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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

Marital Limbo

marital limbo

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We had one of our good friends over the other evening. He was recently divorced when I met him a few years ago, although Brock knew him through much of his marriage. In the past several years, he’s been dating, at times sporadically and at other times with more intent. He even contemplated moving in with one woman not all that long ago.

So I was shocked when I heard these words out of his mouth the other night –

“I never want to get married again.”

I was shocked, not because I think marriage is the best answer for everyone. And I certainly understand shying away from matrimony after enduring the pain of divorce. I was shocked because marriage seems to fit him. He’s stable, healthy and loyal. He has goals and doesn’t shy from hard work to achieve them. He has grown as a person and has developed many healthy relationships around him. When dating, he is a serial monogamist, developing deep relationships with one woman at a time. And I’ve never sensed any bitterness about his past.

So why the anti-marriage stance?

And then yesterday, I read this post from Matt over at Must Be This Tall To Ride. He talks about the time spent in marriage limbo when he slept in the guest bedroom for over a year. I winced while reading it; it certainly sounded like a special kind of hell. Neither married nor single. Like living in a home destroyed by a flood, yet unwilling or unable to let it go.

And I thought about my friend. He lived in marriage limbo for a long time. He was married, yet in the most important ways, had no wife. They orbited around each other with little chance of connection. And when they did connect, it was ugly. The divorce, in many ways, was a relief. An untethering to a lame duck marriage.

His memory of marriage is not a good one; what was good has been sullied by the time spent in limbo. No wonder he is shying away.

My experience could not have been more different. I never spent time in a decaying marriage. I never visited that marital land of neither here nor there. I was in marriage heaven and then instantly plummeted into the fires when it ended. My bad memories are not of marriage, but of marriage ending.

So perhaps that’s part of why I wanted to be married again.


My curiosity is piqued – is there a correlation between time spent in marital limbo and desire to be married again? What’s your story?

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33 thoughts on “Marital Limbo

  1. I was a homemaker for 20 years of the 20.5 year marriage. He had a couple of home based businesses when we were together, and the years after he sold those businesses and money was tight, I took odd retail jobs that paid minimum wage. The fight to end it all, where he told me to get the hell out, I looked at him and stated, ok but you have to give me time. This fight happened in August 2012. Our house didn’t have a guest room and neither of us moved out onto the couch. The marital bed was a bed of ice and nails; we did our best to keep to our opposite side of the bed. I stayed in that limbo for five months. I needed to stay longer, I was nowhere prepared to live on my own financially. In the end things got so bad, he pitted our kids against me by undermining my parental authority. Our kids are adults, at the time 18 and 16 years old but still living at home. I did make it on my own for 8 months before begging for help from family and friends. I am living with my aunt and uncle. My relationship with my children is strained due to the distance, I moved 2.5 hours away to have shelter. This week’s end I ought to have a date for the final divorce. Each day is a struggle, but I continually try to look at the blessings I have through this time, not the limbo I feel I am in, a holding pattern that I still unable to break from and cannot see in the near future even if I am awarded half the material home in order to live independently again. It is hard not to feel bitterness, to be angry, and like your friend state “I will never marry again!” I am just starting to date again. The prospect of a long term relationship is far off in the distance, but I am taking the first tentative steps in that direction. I believe my fear stems from doubts, both real and experienced in my not so recent past. I read Matt’s post and felt his pain. I’ve vowed not to marry again. Mainly because I wouldn’t wish this death of a marriage on anyone. I would have to wholly trust another person and I am so gun shy at this point, I’m not sure I could ever put myself in this position because I am constantly checking, rechecking, triple checking my doubts, insecurities and fears, projecting them on him and waiting for that shoe to drop. Matt said the scars have healed over for him. In my case the new skin has formed but the skin is weak and transparent, the gaping hole in my soul is still there.

    1. Healing takes time and it’s wise to let it run its course before attempting a new relationship. And I so understand the fear of trusting; that’s still one of my biggest battles.

