If you have been struggling in your marriage and are unsure whether divorce is right for you, it’s possible that an intermediate step is more appropriate or attractive. This step may end up serving as a long-term solution for your relationship, or help you understand whether divorce is the correct outcome for your marriage. Sometimes, it may even strengthen your marriage.
When a couple is struggling, the decision to end a marriage is often approached with very black-and-white thinking, but it doesn't have to be. A conscious decision to create separation without divorce often provides more clarity and confidence in the ultimate decision you make. Based on research from Susan Pease Gadoua (2018) here are three divorce alternatives or ways to change the terms or your marriage.
If you have kids, considering the impact of your divorce on them is most likely top of mind. In a parenting marriage Susan Pease Gadoua (2018) suggests that couples stay married for an agreed-upon period of time, such as “until the kids are out of the house” or sometimes, indefinitely, on behalf of the kids. However, they may or may not live together long-term and their relationships is solely parenting and kid-focused, not love-based or romantic. Many couples will decide to date others, although they will likely keep that in secrecy from the kids. You might know couples you got divorced right after the kids were all out of the house. This type of “parenting marriage” sometimes unfolds very organically as partners grow apart but remain together as they feel it will be best for the welfare of the children.
Live Apart Together Marriage
In this type of marriage, couples can keep most aspects of a traditional marriage, including romance, social circles, sharing finances, parenting, and even monogamy, but they don’t live together in the same house (Pease Gadoua, 2018). Some couples are happier in their own space and a better romantic partner when they have more autonomy. There is a financial impact to the couple to maintain two households, but this arrangement could result in a happier couple long-term. This arrangement is common for couples who might work in different cities or states (Pease Gadoua, 2018). Perhaps they spend weekdays apart and some weekends together.
In an open marriage, couples remain married and expect to have an ongoing romantic and sexual connection, however, there is no expectation of monogamy (Pease Gadoua, 2018). Extramarital sexual relationships are expected and this is not viewed by the couple as infidelity. While monogamy is often implied in marriage, this arrangement allows for outside lovers and possibly even bringing those lovers into the couple's own sexual relationship. Oftentimes, the couple establishes rules and boundaries in this type of marriage, especially if there are children that could be affected by it.
This type of marriage tends to result in one of two outcomes.
The marriage ultimately ends because opening the marriage to outside partners results in jealousy and confusion. Sometimes a partner can even fall in love with someone new.
The marriage is strengthened because the partnership is now more interesting and exploratory, especially from the perspective of the couple’s sex life.
Before you pull the plug on your marriage and embark on an emotionally and often financially expensive journey with your spouse, consider these possible alternatives. Our team of therapists at Center for Shared Insight can help you determine whether these divorce alternatives are the right fit for you and how to discuss them with your partner. Contact us to share your story and learn more about the ways we can support you in a free consultation.
Pease Gadoua, S. (2018). To Divorce or Not to Divorce: Helping Clients Get Out of Marital Indecision. A Training for Therapists.