Many couples see separation as a precursor to divorce or a time to reflect on the marriage before reconciliation. It is a time of limbo where each spouse has resigned their fate to the marriage gods, in effect rolling the dice that they and their spouse will come to a decision to either end or continue the marriage.
There is a growing movement illustrated in this lifestyle piece from the New York Observer that gives first hand accounts of a growing group of (admittedly) well-to-do couples who are maintaining separate everything — lives, residences and even relationships with their children. The reason is that they don't want to go through the messiness of a divorce.
This flies in the face of some studies like Dmitry Tumin's of The Ohio State University, who in 2012 release a report that said about 79% of married couples who separate end up getting divorced.
"Most separations last one year or less, but a few drag on a decade or more before ending in divorce. Other separations stay unresolved," Tumin said. "In fact, we don't observe any separations that end with the couple getting back together after a three-year period, so three years is the point of no return. After three years, the only outcomes observed are ongoing separation or divorce."
"It's part of the fear that women have about not having 'Mrs.' in front of their names," The New York Observer article quotes an anonymous woman going through a permanent separation. "Today, marriage is a choice but not a mandate. Many women went charging into the workforce in my day and then bailed. If the husband lets them go spinning and lunching and shopping, many women would rather take that option."
One of the other main reasons given in the article are that the husbands are living longer thanks to modern science and keeping better care of themselves.
The New Divorce Is No Divorce (Las Vegas Seven)