  2. I lived at home for the required 6 months it takes to get a divorce. I thought (and thankfully my ex too) that it would be a good transition for my kids. It gave them time to “get used” to the idea of divorce before their world was separated. It was easy for me because I knew I wanted to divorce. It was harder for my ex because it gave him hope. Right after my divorce, I said I would never marry again. Divorce is painful even if it’s your decision and it is also a complicated mess legally. I wasn’t going to have more kids, so it no longer seemed necessary. Fast forward three years and I was married again. I think we change over time and I think it depends on who we meet. I bet your friend will one day meet the one he wants to marry. Never say never, I have learned.

  3. I “thought” we had a good marriage. After my mother in law died five years ago (any many other traumatic events) the man that I thought was my husband turned into the complete opposite person. He came to be a pathological liar, betrayer, adulterer, drunk and extremely untrustworthy. NOT the man I married. NOT the son my mother in law raised…

    After five year old twins and five years of not dealing with his emotions, he filed for divorce and moved in with his girlfriend. (Who he was seeing for quite sometime…unbenounced to me)

    This July would have been our 8th wedding anniversary. We are in the process of divorce and I am in the process of relocating myself and the kids to my home town. I can’t be here anymore.

    Needless to say, I WILL NOT GET MARRIED EVER AGAIN. This pain is very difficult to bear some days. Counseling and medications help but the pain is still there. Always will be.

    1. It is scary how people can change (or perhaps hide who they are for a time). And that makes moving on scarier because it seems like every sheep could be masking a wolf.

      Best of luck on your move. I hope that being closer to home and family brings you some peace.

  4. I’m the limbo gal…my story will be that of the beautiful, good, bad, and ugly…and who knows what else…it’s agony being in limbo… to be betrayed and deceived by the one you thought loved you most, and to wonder if you’re in for another round or to wonder if you should hold on to hope of real change.
    Thank you for sharing, it’s interesting to see a different perspective.

  5. I was completely in marital limbo, for much longer than I care to admit. While some things worked well, there was no passion and no real affection – it was a good business and parenting partnership, but not much else. On the surface, we were a perfect “power couple”. The depth of the desert we were in emotionally is measured for me in two ways 1) we had no issue staying in the same house, and sleeping in the same bed, for the 6 weeks between us deciding to split and the day I moved out…there was sadly no real different to our day-to-day life, and 2) we both jumped into dating right away, with no regret and no looking back.

    We had experimented with open marriage (you can read about it on my blog here: but ultimately it was no fix for what ailed us.

    I don’t think the question of willingness to marry again is so black-and-white. It depends on why one’s marriage broke down, whether you have children, and other things like that. I would be open to getting married again at some point, but I definitely do not want to repeat the same mistakes that led to the situation I was in. I haven’t yet figured all of that out – and honestly, until I do, I won’t consider that kind of co-habitation partnership again (married or not).

  6. Limbo is such an appropriate way to describe this type of situation. Years ago I was in a serious cohabitating relationship that lasted about 10 years, although we weren’t married. One evening my partner revealed that he was unhappy and no longer felt the same way about me or the relationship. However, he didn’t know what he wanted to do so we stayed together, still living in the same house for several months. Yet, he acted as though I wasn’t there. He meticulously avoided me and was careful to return home each night after I’d gone to bed, as well as remain asleep in the guest room late into the morning until after I’d left for work. It was excruciating. I was ignored and felt completely insignificant (when I look back I realize I had felt that way during much of the relationship but not to that same extent). It really did a number on my self-esteem yet I clung to the hope that he’d come around. He never did, but in the long run it was best we parted ways. That time in “relationship limbo” really hurt me, but it didn’t rob me of the hope and belief that I would someday meet the right person and have a meaningful relationship.

  7. Limbo aside, I neither want to be married again, nor feel the need to not be married again. I learned through my marriage and divorce that marriage means not much without the meat of the relationship. I want the relationship. Whatever you call it, whatever it looks like, I don’t care. I care that it’s respectful and safe and kind and loving and works for both partners. If it’s cohabitating that works, fine. If it’s two houses that works, that’s fine. If it’s marriage that works, that’s fine. I’ve come to realize for me, those externals do not matter to me as much as the relationship, and honoring each other’s wishes.

