7 Alternatives to Divorce

Posted on September 18, 2016 by delaine Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

don't want to divorce but unhappy, what can I doIf your marriage is unhappy and unfulfilling, divorce is not the only option.  Numerous alternatives are at your disposal, which can help preserve your family in the long term.   How these alternatives are structured depends on how flexible you are as a couple are, as well as how great your desire is to be together.  They’re definitely worth considering before resorting to divorce.

Separate Houses, Shared Lives

When unhappiness in a couple’s marriage stems from things like chore wars, conflicting lifestyles, or bad habits, living in separate abodes can offer off breathing space, while loyalty and commitment are maintained.  Ideally, this arrangement sees one partner renting or buying a house or condo close by to the other.  Dates, dinners, events and activities are then scheduled with one another – kind of as if they were dating again.   If the couple are parents, the children go back and forth between the two homes, or, they stay at one home and the adults take turns rotating.

Hold the Course & Stay

The idea of divorce can be so overwhelming and scary for some couples that they decide to “ride out tough spells”, no matter how long they last, and stay.  Instead of focusing on all that’s wrong or broken in the marriage, they count the blessings of other facets of their shared life together (ie, family, friends, financial prosperity) and settle for what overall constitutes a “pleasantly dull” life.  Some part of them may hope that time and circumstances will revitalize their marriage –but in the meantime, their loyalty and commitment to the life they’ve built trumps.

Shared Home, Separate Lives

Another alternative to divorcing is to stay married, live in the same house, but live separate lives.  Often, this is done for the sake of children — to preserve the family unity – as well as avoid financial strife.   In this arrangement, spouses like roommates, sharing living expenses, shopping, and housework, but unlike roommates, they may own property together, and have joint assets and bank accounts.  In order for this alternative to work, ground rules must be very clearly laid out.

Open Marriage

For couples whose core issues are sexual, an open marriage may be option worth considering.  Open marriages loosen traditional standards towards sexual exclusivity, and allow spouses to have sex with other partners.  When the pressure to be monogamous is lifted, it actually reduces partners’ urges to cheat – because the “forbidden fruit” is no forbidden anymore, thus removing the mystery and heightened emotions that come with having an affair.

In order for this work, full consent and excellent communication are required by both spouses;  for this alternative can highly destructive if parameters aren’t crystal clear and someone ends up feeling threatened, jealous and/or insecure.


Counselling can help couples work heal wounds from the past and revitalize their marriage going forward.   But it requires hard work and dedication; there’re no short cuts or free passes.  Couples usually need to make fundamental changes in their behaviours and lifestyles, and this process can feel very hurtful and painful.


Similar in some respects to counselling, marriage coaching is another option couples have at their disposal.   Coaching differs from counselling in that the focus is concentrated on creating a desirable future together verses delving heavily into the past and seeking trauma and conflict resolution.   Often marriage coaches hold seminars and workshops on relationship skill building in addition to one-on-one and couples coaching.  Their prices tend to be cheaper than psychologists or counselors, too.

Trial Separation

A trial separation will enable a couple  experience feelings of “separateness” without making the final decision to divorce.  But terms and issues will need to be covered in order for it to work, such as money, what freedoms are in place around other relationships, living quarters, what friends and family will be told, and when / how often the marriage will be re-evaluated.    Oftentimes couples involve a divorce lawyer or mediator during these negotiations and that process, unto itself, can be painful.

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