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  • Writer's pictureDr. Tarra Bates-Duford

Married but Separate

I am sure we have all known couples who happen to be married living totally separate lives, however for whatever their personal reasons are they remain legally married, not even bothering to become legally separated. From the outside looking in these marriages are basically over but, for the sake of children, avoidance of being alone, or financial expenses they remain married. In recent years, the number of married but separate has been steadily increasing, extending out to include couples with no children or adult children. The relationship of couples in this situation mirrors that of young adults living in a college dorm or room rental situation. Like roommates “couples” often share the household expenses, i.e., telephone, groceries, housework, and maintenance issues. However, unlike roommates that probably did not share a past, were intimate, or share children, the married but separate may own property together, share a bank account, joint assets, or maintain a false façade of togetherness for extended family. For all intents and purposes their physical marriage may have ended long ago but their financial, property, and feigned “marital bliss” are still married. Some people regard divorce as shameful and embarrassing. They would rather stay in an unhappy, but tolerable, relationship than acknowledge to everyone that the marriage has failed. Consequently, some people, who have always felt unattractive and unappealing, are now older and, therefore, even less attractive, they think so they would rather stay in a marriage out of fear of not finding someone else to love them.

For many married couples living separate lives, this living arrangement works out pretty well. These couples get to keep their properties, as properties would have to be sold and assets divided in a divorce. By staying together, many couples we get to keep more of their money and retain their health insurance coverage as a married couple. Also, noteworthy is the option to retain pensions upon retirement.

In spite of the benefits of staying married but living separately, there are a lot of good reasons to legally end a marriage. The reasons include one party still holding onto to beliefs the marriage will return to what it once was, believing the other spouse will realize his or her mistake in wanting to live separately, if one or both parties are unable to envision or tolerate seeing his or her spouse with someone else, or if there is verbal, psychological, emotional, or physical abuse occurring,

Eva & Sebastian

Eva and Sebastian have been married for 7 years, however the things that brought them together no longer exists. While Eva has never been physically attracted to her husband she believed he possessed qualities that suggested he would be a good husband and father. Sebastian for his part desires to remain in the marriage with Eva, but his reasons are often unclear. Although, Sebastian professes his love regularly, his actions and behaviors appear to be in direct contradiction to his words. Part of Sebastian’s desperation with wanting to keep Eva surrounds his own inadequacies, i.e., perceived unattractiveness, prior failed marriage & relationships, vocational limitations, and social awkwardness. By being with someone as smart and beautiful as Eva he feels attractive and accepted, sort of by proxy. From Eva’s perspective the marriage has ended a long time ago, she resents the sight of Sebastian, and struggles with what she thought she “saw in him” in the beginning of the relationship. She is simply engaging in the process of feigning marital unity with Sebastian until financial concerns could be resolved. This particular marital arrangement is toxic, each spouse is withholding their true thoughts and intensions from the other. Each is pretending the arrangement is working well, yet harboring desires to revive and or build on the marriage (Sebastian) while the other desires to flee as soon as the opportunity presents itself (Eva). There is also an internal conflict occurring with each spouse as they struggle to “live” in the environment they created, each denying his or her feelings, both unhappy.

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