Thursday, December 4, 2008

Unintended Consequences

So what happens when you get a divorce--but can't afford to move out? This, apparently:
Running into your ex is almost always awkward and stressful. David Snyder and Nancy Partridge deal with it nearly every day.

The Denver couple divorced after six years of marriage but have been forced to live together for months because they can't sell their place or afford to set up separate households in this slumping economy.

Snyder gets the master bedroom, while Partridge gets a smaller one. Snyder watches TV on one end of the house, Partridge on the other. The two split the grocery bill and kitchen duties. Sometimes they eat dinner together, sometimes apart. There are awkward silences, or worse.

"We've had tremendous arguments over things like who gets to park in the garage, but at this point, it's kind of settling down into a routine," said Partridge, 45, who works in public relations. "It's the lesser of two evils. I think the financial stress of a foreclosure, which would probably also lead to a bankruptcy, would be worse."

With the recession and the collapse of the housing market, more and more couples who have broken up are continuing to live under the same roof, according to judges and divorce lawyers. Some are waiting for housing prices to rebound; some are trying to get back on their feet financially. [...]

Sometimes the financial implications of a divorce are so grim that a couple whose marriage is on the rocks decide to give it another try.

Kent Peterson, a longtime divorce mediator in Wayzata, Minn., said a young couple from the Minneapolis area were moving toward separation until they got a look at all the costs involved in divorce.

"The thinking was they need to work a little harder and stay together because of the changing asset picture," he said.

All the couples profiled in the article were childless, interestingly enough. I'm not sure a couple with children would ever attempt something this dysfunctional.

Because it is dysfunctional. Aside from the couple who decided to try to make their marriage work rather than divorce and continue to live in the same house or on the same property, that is; they're comparatively sane and balanced.

Our culture has been tearing down the supports of marriage, and making it easier and easier for people to walk away from each other. Now, though, the declining economy, lack of savings, and large shared debt-load many couples have is apparently creating a new paradigm for the would-be divorced: Let's divorce, but stay together.

And that doesn't really make any sense--but so committed have we become to the idea that no commitment ought to stand in the way of our individual happiness that couples are more willing to occupy the same space while "dissolving" their marriages than they are to give the marriage a second chance.


John Thayer Jensen said...

I can see that and raise you a same-bed.

A couple close to me and my wife were living together, not married. After three years, they decided they had to split up.

They didn't even own a house together, no children, but they were young, not much money - and lived in a one-bedroom flat.

With one (double) bed.

They shared the same bed for ... I think I recall ... three months before one of them - the man, as I recall - finally managed to find another living arrangement.

So I guess you could say they were literally only sleeping together.

Though I don't know whether I could have managed to sleep under such circumstances.

Unintended consequences, indeed!


Hélène said...

I actually heard of a situation where the couple who did this DID have children. However, they divorced not because of animosity, but for financial reasons: she had cancer but they had no insurance. She couldn't get Medicaid with his income, but she could if she was single because her income would be little enough to qualify. So they divorced but continued to live together without the knowledge of the Medicaid bureaucrats.

Monkey Face said...

You know what's worse? When a judge insists that the children stay in the same home and the parents take turns staying with them. Sounds reasonable, perhaps, except in the situation where one parent works from home. When it was my step-daughter's turn to stay, guess what? Her ex, working from home, was in her face every minute.

Without kids, it might be doable as long as the individuals are reasonably civil toward each other. Who knows what might happen in the long run?

eulogos said...

But in some of these stories you just want to shout at them that if they can cooperate enough to share living space, they can manage to stay married. They don't seem to think there is any special value in staying married.

I guess I am just agreeing with Erin here.

Pauli said...

This is really interesting to me. Reminds me of No Exit. These people are actualizing their own HELL. Of course there are no children (innocents) in hell, right? I'm sure the televisions help immensely.