Separate and together: Unconventional marriage inspires book

Couples with a marriage on the rocks might benefit from this counterintuitive piece of advice for staying together: split up. One local woman's story is lending some serious credence to thinking outside the box when it comes to “till death do us part.”

Living Happily Ever After Separately (Brandylane, 2011) is Lise Stoessel’s account of how her toxic marriage was resuscitated after she decided to get her own place.

“Having gotten to the point where I realized I couldn’t live in the same house with my husband any more was the launching point,” says Stoessel. “It occurred to me this didn’t have to be the end our marriage.”

The book is aimed at couples on the verge of divorce, specifically those in their late 30s and older, according to the author, who charts her marriage from its beginnings 28 years ago through its most stressful moments of discord with husband Emil and explores her unconventional solution.

“My hope is that this book will help people to see that they can think creatively about their marriages,” says Stoessel. “My further hope is that it will find its way into the hands of people considering divorce, because divorce is really lousy, any way you cut it.”

Beyond the emotional roller-coaster, Stoessel notes that divorce settlements are almost always pricey, involving divided pensions, tax returns, and health insurance.

"If you have substantial assets with someone, that is a brake on divorce," says University of Virginia marriage researcher Bradford Wilcox.

Stoessel is not the first author to embrace the idea of separation, but she may be the first to embrace it as a long-term solution. However, she is quick to point out that she is not an opponent of conventional marriage.

“I don’t see that this is in anyway foretelling the end of traditional marriage,” says Stoessel, who says she simply sees separate living spaces as a practical solution. And, despite the distance, the author says she sees her husband six nights per week and characterizes the relationship as both intimate and monogamous.

Stoessel’s first published piece of writing was a 1983 newsletter for the Cayce Foundation, a group that honors the turn-of-the-century Virginia Beach-based man who helped inspire the New Age movement. In the newsletter, Stoessel uses a 1935 psychic reading by Cayce to express ideas on marriage and individualism.

“The combination of two personalities with their accompanying habits and tendencies is sure to engender some stress and strain along the way.”

A year after writing that, Stoessel was the one walking down the aisle. She points to the 21st Century trend towards individualism as a big reason why so many marriages end in divorce.

“I think that everything in our society is encouraging us to be more individual,” says Stoessel. “It’s supported by marketing and the media— everyone is encouraged to discover their inner vision and feed whatever their passions are, follow their dreams and all that. This is a good thing, but the downside of that is that it makes it really hard to be in a relationship long-term with another individual."

Read more on: Lise Stoessel


thanks to Andrew and Jen for a nice story and fun photo!

If they're ok with it then fine, but cohabitation to me is one of the big perks of being married.