxes either. Marriage gone wrong is messy and complicated and that's all right. In fact, it's normal. And divorcing spouses should embrace the tragedy, throw themselves a pity party, own their divorce, and then move on. A divorce gives them freedom from a marriage that wasn't working.

Cheryl Williams at the Examiner wonders what children of undivorced couples will learn about marriage from watching their parents in this state. She explains,

It would seem that it might give children a very skewed vision of what marriage is about. Seeing a lack of intimacy and affection between their parents may teach them that this is the way a marriage is supposed to be. Seeing their parents in separate bedrooms, living separate lives (though married) may very well give a new meaning to the word 'marriage.'

Politics Daily wryly points out that "'It's complicated' is a common term un-divorced couples use to describe their unconventional marriages. Naturally, Facebook has this 21st century option as a relationship choice."

What are your thoughts on undivorce and the idea of remaining married yet separated indefinitely?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her book is Navigating the Land of If.

Photo credit: Phil Wood.

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