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Cohabitating after separating? The arrangement is not uncommon, says marriage therapist: Here’s why it can be successful

Bill de Blasio, former mayor of New York City, and his wife Chirlane McCray announced their separation earlier this week. 

But the end of their union doesn’t resemble what many would describe as a typical divorce. In fact, they aren’t getting divorced at all. 

“They are not planning to divorce, they said, but will date other people,” The New York Times reported. “They will continue to share the Park Slope townhouse where they raised their two children, now in their 20s…” 

This arrangement is becoming less uncommon, says psychologist Lisa Marie Bobby. She is also the clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching in Denver.

“You know what I have seen, which I think is very positive, is people are staying out of the corners, staying out of black or white, all or nothing,” she says. “I do think there is more recognition for all of the gray areas in between [being married and divorced], and I certainly have seen and worked with couples who are separating and living together.” 

‘People feel empowered to write their own story’

Divorcing in a nontraditional way is not wholly unheard of. We all remember the conscious uncoupling of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin in 2014

In recent years, Bobby says, more couples are embracing a softer transition out of marriage. Sometimes that transition can dip into exploring non-monogamy. In fact, more than one-fourth of Americans say they are interested in having an open relationship, according to a 2021 poll by YouGov

“People are feeling that it is possible to take the good parts of a relationship and value and appreciate those, and realize that a stereotypical marital pact does not work for them so they need to do something different,” she says.

I do think there is more recognition for all of the gray areas in between.

While existing somewhere between married and divorced can seem messy, Bobby says it’s actually healthy for couples to sit down and think about what arrangement works for them. 

“What I do love and do think is an important trend is people feeling empowered to write their own story,” she says. 

Many couples end up finding comfort, and even happiness, in creating their own rulebook.

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