11/26/2010 12:30 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Marital Status---It's Sometimes Blurry

My husband and I separated residences after a long marriage during which we led lives completely divorced from each other. We are still married now although we live separately. So we are married and separated. But the fact remains: we have been divorced in terms of our relationship for many years. As always, marriage is simply a legal status for us. This has given rise to my consideration of what being married, separated and/or divorced actually means. Marital status may be blurry and unclear. I began to think of how many couples I knew who were legally married yet divorced and separatedin life.

My marriage was in name only from the beginning; it was almost like a business deal. We had what each other needed at the time: partners in proceation, period. I was looking for a stable husband with whom to begin a family and he was looking for a younger wife with whom to start a second family. Like puzzle pieces, we intersected along the border but never filled in the middle of our relationship. We never worked in tandem or had projects in unison. I parented, ran the household and worked. He worked as a physician and worked odd hours. We were literally like "ships in the night." We slept together (I was sleeping when he came home) but rarely ate together or socialized.

So perhaps, our separation was different that others; for me, it was residential (more like business). Although married, we were divorced and separated long ago. The act of living together had nothing to do with our "togetherness" as a couple; it was really more an outgrowth of the business relationship. Living on my own with my kids, I felt much more authentic and honest. It reflected a reality rather than the charade of pretending to be a couple.

But I found myself at a loss about how to tell people? What to say? And why did people seem to always to say that they were "sorry for me?" Why did others assume that I was "sorry?" The definition of "sorry" includes "a feeling of regret, pity, tragic and mournful." I didn't have any of those feelings. Why didn't people ask me how I felt about it? It was a relief to be honest and realize that it was ok to give up on a a lonely marriage.

So here is the kicker: I have been in and around marketing for over twenty years. Naturally, my first thought was how to position this "crisis communication." What is my marital status? What was my core message? Which channels would I use to distribute this news? How would this message be reinforced? How would I communicate my relief and happiness with my newly-found authenticity? Should I consider a social media campaign? How about some collateral materials: a one-pager or a brochure?

My eventual message went something like this, "My husband, Blank and I are separated now. I am fine with it as our my kids." Although admittedly having a brochure or other supporting pieces might be easier, and distributing through social media (other than word-of-mouth!) in a campaign might have been more efficient and yielded a more consistent message, I am fine with giving my elevator pitch regarding my marital status and stating my feelings all in one shot. It seems to alleviate the "I am sorry's" from others.

As I get older, I see that there is much more gray to life that I ever imagined as a young adult. Most things are not as "black and white" and much of life is spent in the gray area. So much of life does not fit into neat check boxes. Again, I am reminded that I must help my kids to practice navigating the "gray zone" as its a key to a content and successful life. I am happy to be leading by example.