Divorced but still in a relationship


If a couple is divorced, but wanted to keep a relationship together, but just not live together. Would that be a good idea? I know the Church would still see them as married and therefore a relationship with each other is still valid, unless proved other wise with an annulment. This idea was brought up to me and I’m not sure what to think of it. Any advice?


No, it would not be a “good idea” nor would it be something that the Church would smile upon.

When one marries, the two become one flesh. They join lives and live out a holy vocation.

The fact that their marriage is still valid does not mean they can maintain separate lives and use the pretext of still being “validly married” as an excuse for a “booty call”.

By divorcing they have publically renounced their marital bond. Living apart they maintain separate lives and also reject the entire theology of the Sacrament of Marriage.

If they want to be married-- they should remarry and reunite their lives and live out their vocation to family and the Church.


I guess my only observation without knowing any particulars whatsoever about those involved, would be that, given any two legally single adults living separate lives, one of them would likely eventually want to pursue or explore another relationship. And the other person would have spent the time apart not grieving or adjusting to the loss of the original marriage.

And, my other guess would be that either (a) the one most likely to eventually want another relationship would be the one wanting to keep a “hold” on the former spouse until finding that new relationship or (b) the on most likely to eventually want another relationship agreed out of guilt to maintain the connection.

No, I don’t think it is a good idea.

(Unless you are maintaining a cooperative relationship as parents of the same child or children – then I have a whole other answer. :o )


what is there is actually a strong love between them, but because of the circumstances, they just can’t seem to live in the same home without problems. This is a weird and unique question I know.


It sounds like we need a little more information before a reasonable observation can be made.


ok, well I guess that would help. This is my personal situation. I filed for divorce in the fall because my husband has a mental illness and he has drinking problems,neither of which he will get adequate help for. We actually get along better since we have been living separately because the constant tension is not there. We have 2 kids together. While I am the one who filed for the divorce in order to protect myself legally if I ever needed it, he is the one who actually said he wanted to finalize it. (in our state you have to live apart for a year). He is the one who made this suggestion, on living apart but still have a relationship because we both still love each other, I just can’t live with him while he is having these problems. I’m not sure what to think of his idea, that is why I was asking for advice.


Alcoholism is a very serious problem. In and of itself, it creates much havoc and huge problems. The erratic behavior is causes confuses children tremendously and can create permanent harm.

Add to that some unspecified mental illness, and that is a very troubling mix. Depending on the situation, dangerous. Certainly damaging for your children.

But I do not have to tell you that.

I understand that you love him and that you seem get along better now that you do not live together.

I do not want you to misinterpret me and think that I am making an accusation, nor do I ask that necessarily respond in this forum, but I want to ask some important questions. If you are willing to be with him, spend time with him, enjoy each other’s company, sleep with him, is that helping him get better? Where will this lead. Can you get back together, that is re-marry, if he never stops drinking and never gets mental health treatment? Are you making it easy for him to dodge getting these treatments? Is the way he is now good for your children?

If you love him, you will want to best for him. And your children. And that means getting him into alcohol and metal health treatment. That may mean presenting him with a tough choice.

I think you need to speak with a professional. Learn about your options as well as help deal with some of the harm you have experienced.

Yours is a difficult situation. You have difficult choices to make. The most difficult ones will require both strength and courage. Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary can help you with that.

I will close with this disclaimer. It is always important not to blindly follow advice on some Internet forum, no matter how well meaning it may appear. I encourage you to speak to your priest and get the name of good counselor. Work with your counselor.

May God bless you and give you the strength and wisdom you need.


From what you’ve shared here, it sounds totally faithful to Scripture and to your marriage.

Scripture on the matter:

1 Corinthians 7

 To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): 7 a wife should not separate from her husband

and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband–and a husband should not divorce his wife.

To the rest 8 I say (not the Lord): if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she is willing to go on living with him, he should not divorce her;
and if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to go on living with her, she should not divorce her husband.
** For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife**, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother. Otherwise your children would be unclean, whereas in fact they are holy.
**If the unbeliever separates, 9 however, let him separate. **The brother or sister is not bound in such cases; God has called you to peace.
For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband; or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Legal divorce is a civil matter and doesn’t affect your marital status in the eyes of God and the Church. It is necessary for you to do this to protect you and the children. He needs to continue to provide for you. That’s legal. From the information you’ve given, it sounds like 1 Corinthians 7:11 applies to you.

BTW: Are you sure you aren’t ME? That sounds so much like what I was going through only four years ago. God be with you, dear lady.


Yes I will speak to a professional, but this just came up today so I wanted some immediate feed back. I think the companionship that is possible could help him, but me also. But I have tried for years to get him to get the help he needs and he just won’t. He takes the meds he is supposed to, but no counseling or anything like that, he refuses. As far as the kids go, he is ok with them most of the time, but sometimes he is too “down” to spend time with them.


I think rpp is right on the money with this. Very insightful. I totally missed that. “Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?”

It also sounds like you know in your heart that it is over, and you are bargaining to make it right again. Yep, now that REALLY sounds like me.

You might be interested in this organization, which helped me come to acceptance of the ending of my own marriage. I sadly spent the greater part of two decades bargaining.


there is a Beginning weekend this coming up week-end that I want to go to


I think that there are at least three strong and compelling reasons against such a relationship:

  1. That he has mental issues, a drinking problem (does it go way back?) and that you are unable to live with him are all reasons that you should be suspicious that your marriage is not valid. If it were me, I would file for a declaration of nullity just so I could no the truth. Now I realize that we are supposed to consider all marriages valid unless declared otherwise, I think you still need to listen to your conscience here…and it sounds like it is troubling you. The thing about sin is that it is still offensive to God even if we are unaware that we are sinning.

  2. Your ex will have no incentive to make the progress he needs to make for himself if you continue to enable him and remove the consequences of his destructive behavior. The most loving thing that you can do for him is to let him experience those negative consequences.

  3. You will not be able to make the progress that you need to make, and that your children need you to make, if you allow your self to be drawn into this game of emptiness and illusion. Alcoholism effects not just the alcoholic. It is a family disease, and you have hard work ahead of you to fully recover from this.

I know where I speak on all of this, and there is nothing that could ever convince me that it would be the right thing to go back to my ex. I know that I waited too long to leave him, lived on hope and maybes for two many years. You need to break free from that and move forward with your life. Look into a declaration of nullity so that you will know for certain the status of your marriage.


you have some very good points. I guess a big reason is I’m afraid of being alone and wanting to hang on to something. Another part of me wants to the do the “better or worse” thing, but if he really wants the divorce then we need live like we are divorced. I still have until July to finalize it, who knows what will happen by then :shrug: I don’t want to be in an invalid marriage either though.


You will not be in an “invalid” marriage if hte divorce becomes finalized. Until you are ready to seek a decree of nullity, you will still be ecclesiastically married. When you have an annulment, the marriage you thought you had is declared not to have existed because of certain factors where it could not have. Please get a copy of Annulment: The Wedding That Was to cliarfy this in your mind.

I agree with dulcissima. I would only add that your estranged husband, in addition to being an alcoholic and mentally ill, seems extremely manipulative to me. Given that, if I were you, I would be wary of any of his suggestions.


I just don’t understand what he is thinking


well I talked to him today and told him I didn’t think that I could be ok with that situation. He said he respected my decision. It’s just really difficult for me because I do love him so much, but because of his problems and the fact that he has informally defected from the Church years ago and is not a Christian at all, I just don’t see how we can work this out. This is just so hard for me to deal with.


This is a very difficult time. Short of a death in the family, this may be the most painful and difficult situation you will face.

My prayers are with you.


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