    1. That’s about I felt, especially since I’m not having kids so the legal aspect really wasn’t that important. It was interesting, however, that when my now-husband brought up the idea of marriage, I did respond. In my first marriage, the legal aspect didn’t change anything. This time it did. For the better.

  8. Marital limbo is a place I’m all too familiar with. My ex and I started the slow, painful separation process three years ago next month. We’ve now been divorced just over two months. Being in that not-quite-single, not-really-married state for so long makes it hard to heal and move on. I was definitely relieved when the divorce was finally done but the process left me emotionally depleted and wary of getting close to people. He is already remarried; I have not even begun trying to date yet. Someday I hope to have a monogamous, long term relationship and for me that means marriage. I have no idea how, when, or even if that will ever actually happen though.

      1. It does, just the uncertainty of it wears you down.
        The last five months of the process was spent basically in battle mode which was especially rough.
        I’m starting to find ways to put myself back together again little by little. Setting some personal goals (like running a half marathon) has been helpful.

  9. I am currently in marriage limbo. My husband and I are not together, except in the eyes of the law of course. I feel like I do want to be married again, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be emotionally available enough for that…I’d like to think I will be, but things have been rough. I think the correlation is more so between the desire to marry again and the bitterness of the divorce, which in turn (in the case of a bitter divorce) often leads to a longer time spend in marriage limbo (like in my case). My husband and I have been married for 13 1/2 months, and separated for 2 1/2. He is currently living in the apartment we shared, which I am still paying the bills for…while I am staying with family. He steadfastly refuses to move out of the apartment, or to sign any sort of divorce paperwork, and yet I cannot stop paying for the apartment because he won’t pay for it either and it will tank my credit to be evicted.

    1. I hear ya. Even though my ex abandoned me, he dug in his heels during the divorce and made the process as difficult, painful and expensive as possible.

      How much longer do you think you have before the paperwork is final and you won’t have to cover his expenses?

  10. I was in marital limbo for 10+ years… Trying to be a husband to a wife that didn’t want/need one. I mourned the death of my marriage YEARS ago. Bitterness crept in. Anger frothed from every word that escaped my lips. I have since moved on. No more anger, no more bitterness, and no more limbo.

    That being said, I can’t say if I’ll marry again. I now know I should’ve never married the woman I did. I think if I find the right one this time it could work.

      1. I stayed for my kids. Finally knew I had to leave to show them that a healthy marriage is not what their mother and I had…. My kids now have a happy father. They have both commented that I am in a much better mood these days. 🙂

  11. One of my oldest friends says I am a romantic and a natural at marriage. I suspect she is correct on the first and not so correct on the second. I have had two marriages in limbo, one was by choice the second, where I am currently I don’t know that I was aware of. I do think there is a correlation between how we remember marriage and our willingness to seek those ties again.

    Right now, I am where your friend is. Never, not ever again.

  12. Oh God, I spent so long in limbo, not just during the marriage but trying to reconcile once separated and we still have yet to file the divorce (though we are completely over). It’s been limbo after limbo after grueling limbo.

    So, maybe I’m delusional but I still hope to marry again someday. I mean I hope I find that special someone. Even the hell I’ve been through doesn’t take away from the good that was there. I also assume older and wiser means I learned something and stand a better chance the next time around. It sort of shocks me that as utterly heart breaking and disillusioning this experience has been (breakdown of marriage which was years of misery plus eventual split and subsequent trauma), I don’t feel dissuaded from marrying again. Hopefully that’s a good thing. 🙂

  13. After a very painful divorce, and being married for 39 years, now, I feel that a marriage license is just a piece of paper. If a commitment means nothing to a person, the paper means nothing. My husband said he loved me but just wasn’t happy. The truth is, he was lying and cheating and screwing around and got caught. He didn’t think he would ever get caught, but his girlfriend made sure that he did. That was five years ago. I’ll never marry again, but I certainly would like to find someone who I can love and will love me “for better or for worse,” not until something better comes along. No piece of paper can do that.

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