Is staying married the best option? The only option?

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I have been married for 29 years and have three wonderful, grown-up children. Unfortunately, my wife and I have grown apart over time. We no longer love each other but do respect one another and enjoy each other's company – most of the time. While we still live together, we do give each other space and occasionally "do our own things" separately with friends and family. We have given each other permission to date other people, although neither of us has pursued others.

The bottom line is twofold: we are staying together so that our children (and future grandchildren?) enjoy a normal family environment down the road. Secondly, our social circle is highly interconnected. If we were to split up, our friendships would become quite strained. Are we crazy for living this way or is this normal protocol after 29 years of marriage?

– Twisted Knots


I mean, there is no normal. Every marriage is different.

Every divorce is different too. Sometimes the divorce never quite happens, and two people coexist, still married, in the same house.

I can't tell you there's a protocol for anything. It doesn't work that way.

I can tell you that the path of least resistance is not always the road to happiness. You describe a setup that involves mutual respect, space, shared priorities, etc. But ... most of your choices have been made for others (based on what you've told us). The rules of the house allow for dating, but it hasn't been easy to try. Also, what happens if one of you meets someone you like? How easy will it be to date if a new person learns you have no intention of altering your interconnected community?

You wrote this letter, I think, because you see limitations to this arrangement. I have to wonder whether the people in your lives, kids included, are just as capable of mutual respect, and would be able to share you and your wife and give you what you both need to live your best lives. Whatever that looks like.

Maybe I’m jumping to a big conclusion here, but you seem to be asking, "Is this the best we can do?" I think it's worth having more conversations with your wife about other ways of doing this. Because yeah, based on what you told us, I think you can probably do better.

– Meredith

Readers? What do you think of the "normal family environment" statement? Is staying together the best option? What are other ways to do this?