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Are You Living in a Non-Divorce?

By Debbie Mandel

We all know the script well: Initial passion, enthusiastically constructing a life together, routine realities and then emotional distance. She/he has cultivated the separate self, a career, including separate friendships – in other words, two ships that pass in the day and have established a safe harbor for the night. Often dinner is shared; trips are taken together; money is in a joint account and the children are in tact. Couples in a non-divorce are reluctant to rock the boat with an expensive actual divorce which empties the coffers and robs one of time. Divorce can turn civilized people into pillagers, especially when attorneys are playing for high stakes and billable hours drag into months, even years. Could non-divorce be a trend in 2007? Many couples see the non-divorce as a way to stay married, keep up social appearances and maintain community status; in other words, from a distance the ideal couple.

Couple of Whats?
It’s like living with your roommate as your spouse is simply not the object of your desire. You ease into being stuck and accept this new delicate balance. Why has your romance drifted apart? It all began with irritable responses, speaking to him or her with little respect. You would never talk to the boss or a colleague at work like that and if you did, you might be fired! Next, you project onto your spouse all your disappointment and unfulfilled dreams. After all, your spouse mirrors your own aging and makes you feel old. Typical comments seep into your daily vocabulary: “I outgrew him,” “He acts like an old man,” “She never wants to have sex or an adventure.” It’s easier to find fault with your closest friend than to look inside and admit you have weaknesses to fortify.

I know a number of couples who live this way, dead from the waist down to one another, yet appearing content with a comfortable life style. However, sometimes it’s a good idea to slip into something uncomfortable when you come home and shake things up a bit. Loving what you have is the hardest thing to do because nature has designed you to view a love object like quarry. It’s when a spouse leaves or is lured away from you, that you suddenly fall in love again, but it might be too late. We learn what love means through contrast.

Revisit your marriage with a new perception. Court your spouse like a renewed conquest, someone to win over who is aloof to your love. Romance is all in your head. Consider this: You could be in a most romantic setting on a balmy Caribbean beach, a table set for two, a bottle of fine wine and musicians serenading the two of you and the evening could end up with a stormy argument. Or you could be intimately washing the dishes together in your own kitchen, laughing playfully, well you get the idea. If a non-divorce works for you because you can compartmentalize your life, then you are part of an increasing number of compromising couples. However, if you want to fall in love again with your good friend and feel happy again, here are some suggestions:

Being Romantic takes consistent work. Small gestures add up to pay off big!
  • Ask yourself who you have really fallen out of love with? Most likely it is yourself! Connect to the heart of the matter and address your personal stressors.
  • Choose your new romantic couple-words carefully: “Remember when we first got married,” “You’re the best,” “I’m so lucky to be on my life journey with you.”
  • Do something for him that you normally dislike doing, like cooking his favorite meal, washing his car, ironing his shirt and write an I love you note and place it on the windshield wiper of his car or pin it to his shirt.
  • Send him a letter where he works and seal it with red lipstick.
  • Leave him a note with a flower and place on his EZ chair where he watches TV: “Have I told you how much I appreciate you? Meet me upstairs and I’ll show you how much!”

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: