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Divorce Limbo: The Time Between Matrimony and Partition

I have two friends who have been married for over a decade, and who are now desperately trying to claw their way out of the shambles of their marriage. The marriage collapsed over a year ago under the weight of false expectations, personal disappointment, and the sort of general dissatisfaction that will make anyone lose interest in the other. The past year, besides being a glacially progressing emotional hell, has also brought on a significant amount of job and financial insecurity for them both. They have children, a sizable mortgage, and the sort of financial obligations and entanglements that would make a swift and tidy divorce an expensive prospect. While all (or at least most) of their friends are sitting on the sidelines advocating for a divorce, they remain married and living together, with very little momentum, or movement, towards the “big D.”

Whether this inertia is prompted, or wholly informed, by financial concerns is anyone’s guess, but according to Judge Michele Lowrance, author of The Good Karma Divorce, many unhappy couples are slipping into a sort of “divorce limbo” because they simply cannot afford to take the final step. When I am forced to think about it, if my happy marriage were to go south and become unsustainable, I know that separation and divorce would be financially devastating, maybe enough for us to hang on to a fledgling partnership way beyond the point of comfort, or reason.

While I am somewhat loath to promote the type of book that is The Good Karma Divorce, (Lowrance, while being a bona fide judge is also an entertainment lawyer – you fill in the blanks) it seems to hold some value and make a notable contribution to the contemporary discussion about the financial and emotional disincentives toward divorce. Below is a video of a CBS Early Show segment, which aired on the subject:

It goes without saying that divorce, contrary to the riot of tabloid headlines concerning celebrities, is never an easy road to venture down. Besides the expenses and financial considerations, the emotional toll is likely just the thing that will keep you licking your wounds for some time. And even the most amicable divorce (lacking custody battles and property rights) will cost you a considerable amount in legal fees and such. So, is divorce worth shelving until the financial forecast improves? Should emotional concerns trump financial concerns in dealing with the longevity of a partnership? Is there ever a really good reason to remain in a loveless relationship, and if so, is there a way to make a broken marriage last as more of a partnership than a relationship?

Read more: Blogs, Family, Love, Mental Wellness, Parenting at the Crossroads, Relationships, Stress, ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

60 comments

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9:59AM PST on Nov 6, 2012

Marriage ought to be a road to freedom from solitude, fears, and so many more.. But...

11:43AM PST on Mar 9, 2012


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11:36AM PST on Mar 9, 2012


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12:51AM PST on Feb 25, 2012

If the marriage is "broken", the first thing you should do is determine whether or not it can be "fixed". Financial or emotional strains can be repaired in some instances, but not in all. Can counseling or vacations, or talking with a financial advisor help save the marriage or is it too far gone? Only you will truly know the answer to this. Letting it fester without taking action will only exacerbate the issue. I know, because that's how couples end up in my divorce office.
Virginia Divorce Lawyer

12:28PM PST on Feb 9, 2012

Lovely photo- we all know matrimony is for the hetrosexual.


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11:37PM PST on Feb 6, 2012

Very important to Remember this,Marriage is not an easy task,because you are going to live with some one that entirely different character.Behavior,Thoughts,Desires,ect opposite.So not easy.The Bible says, Eps Chp 5- vs 15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.Pray together understand each other.Share problems together.
If we do the will of God nothing goes wrong.

7:31AM PST on Feb 6, 2012

Brenda: I think it sends the wrong message when you say or imply that if someone "wants" help for violence issues that somehow this person is going to change and that the person suffering domestic violence should just stay and put up and wait for that change. I grew up in a severely violent home (more violent than the worst you can imagine). One of the church arguments with my mom was that if she were just MORE SUBMISSIVE or more ____, then my father would change and everything would be perfect.

So she stayed...and the violence against her and myself only escalated. You cannot ever enter into any relationship with the expectation that this person will change or you can do anything to affect that person's decisions. This idea that we can change our abusers or that counseling will actually make them stop only creates a barrier that keeps us into more abuse--sometimes until the abuser murders us!

If that person wants to change fine--but that has to happen after s/he is completely out of our life. If anything, we must make it easier to leave abusive relationships. It's no good getting killed or maimed waiting and hoping for that person to change! They can do that after you have left!

And FYI...i found out that my alcoholic ex was motivated to get SOME HELP only because I did find a way to leave him! My getting to safety prompted him to start changing his life. I'm never going back to him, but it's surprising how leaving an abuser can usually be the best thing

6:25AM PST on Feb 6, 2012

Rocky patches are normal.!!. No aspect of lfe gives us everything we want or need. Marriage has to be worked at for life. This gives you and your partner the chance to grow together.Of course there are times when "flight" seems the answer! Resist it, and communicate ,either through support, or together.. Don't be a quitter unless there is violence to contend with. Even then help is available for that person if they want it.

10:45AM PST on Feb 4, 2012

Marriage is slavery, divorce is liberation!

10:45AM PST on Feb 4, 2012

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