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“So, what are you and ‘J’ going to do?” a friend asked recently.

‘J’ is my boyfriend and we do a lot of things, some of which are not appropriate to discuss publicly.

“What do you mean?”

“Are you ever going to get married or live together or something like that?”

Oh, that question. It’s not the first time I’ve heard it. ‘J’ and I have been in a committed monogamous relationship for almost eight years (although we had a year of non-monogamy early on), and he lives in his house and I live in mine. Neither of us wants to get married — we’ve both done that, and I’ve done it twice — and we’re not sure we want to live together either.   Living together apart

Our relationship doesn’t look a relationship is “supposed” to look, and so people feel uncomfortable about it.

“Why don’t you want to live together?”

After all, isn’t that what people who love each other do at some point or another?

Relationships used to be that way, but why do we think they have to be? And once you’re divorced with kids, there are many compelling reasons not to have your relationship look like that.

Early on, when his and my kids were young, mashing two families together seemed, well, scary. I know people do it all the time, creating their own versions of the Brady Bunch to various degrees of success. But since 60 percent of all second marriages end in divorce, and since the stepfamily situation often creates a mess for everyone —  you, your former spouse and your new spouse and his/her new spouse, as well as the kids — and since second marriages don’t necessarily lead to marital satisfaction, why would I want to marry again?

Oh sure, we could have lived together. That’s not the message I wanted to send to my kids, however. Plus, the idea of putting them through another split was too painful to even think about if it didn’t work out; one divorce for kids is more than enough.

Now the kids are gone so we have no excuse. It’s just that we don’t want to. It’s not to say that sometimes I don’t long to come home to what seems familiar — someone to share stories of our day over dinner and a warm body to snuggle next to every night instead of just three or four.  There are many, many pleasures that come with living with someone, which, between my two marriages, I did for nearly 20 years. And then there are the not-so-pleasurable things that come from living with someone for years.

We start to get annoyed by their habits — you know, the ones they always had, the ones we used to find “charming.” We complain that they’re not doing their share of (insert child-care, cleaning, yard work, laundry, etc., here). We get upset because they’re spending too much time (insert on the computer, watching sports, playing video games, hanging out with friends, shopping, etc., here). All of those things lead to disappointment, maybe resentment, so we stop having sex. And we start taking each other for granted.

And you don’t have to married to take each other for granted, as Susan Sarandon discovered after splitting from Tim Robbins after 23 years of living together and having two children with him:

“I thought that if you didn’t get married you wouldn’t take each other for granted as easily. I don’t know if after twenty-something years that was still true.”

But, marriage, the institution, doesn’t make us do or not do anything; the people in the marriage are  responsible for how they act. Taking each other for granted is not part of any marriage vow as far as I know.

Maybe it’s the living together part.

A new study seems to confirm what ‘J” and I already know — couples that live apart feel happier in their relationship than couples that live together, and feel more committed and less trapped. When you live apart, you actively work on that commitment and trust; it’s never taken for granted.

Of course, I had a role model — my mother, a marital renegade. At age 50-something, she left my dad, dog and our cozy home in Queens, N.Y., to buy a condo in the Miami area and start a career and a new life independent of my dad, although they remained married for 61 years. For about 10 years,  until he joined her in Florida, they lived apart.

So when people ask me, “Are you ever going to get married or live together or something like that?” I guess I’ll have to continue to answer, “Something like that.”

We’re free to create the relationship we want. I’ve created mine — have you created yours?

 Photo © pearlguy/Fotolia.com

9 Responses to “Married, living together or something like that”

  1. Marriage and or Living Together is for the young folk who want to raise children together. Friendship and fidelity in the Fifties.

  2. We have been married 35 years and in the early years He used to travel a lot. The children were small and it was often difficult but at the same time apart sometimes felt okay. Empty nesters now we are together more than ever, and I sometimes crave alone time. I am an introvert and I just need time alone for my sanity. I can understand how living in two houses can work, especially if no children involved.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles
      says:

      I think you can create the alone time, Flamingo Dancer. Go away for a weekend or a week, set aside a day (or two) a week in which you are apart all day or part of the day. It doesn’t have to cost money if money’s an issue. All we have to do is make it happen. Hope you’re able to do that!

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles
      says:

      Thanks for commenting, FD. Can you create time alone? A half-day or one day a week? A weekend away every month? A month away? It’s important for everyone to have his/her own space, but we need to carve it out for ourselves. I hope you’re able to do that.

  3. Colleen says:

    I could not agree with this more. I found myself thinking this just this morning when getting ready for work. there are single men in my life ,all of whom are very wonderful in their own way, but i have come to enjoy what single-hood provides. it enables me to be by myself when “I” chose to and together with someone when “I: chose to be. It is freedom and also sharing with someone when it feels right for that. I call it my woman cave, that i sometimes have a need to retreat to. Sorta to charge my battery. I can just get what i need together and then once out with a man can enjoy his presence.
    I have been on my own with 5 children for 10 years. They are all in their 20’s now, and are gaining more and more of their own independence . I do not feel empty and worried about my future. I have a 3 year old grandson whom I totally enjoy and adore. i have him often on weekends. I don’t feel that old thought of “what are you going to do when the nest is empty?” “you don’t want to end up alone” I will never be alone, nor lonely. I have many whom I love and love me. Life is good and I am Happily single.
    Thank you for this blog, and for allowing me to share!
    Colleen

  4. Onely says:

    Love this perspective. But for me personally, all I would need is two bedrooms and two bathrooms. And two offices. I fully acknowledge that my dreams are swamped with First World Privilege here.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles
      says:

      If we ever move in together — still a possibility once my youngest finishes college — we would definitely have separate bedrooms and bathrooms, First World Privilege be damned! ;-)

  5. Laura says:

    This is my sentiment to the “T” – it’s almost crazy to read this article. It’s a beautiful summary of why I will NOT remarry and I refuse to even think about living with a man much less marrying him. My current relationship works right now because we have the most important ingredient for a sane life that marriage completely takes away – SPACE!!! I get to leave. He goes away. But when we do see each other it’s fun, and not consumed with discussions about trash or bills or all the mundane details that distract us from the passion and fun parts of the relationship. I do not want children with my boyfriend – I already have 2 beautiful boys and feel blessed with them in my life. Life is already too damn complicated – why do we as a society continue to try and make it even more complicated?? Living alone is bliss.

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