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Don't get a divorce, get a 'consorce'

Forty to fifty percent of all marriages in America end in divorce. That’s terrific news for divorce lawyers, but for millions of Americans the process of getting divorced can be psychologically traumatic and economically devastating, particularly when children are involved and two households must be maintained, rather than one. 

Depending on a couple’s finances and level of conflict, a divorce can cost $5,000 or $25,000 or $50,000 or even $500,000. 

Though it often seems unavoidable and the best solution for a failed adult relationship, the turmoil for kids who must maintain two bedrooms, losing contact with each of their parents for days during each week, is undeniable. 

In order to avoid the myriad costs of divorce, why not free one another from the expectation that one’s husband or wife is responsible for anything more than being a good partner in parenting and finance and a good roommate?

So, what if there was a different solution? What if no money were needed for this solution to a “failed” marriage, children were not displaced by it and it led to positive feelings between the parents involved?

Well, there is a different solution, and I have recommended it to some of the couples who have visited me, resolved to divorce. I call it a “consorce.” The word “divorce” comes from the Latin “divortium,” meaning separation or to turn and go separate ways. The new word “consorce” comes from the Latin for cohabitation.

The idea of married couples deciding on a “consorce,” rather than a divorce, is this: Why should a couple split up the family funds, maintain two dwellings, involve the courts in their lives, hire attorneys and cause each other months or years of suffering when they could simply agree that the romantic part of their marriage has ended and that they will remain married and live together as friends and partners, in order to maintain a level of consistency for their children? 

Why not just stay in the same house, continue to work together financially for the good of the family, and, perhaps, even sleep in the same room (without sexual contact expected by either individual)?

In order to avoid the myriad costs of divorce, why not free one another from the expectation that one’s husband or wife is responsible for anything more than being a good partner in parenting and finance and a good roommate?

Those who agree to a “consorce” are inherently agreeing on a “Don’t ask; Don’t tell” policy regarding their romantic lives. That part of their individual behavior becomes entirely private, again, and I believe it is best to never mention it to one another.

A consorce is not an “open marriage,” because the two parties are agreeing to no longer have a sexual relationship with one another, while maintaining the platonic aspects of their relationship (or even deepening them).

A consorce, rather than a divorce, pays tribute to the fact that having had children means that two adults will forever be partners in child rearing, even if they are no longer attracted to one another and even if they no longer trust one another as a confidant for intensely private and personal matters. 

It honors the notion that a couple’s relationship can be fueled by sexual attraction and mystery for years, even decades, then evolve into a friendship that includes no magnetic attraction. And it honors the fact that many couples who go through with a divorce never reunite because of the hassle of remarrying (and because divorce itself can cause terrible wounds), when those who agree on a “consorce” need only decide—with due consideration—to try intimacy, again.

In other words, unless and until either a married man or a married woman decides to marry, again, or to start a second family, why not leave the marital estate and architecture in place, saving lots of money and lots of misery by trying to live together as partners with the express purpose of maintaining a loving and lasting home for their children?

In my experience, relieving some couples who seemed destined for divorce of the expectation that they need to forever be involved with their partners’ romantically (or involved in their sexual behavior at all) allows them to maintain their households and become very reliable partners to one another and very close friends.

Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. Dr. Ablow can be reached at info@keithablow.com.