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Separate, but Married

Apparently there’s a trend in marriage that is gaining momentum across the country. It’s actually not a new trend, just a re-emerging one. That trend is living married but separate lives.

When I first heard about this it was seven years ago, and I was about 3 months into my marriage. One of my numerous “cousins” was considering marrying his girlfriend of three years, but had one caveat: they would have to live in different houses.

“Ah. What do you mean different houses? Like you have two houses and you live in one for summer and the other in winter?”

“No,” he laughed, as though I were a child, “like TWO houses. She goes to her house at night or I leave and go to mine.”

“Oh ho! That’s not a marriage!” I said objectionably.  

“Why not?”

“Well…because…I mean – that’s just not what married people do! They live together. Married people live together.”

  Yes, weak, I know. But I truly had no ammo to defend my point of view. Why DO married people live together, I had to wonder? Doesn’t being married mean patting yourself on the back when you’ve finally succeeded in getting  him to put down the toilet seat after he pees, or finally coming to grips with the ever presence of her worn braziers over EVERY door handle in your bedroom? Aren’t these markers of a successful marriage – learning to cohabit with a complete stranger, even if that period of learning is marred with utter misery? Wouldn’t my cousin be missing out on the whole POINT of marriage if this were the case?

Those questions are for each couple to answer individually – what makes their marriage successful and why they do the things they do in their relationship in order to get through. Some people like slathering their mates in chocolate sauce and others like to burn them with candle wax. Neither of these two expressions of “love” are for me (I don’t like being burned, and chocolate stains are very difficult to get out of sheets), but it’s not for me to judge another couple’s formulation of amour.

People live together and apart for numerous reasons. One may have to take a job in another location. One might be sick and need their mate to care for them. Perhaps the only thing in common that the two may share is that they love each other, and that alone may be enough to keep them living together…or apart.

The idea of living married and apart is not a new one by any means. From the day that the idea of monogamous cohabitation was formulated and became a societal norm, there are men and women around the globe who have bucked that norm. Consider history: Missionaries often left their wives to spread the gospel to the “heathen” masses in the New World and beyond; English sailors left their wives and children to sail the high seas for months on end; heck, even Harriet Tubman left her husband to find freedom in the North! Of course, he got remarried soon after she left. That had to be a shocker…returning to find your husband shacked up with someone else when you’d risked life and limb to rescue and take him north in order to build a proper life together. That’s never the makings of a good day.

I don’t have to wonder what my husband would say if I made the suggestion that we live apart. His answer would be a curt “no”, and that would end the discussion. In truth, we have no reason to live separately. He says that the best part of his day is when he returns from work and sees my face (preferably smiling), and the best part of mine is when he makes dinner. He’s a fantastic cook. So for us, living together works out perfectly. However, I would be remiss if I did not at least imagine what that conversation would look like:


The sun filtered through the kitchen shades, barely lighting the room. Someone had left just a swallow of orange juice in the carton, and I knew exactly who it was. It was my husband. I was thirsty and enraged. Enough was enough.

I heard his heavy footfall on the stairs and prepared myself to deliver the news. The time had come for us to live separate lives.

“Good morning babe!” he says brightly, smacking me on the bottom. “That was fun last night, wasn’t it?”

“Which part was fun?” I snap. “The part where you snored in my ear the whole night, or the part where I tripped on your shoes on the way into the bathroom?”

My husband looks wounded, but I am not to be deterred. I have a singular task in mind: to live as a married-single woman. I can’t be considerate of his feelings if I’m to be successful in my endeavors!

“I think in order for us to be happy…in order for us to be a family…I have to move out.”

“What? How does that work?”

“You can keep the house!” I say quickly. “And you can keep the kids too. I can come over to visit from time to time and you guys can come and visit me.”

My husband stares at me, flabbergasted.

“So you want to get a divorce?”

“Oh no, no babe. Not at all! I don’t want to divorce you…I just don’t want to LIVE with you.”

My husband puts a hand on his chin and analyzes me thoroughly. Finally his eyes light up and he smiles. He’s got it. He’s finally got it! I wait with baited breath for him to speak. He draws me near, and kisses me on the cheek.

“You’re on crack. We’re not going to have two mortgage payments and buy all new furniture for your house. We have four kids, and at least three of them are going to college. We’re going to retire together and move to some remote island where we can live like gypsies. In order for us to do that, we can’t live separately.”

I open my mouth to object and he shushes me.

Shhhhhh!!!! Now when I get home from work, I’ll have a new shoe wrack to put my shoes on, and I’ll pee in the downstairs bathroom from now on. You never go in there anyway. But we’re not buying two houses. Problem solved…okay?”

