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Living with your ex-spouse while dating others: A first-hand experience


[Earlier this week, the esteemed former Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, and his wife, the remarkable Chirlane McCray, made a profound announcement. After nearly three decades of matrimonial union, they have decided to part ways. However, in an astonishing twist on the conventional concept of divorce, they have declared that they will not immediately proceed with the legal dissolution of their marriage. Instead, they have chosen to continue residing together, at least for the foreseeable future. What is even more astounding is that both individuals have graciously accepted the idea of exploring new romantic connections outside of their union. In a captivating interview with The New York Times, de Blasio, aged 62, and McCray, aged 68, disclosed that they will remain in the beloved Park Slope townhouse where they raised their two adult children while adjusting to their new reality. They shared with journalist Matt Flegenheimer that they have established clear boundaries and guidelines concerning what is acceptable and what is not, among several other factors.

Reflecting upon the circumstances that led to their separation, de Blasio pondered upon missed opportunities for honest communication, stating, “I can now look back and recognize crucial moments where we should have engaged in deeper dialogue.” He acknowledged his failure to inquire about her happiness, her desires, and the elements that may have been absent from her life. Months have passed since their decision to part ways, and de Blasio, who served as the Mayor of New York City from 2014 to 2021, has already begun emanating the aura of a divorcé. He has even experimented with dyeing his hair, a decision he never would have predicted. In his own words, “I never anticipated altering my hair color in any way. However, I appreciate the emotions that this change brings.”

In an interview with the New York Post, McCray expressed the hope that their extraordinary arrangement would serve as a blueprint for couples to engage in candid discussions about their own needs and navigate new directions with grace. Is this endeavor feasible? Renowned experts offer their insights.

Marriage therapists and divorce attorneys caution that even for the most amicable of former partners, such arrangements are arduous. “If they can successfully navigate this path, more power to them,” says Karen Covy, a mediator and self-proclaimed “recovering lawyer.” She humorously wonders about the rationale behind their decision, as most couples who choose this unconventional route are usually constrained by financial obligations or are in the throes of raising young children. “We lack sufficient knowledge of the nuances of their situation to speculate about the underlying factors, but if they possess a sufficiently compelling motive to make this arrangement work – and financial, professional, and political considerations can exert significant influence – then I am certain they can sustain it, at least in the short term,” Covy remarks.

Randall Kessler, a prominent divorce attorney based in Atlanta, Georgia, ponders the complexity of such arrangements, stating, “Regardless of the optimistic portrayal, inevitably, it signifies the conclusion of a relationship, the dissolution of a marital bond; there is simply no ideal way to mitigate the ensuing difficulty.” Kurt Smith, a therapist specializing in men’s counseling in Northern California, echoes this sentiment, asserting that it is typically men who propose such arrangements. He asserts that complications arise when one partner embarks on new romantic pursuits, ultimately resulting in emotional and mental distress despite the best intentions. Smith concludes, “While it may be possible to manage this situation for a short period, it inevitably becomes overwhelming and, in the case of ex-partners, unnecessary.”

On the other hand, Randall Kessler, the esteemed divorce attorney who has represented notable figures such as stars from “The Real Housewives” franchise and Cardi B, believes that de Blasio and his wife’s approach aligns with a cultural shift towards more compassionate and amicable divorces. He references the concept of “conscious uncoupling,” which gained popularity through figures like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, as well as “nesting,” where parents alternate the use of the family home when children are present full-time. In Kessler’s view, couples sometimes choose to continue living together as a last-ditch effort to salvage their marriage, although this does not seem to be the case in this particular scenario. “Their approach is unique to them,” he states. “As public figures, the former mayor and his ex-wife are confronting their circumstances head-on.”


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