The Un-Divorced

Posted by Kendall Harmon

John Frost and his wife had been unhappily married for much of their 25 years together when his company relocated him in 2000. So when he moved from Virginia to Knoxville, Tenn., he left her behind.

At first, it wasn’t clear what would happen next. Would she follow him? Or would they end up divorced?

The answer: neither. “After a few months,” Mr. Frost said, “we both realized we liked it this way.”

Technically, the two are married. They file joint tax returns; she’s covered by his insurance. But they see each other just several times a year. “Since separating we get along better than we ever have,” he said. “It’s kind of nice.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & Family

Posted July 31, 2010 at 10:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Teatime2 wrote:

How interesting—I never knew that about Warren Buffett. Of course, this was quite common in those “good ole days” when a divorce was not acceptable and difficult to get. Men literally walked out of their homes at some point and never returned.

And I do know a couple who separated but never divorced because the woman has health problems and can’t work so he didn’t want to leave her in a lurch, insurance-wise and financially. They live in separate sections of their large house and he pays most of the bills. Come to think of it, this has been their status quo for probably 20 years now. He had a girlfriend for a while but I don’t know if he still does. She’s dated off and on through the years.

In the past, women weren’t considered normal and respectable if they weren’t married. As long as they had the name and the illusion, all was well with their place in society. Hence, the need to marry at whatever cost and the need for inventions like this to address problems.

I think that remaining single is finally being considered an acceptable option for women. And I wish the Church would do a better job of ministering to single people, rather than continuing to push marriage as “most-favored status.” I grew up with the teaching in the RCC that the three states—single, married, and ordained—were all callings, valid choices, and equally suitable but, in reality, there’s precious little attention and resources devoted to those who choose singlehood. Marriage simply doesn’t work for many people who are not suited for it. So, pushing people to marry and then condemning them when the marriages don’t work is ridiculous.

Incidentally, I worked in a church office when I was much younger and the priests would comment to me about how many incompatible couples they saw coming to pre-Cana classes or Engaged Encounter, and they could tell when marriages weren’t going to work. I asked them if they ever refused the sacrament to such couples and they said, No way! There would be hell to pay from the families, the parish, and probably even the bishop if they did that without solid evidence of an impediment. Um, OK—but don’t feel empowered to criticize couples’ choices later if you could have prevented the train wreck at the start!

July 31, 3:02 pm | [comment link]
2. Marie Blocher wrote:

One of the long ago alternatives was a traveling salesman type job, preserving the legal contract but not having to put up with each other very often.

July 31, 4:06 pm | [comment link]
3. Terry Tee wrote:

Regarding # 1 and the RC priests being able to predict an unsuccessful marriage:  I am a Catholic priest, and have been marrying couples for 20 years and on the contrary, I feel that it is impossible to tell.  Sometimes marriages that seemed made in heaven fell apart.  Sometimes the most unlikely pairings flourished.  I can remember one of my first weddings when the groom was obnoxiously drunk.  I thought, ‘This will never work.’  But it did - they had difficulty in conceiving and as part of the process he gave up the booze.

Concerning this article, I have also known couples marry, divorce and then marry each other again.  If the first wedding was in church the second would be a civil wedding.  I have at least twice given church blessings to couples following civil remarriage (the Church does allow this).

July 31, 5:34 pm | [comment link]
4. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

One wonders if the courts should consider a “common law divorce” as they sometimes recognize a “common law marriage.”

July 31, 7:18 pm | [comment link]
5. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Many people in military marriages—especially the Navy—are living this way a great deal of the time. That’s why after a number of years most married squids really try to get a long stint of shore duty.

July 31, 7:19 pm | [comment link]
6. Teatime2 wrote:

Very true, Marie. Military service was/is a good cover, as well.
Terry Tee, I don’t know if they still do this but, at that time, part of the pre-marital counseling program involved administering a standardized test that encompassed a wide range of issues and gauged compatibility. (IIRC, it was called a “pre-marital inventory.”) If the couple failed it miserably, it was used as a springboard to discuss the areas in which they were grossly incompatible. So, the priests weren’t speaking off-the-cuff—those couples who had very different views/goals regarding children, finances, and the like and who didn’t resolve the differences before they got married weren’t on the road to a successful marriage.

But, as you indicated, you never know, I suppose. However, why bother to require the testing and counseling if it reveals problems that will be disregarded, anyway?

July 31, 7:28 pm | [comment link]
7. Terry Tee wrote:

Thanks Teatime for a thoughtful response.  By way of explanation, we do not do psychological testing for married couples here in the UK (although you have to undergo it for training for the priesthood).  In general I think that we in the UK are much more sceptical than Americans about the usefulness of psychological profiling. Although I must confess that the Myers Briggs mania swept over here too.  Thank goodness it is now pretty much forgotten.

July 31, 7:55 pm | [comment link]
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