There’s nothing more sentimental than to witness the love between two people on their wedding day. Intentions and promises, however, are not enough keep a marriage together. Soon, the complexities that come with personality differences, child rearing, or financial issues can quickly chip away at newlywed bliss. In fact, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. However, some couples are turning to a new arrangement of sorts – an “emotional divorce.”

Types of Separation

Marital separation is either legal, which involves the court system, housing and financial changes, and custody arrangements if children are involved.

This new type of separation attempts to avoid the complexity that often comes with divorce.

A separation called an “emotional divorce” is where one or both partners have suspended most interactions. Couples informally terminate their emotional attachment to one another, but try to maintain “business as usual” in their personal life. Couples in an emotional divorce decide to table any discussion of marital resolution, expectations, or topics of disagreements. Often this ambiguous status is due to finances, children, or to avoid shame with family and friends.

The Dangers of an Emotional Divorce

While some married couples living in an undefined state may serve a purpose, the dangers of this relationship can be tricky at best:

  • Blurred boundaries– If couples are emotionally divorced, is it acceptable for them to engage in romantic intimate relationships outside the marriage? If so, does that honor and respect the promises of fidelity or can that be waived?
  • Children – How are you affecting children in the home with routinely hostile or non-existent communication with your partner? How are you promoting and modeling healthy relationships to family members in the home?
  • Integrity/Happiness – How do you feel knowing the sanctity of your marriage is not authentic? What are the consequences and sacrifices to your peace and well-being when living in this limbo state of being both married and single?

* Research strongly links long term feelings of unfulfillment, frustration, and sadness to depression, anxiety and deteriorating health.

In Closing

While finances and children are the biggest reasons why couples stay together in a loveless marriage, prolonged periods of this arrangement is toxic to self-worth and self-respect. The best advice is to seek either formal or informal counsel. This could include traditional therapy or support from friends and family. All of these means, will work towards communication and reflection that will either lead to reconciliation or divorce.