Too Broke to Split

Sagging economy leaves loveless couples alone together

Running into your ex is almost always awkward and stressful. David Snyder and Nancy Partridge deal with it nearly every day.

The Denver couple divorced after six years of marriage, but is still shacked up together because the slumping economy has left them broke and unable to sell their house.

They brought their house for just under $179,000 in 2001 and tried to sell it for just under $200,000. During the nine months it was on the market, two people looked at it "and laughed at the price," Snyder said. Eventually even their broker gave up on them.
"We've had tremendous arguments over things like who gets to park in the garage, but at this point, it's kind of settling down into a routine," said Partridge, 45, who works in public relations. "It's the lesser of two evils. I think the financial stress of a foreclosure, which would probably also lead to a bankruptcy, would be worse."

Snyder gets the master bedroom, while Partridge gets a smaller one. Snyder watches TV on one end of the house, Partridge on the other. The two split the grocery bill and kitchen duties. Sometimes they eat dinner together, sometimes apart. There are awkward silences, or worse.

Neither one is dating again. "But I know it's going to be awkward when it comes up," Partridge said.

This horrifying phenomenon is becoming all too common around the country.

In the good old days, loveless spouses would sell the house, split the profits and wish each other good riddance. No more. Money is so tight that some couples delude themselves into thinking they can salvage their relationship.

Kent Peterson, a longtime divorce mediator in Wayzata, Minn., said a young couple from the Minneapolis area were moving toward separation until they got a look at all the costs involved in divorce.

"The thinking was they need to work a little harder and stay together because of the changing asset picture," he said.

Linda Melville tried leaving behind John, her husband of 13 years, in August. To this day they live on the same plot of land in St. Petersburg, Fla. While she lives in the main, two-story brick house, surrounded by mementos of their marriage, he spends his days in a one-bedroom apartment that stands about 75 feet back.

Linda was laid off in October and can't afford to rent a place on her own.

"Living as close as we do, it really makes it difficult to achieve closure," she said recently.

Mercifully the pair manages to largely steer clear of one another. 

"The only conversation that takes place is via the lawyers," she said. "Even negotiating a day to do laundry."

When the morning paper arrives, whoever reads it first sets it out for the other. John Melville keeps up with the pool and lawn maintenance. Now that it gets dark earlier, his wife rarely even knows whether he has arrived home from work.

"We're respectful of each other," Linda said. "I don't go out of my way to violate his space. And I don't think he does."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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