If distance makes the heart grow fonder, could living separately be the key to a successful marriage?
A few years ago, I met an elderly gentleman whose wife had recently passed away. He was moving into his late wife’s slightly larger apartment, which was adjacent to his own. He explained that, while they had dearly loved one another, they preferred to have separate living spaces. They opted to live alone, together.
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Jay Smith, a Toronto-based writer, also lives separately from her partner.
“We both need a lot of space,” she explains. “Part of it is really constitutional, if you can call it that: I am a morning person, whereas Chris is not. I’m early to bed, he stays up late.”
Many have raised an eyebrow at the pair’s non-traditional living situation, especially since they have children (both kids live with mom).
“Most couples — and I certainly don’t fault people for this — subscribe to this notion of romantic love based on possession, constant companionship, and utter codependence,” she says.
“We’re getting better at recognizing, as a society, other forms of love, like love between two people of the same gender. But even then, that love is supposed to conform to the same mythos: Cohabitation, mutual codependency, a sort of soulmate-ful completion.”
Patrick (not his real name) is a single, 30-something professional who hopes to marry someday, but has no desire to cohabitate.
“I enjoy solitude,” he says. “It’s a powerful, useful ‘reset’ tool.”
But it isn’t as though his personal space is off-limits to his future wife.
“She does get a house key, and she’s always welcome,” he concedes.
“I don’t have any designs on an Andy Snitzer-style bachelor pad with frat house staples like PlayStations and Nerf basketball nets all over the place. It’s really not about skeletons in the closet, which is probably the first thing a person would think. It’s about my identity (and) having my own place to recharge my batteries after a good or bad day.”
What it comes down to for couples that choose to live independently of one another is enjoying the best of both worlds.
“What if we look for companions on our own terms, or the terms that work best for a particular couple?” Smith asks. “Well, in my case, some uncomfortable moments on the playground …”
Sofi Papamarko is a 20-something writer based in Toronto. Her heroes include Desmond Morris and Nancy Sinatra.