Living Apart, Together: Do You Really Need to Live Together, in A Marriage?

July 18, 2012  |  


If you spend enough time with someone, they’re bound to get on your nerves a little…or a lot. Hell, if you’re honest there have been times when you got on your own nerves.  And though Hollywood would like us to believe differently, the same is true for romantic relationships. But in a traditional relationship, you’re expected to live, eat and sleep with your partner at every possible opportunity. So if you love him but hate his concept of clean, the way he chews with his mouth open, or the way his snoring seems to be making the paint peel, then you’re just going to have to get over it because, to be with someone emotionally, you have to be with them physically as well.

That’s what they’ve led us to believe.

But does it always have to be that way?

Apparently not. Census data found that 3 percent of married couples live apart. That number has doubled since 1990.  Really, it shouldn’t have been all that surprising. We’ve seen good, bad and ugly examples of this lifestyle play out in the lives of real and fictitious characters. Right now on the ever popular “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta” we watched how the scandalous Stevie J hid his girlfriend and baby mama away in a suburban house while he maintained an apartment in the city “for work.” Of course the only work he was doing was on Joseline but it was an arrangement Mimi agreed to. Then remember in Sex and the City 2–Don’t grumble. Even though the movie was subpar, there were lessons to be learned from it—when Big and Carrie aren’t seeing eye to eye as to how their marriage should work? She spends some time away from him at her apartment, he picks her up for a spontaneous date and then magically, the spark returns. Then there’s comedian Sinbad and his wife Meredith. These crazy kids were married for seven years, divorced for 10 and then remarried in 2002.  But after 10 years, naturally they’d developed their own separate lives, so they kept their separate homes. Eventually, because of financial issues they moved in together but both admitted they enjoyed the time apart and were happy to see each other when they finally did get together.

So what are we to make from these three examples? One crazy as hell, one not quite right (remember Carrie eventually realized she didn’t want a part time marriage) and one that seemed like it might actually work. Before we make any decisions, let’s see what the professionals have to say about it.

Clinical psychologist, Judye Hess who lived three minutes away from her boyfriend of 13 years told Elle Magazine earlier this year that there are disadvantages to such an arrangement. Couples who live apart find that sex and companionship is less available and they don’t have the same opportunities to create a family structure.  But on the flipside, she cites huge benefits, like the fact that their time together is truly quality time, there’s more appreciation and less annoyance for the other person’s quirks and in their sex lives, couples are able to maintain their spontaneity and desire for each other.

In such an arrangement the individuals are able to maintain their individual freedoms and their personal space. In that same Elle article, family therapist, John Curtis stated “the healthier the individual, the healthier the couple.”

But not all professionals are on board with the idea. Some feel like this living apart together phenomenon is just another sign of our self-absorbed, individualistic times. Dr. Scott Haltzman said that learning to compromise with a person is an integral part of being married. “One of the challenges of marriage is to learn how to live with a person and integrate that person into your life. By living apart, you are losing the opportunity to gain that level of intimacy and cooperation.”

The author of the piece seconded his argument stating: “if couples refuse to compromise on things as simple as home decor, how can they expect to weather serious challenges when they arise? Marriages that are structured around freedom, individual desires, and each person’s singular comfort are by definition not focused on partnership.”

All points to ponder. There’s also the question about how a living situation like this one would affect any children that might come from this type of union. If anybody needs a stable living environment, it’s the little ones. Schleping them between mom and dad’s house, outside of some type of custody agreement, is not the best for their sense of security.

The key to this type of lifestyle, like any other standard relationship all relies on crystal clear communication and expectations about the nature of your living situation. You’ll have to understand:

–          What exactly you hope to accomplish by living apart?

–          How will the two of you benefit and struggle with this type of situation?

–          How you plan to address the unique challenges of this situation?

–          How often do you plan on seeing each other?

Obviously, everything ain’t for everybody but with the divorce rate as high as it is, there’s nothing wrong with opening up your options to make your marriage or relationship work. Even if you’d like to keep things old school when it comes to your marriage, it’s important to recognize that individuals in a partnership should make time for themselves. Whether you take a trip without your boo, leave the house for a couple of hours to clear your head or maintain separate addresses, it’s important that you embrace the wonders of occasionally being alone.

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