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Cheaper to Keep Her

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You know the old joke: “It's cheaper to keep her.” Truer than ever before. Many Americans are living that out right now because of necessity. Thank goodness.

With a tightening economy, a sagging stock market, evaporating jobs, unsellable houses, and halved 401(K)'s, more and more contentious married couples are choosing NOT to divorce than America has seen in decades. Believe it or not, marriage counseling has emerged as growth market. All this is good news. Keeping marriages together may be fiscally prudent but it is also the right thing to do. Not that a lot of warring couples necessarily see it that way.

I have recently met or spoken with couples who are separated but still living in the same house. They cannot stand each other but simply cannot find the money to divorce. For a contested proceeding that goes to court, a couple with at least one child can expect a divorce to cost anywhere from $53,000 to $188,000, according to the Web site Divorce360, which accounted for attorneys’ fees, financial advice, counseling and real-estate costs for buying or renting separate homes.

Thus, more couples than ever before are finding creative, affordable ways to live together while living separately. They may be living on separate floors of the same house, or they might have divided the home into left and right sides, never to be mixed or mingled. Such couples hope to achieve as much of the “separateness” of divorce as possible without spending the money. However, there is another option. Make a decision to work it out. Whatever the effort required. Here are three possibilities to do just that. 1) Use the money that you would spend on lawyers on excellent counseling instead. A commitment to counseling, and all the work that goes with it, will build a better relationship over time. Guaranteed. Even if you ultimately end up divorcing, you still will have a better relationship and understanding of each other and why your relationship did not make it. But there is a good chance that the counseling just may work. Your communication with each other will improve. Your sense of unity will deepen. The love that you once felt will rekindle, at least to some degree, as you begin to see your partner as a human being again rather than as a mere object of derision. 2) Memorize, recite, and use the word “Forgiveness.” Forgiveness transforms lives and changes relationships. Most divorces occur because the spouses cannot bring themselves to forgive old hurts, new wounds, deep insults, or long-standing resentments. Forgiveness does not come easily. Forgiveness requires work. But forgiveness bears great fruit. If you need help with forgiveness, get it. It just may save your marriage. 3) Remember your vows. Remember how you pledged to love your spouse, “Til death do us part.” Remember the beauty and hope of your wedding day. Remember the love that you first shared. Talk about that. Have dinner and discuss only your relationship before the marriage and at the wedding – bring up nothing since. Remind yourselves why you got married in the first place. That common ground will help you muster the courage and strength to find a way forward for reasons other than financial prudence. Keeping marriages together serves us all. Children do better in two-parent homes. Adults long-term are happier in married relationships than as singles. Second and third marriages have much lower chances of success than do first marriages. The country is made stable by stable families, marriages, and neighborhoods. And the list goes. Marriage is a wonderful and beautiful gift. A gift that requires much work. But a gift that is worth saving.

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