We’ve all known couples who are separated, but not yet divorced. In most cases, they haven’t yet worked up the courage to make it official. In other cases, they’re postponing the financial hardship of divorce.
The New York Times has coined a new phrase, “The Un-Divorced,” referring to those married couples who have been separated for years with no plans for ever getting divorced.
There are several high-profile couples who fit into this category: Warren Buffett, who separated from his wife, Susan, in 1977 but remained married to her until her death in 2004; the artist Willem de Kooning was separated from his wife for 34 years when she died in 1989; and Jann and Jane Wenner have been separated since 1995, but are still married despite the fact that Mr. Wenner is in a longtime relationship with another man.
Author Pamela Paul (disclaimer: she’s a friend of mine) explores the issue and finds that while the majority of these couples remain married for financial reasons (tax benefits, health insurance, social security payments, etc.), there are other motivating factors.
Sometimes not getting divorced is just a good excuse not to get married again. In other cases, couples convince themselves that it’s best to stay married so as not to confuse the kids. Really? Isn’t it more confusing on the kids that mom and dad are still married, but are living apart and seeing other people? Don’t kids continue to harbor the unrealistic hope that mom and dad will get back together?
Paul interviews a 48-year-old woman who has been separated from her husband for eight years. During that time, she and her ex would take turns staying in the family home with the kids so that their children’s lives wouldn’t be disrupted.
“In hindsight, it was probably more confusing for the kids,” the mother said. “But we did it with their best interests in mind.”
What do you think? Can you see an upside of being separated, but not divorced?