Tsara Shelton and her husband have been happily married for over 13 years. The catch is they have always lived separately. “We see each other every single day, but we have the feeling of our own space, and so it’s rare that we annoy each other,” says Shelton.
In part, this arrangement had to do with Shelton’s children: “When we met I already had three of our four sons, and so co-parenting was not something I was comfortable with immediately. Living separately allowed us to take our time without ever actual having to argue about it, largely because I got to do most of the parenting while I gradually allowed him to do more and more.”
While they are happy with the arrangement, there is one problem: “The only challenge, really, has been of the “intimate” nature. Luckily my hubby’s work schedule is such that we have time while the boys are at school, but still… I sometimes sneak off and drive to him, which is better than getting him to drive to me, since the kids are here! But it’s really been more of an adventure than a problem.”
Anita and Jeff (last name requested to remain unpublished) have been a couple for nearly 18 years. They lived together the first five years, but have lived happily apar t for the remaining 11 years. “(I)t sounds crazy to most people but it works for us so far. You are together when you want to be, and alone when you feel like it.”
Ellie and Harrison (last name requested to remain unpublished) own a condo meant to be a pied a terre in a city an hour from where they live. “When we had a fight one of us would retreat to the condo. We even separated for a couple weeks, and Harrison moved into the condo. Even after we’ve worked to repair our marriage, we find a “time out” gives us each time to reassess and appreciate what we have.
Ellie says, “I truly believe that the little condo has saved our marriage. At home our fights used to escalate into yelling and eventually one of us would drive to the condo for a “night off” rather than go to bed angry. Things always look better in the morning, especially after we’ve had a quiet space to consider the consequences and alternatives. In every instance, we’ve chosen to stick with the marriage and do the necessary work to be a happy couple.”
“Professional couples who have busy schedules or work in different cities or countries, couples who want control of their own space, couples who want their finances separate (and) people who want freedom from the normal domestic relationship,” are just some of those who choose this path, says Melanie Mar, a certified relationship/life coach best known for her work on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Mars lists advantages for couples living apart: “(It) keeps excitement in the relationship; when you live alone you can be narcissistic. You don’t have to compromise on anything. Freedom from domestic chores. (You) won’t have that complacent feeling. For some, relationships can get monotonous.”
But she also sees some disadvantages: “You may find it difficult to trust your partner or not feel secure in the relationship; (there may be) decreased commitment to the relationship; less communication, less interaction and less intimacy. It (also) takes away the opportunity for spontaneous moments.”
Ellie has thought of selling the condo, but she hasn’t. “I rarely sleep there alone these days, but we both know the condo is there as an escape, should we need it. If I ever decide to sell it, I know that will be a commitment to take our marriage down the home stretch. Since we’re both in our 60s, that home stretch is not as long as it once was.”