Leaving a marriage but still living together

Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY:After a decade of trying to no avail to get my husband to participate in our marriage, I've decided to call it quits. The problem is that I am the breadwinner, and it would ruin us financially to split up.

We have a child in high school with some learning disabilities and social issues. An attorney advised me not to divorce for these reasons. I stopped wearing my wedding ring and moved to another bedroom a few months ago. My plan is to remain married and living in the home but to go my own way.

How do I explain this change in our relationship to friends and family? I am at peace, and, in fact, am feeling hopeful for the first time in many years.--Looking Ahead

DEAR LOOKING AHEAD: Your friends and family (and your daughter) have probably noticed that you have stopped wearing your wedding ring. This gives you a chance to say that you and your husband are separating but have decided to cohabit peacefully and co-parent your daughter.

A mediator or professional counselor could help you and your husband. But there is nothing to stop your husband from seeing a lawyer; he could initiate a divorce, split up the household and ruin you financially. You should plan ahead.

DEAR AMY: "Loving Mom" wrote about her ex-husband, who is in and out of jail and recently violated a "no contact" court order by sending their young daughter a birthday card.

While your advice was compassionate, you made a mistake when you told this mother to notify the ex that he should contact only her (and not the child). If he contacts her, she is inviting him to violate this court order.--Concerned Reader

DEAR READER: You are correct that for him to contact her (as I suggested) would be in violation; better advice would have been that he only go through his (or her) lawyer if he wanted to be in touch with either the mother or the child.