“Okay,” I sigh.

“Love you! Call me at work and let me know what you want for dinner.”

I watch him leave from the kitchen window and he honks his horn to say goodbye, dashing my hopes of living separately. Somehow, he’s convinced me that we really don’t need to. Darn him.


Married MOM readers, can you see yourself living apart from your spouse? Is it unimaginable, or is it the only way you can imagine living?  If you’re single, what would you prefer? I’ve got my coffee and can’t wait to see what you say. 😉


This article has 26 comments

  1. nas009

    I can see myself totally living a married yet separate existence. It will so suit me. I love to have time for myself, my friends and family. Plus every so often I need to retreat into my cave. When I was a child I used to dream that my husband and I will have separate houses connected by a bridge of some sort….

    • Malaka

      BFFFL! Can’t believe you’re leaving a comment after such a looong time ;). Ah. Didn’t we talk about this house and bridge in HGIC? The concept sounds so familiar.

      I personally can’t wait till we get more room. I’m calling dibs for my she-cave one time, sharp!

  2. Mom Five Times

    I can’t imagine living separately from my husband. He is my best friend and hanging partner. I love to have adult fellowship and conversation at the end of the day.
    But the funniest part of your post is “We have four kids, and at least three of them are going to college.” You can tell me the questionable “one” later!

    • Malaka

      Girl, that’s a coffee convo. The answer probably will NOT shock you. And please, you and your husband ain’t going nowheres. That’s like peanut butter trying to break up with jelly!

  3. Davida

    The imagined conversations always crack me up! Whenever I picture married life, I see myself living with the husband and kids, but there’s this other room labelled ‘My corner: Stay out’ which, naturally, I’ve claimed, as it’s MY imagination after all…

    A bit of both, yes please 😉

  4. Abuero

    In Scandinavia marriage appears no longer sacred…as you say or see people are living in their own houses and children shift from one parent to the other even over long distances. We Africans seem to copy othres so blindly…men or women are just doing the same and the children are shown what to copy in their days to come.End of the world signs??!!Why we Africans are so good in coipying others??

  5. NM

    Am with Davida, as long as I have a room or ( section of the house lol) to retreat to and that includes spending at least one night said room.

  6. gboukzi

    I think marriage has a lot to do with understanding.. If the man and the woman both genuinely and wholeheartedly agree to this kind of arrangement, I don’t see why its an issue. Remember marriage is a conscious decision/agreement between two adults. Personally though, I wouldn’t live away from my wife. She’s going to be the most amazing thing to ever happen to me. Why would I wanna live seperately from that?

    • Malaka

      Now that’s just the sweetest thing I’ve read today! I hope your wife is reading your comment too! 🙂

  7. David S.

    Aeish!! First they made the beds bigger so that each person could have their side of the bed and sleep without touching the other. Then they made the rooms bigger so that people could be in the same room and not interact. then they made the houses bigger with walk in closets. Now one house is not enough. We want a small village? My mother grew up in a compound house in Ghana with more than 20 people occupying 700 square meters. Now people can’t even share the same bathroom and TV. Is it just me or are we becoming worse at occupying the same space as we become more advanced? The other day my brother sent me a text to tell me my food in the oven was ready even though we live in the same house. Climb the damn stairs and interact with me in person. You will see my face for once, and with obesity the way it is, we can all use the excercise. Today at work, my coworker needed to ask me something and sent an IM. Never mind the fact that we sit less than 6 feet away from each other, but turning around an speaking to me would have required both of us to take off our headphones, and God forbid he interrupt my hiplife sounds for 30 seconds.

    Okay I actually forgot what my actual point was now … but I’m still going to hit this post comment button.

  8. David S.

    On another note, have you always had your own domain? Why am I jus noticing this?

    • Malaka

      Gimme a sec. I’m still cackling from your last post. Ahhh!

      Ok. Better.

      I just bought the domain a few weeks ago. Figured I’d better get on it before it became unavailable. Trolls do that as well you know. Purchase popular domains and hoard them for themselves!

  9. Juma

    Is that even marriage?To the best of my knowledge marriage entails sharing everything,the key word being everything I do not see how u can share everything and yet live in separate houses.Two years ago I got a job to another city and I had to leave my wife behind.To say very many things in a few words the six months that my wife and I stayed apart were hell for both of us.Eventually my wife joined me after she secured a transfer.Now,if we struggled being away for six months what happens if that is the norm?The answer is a no with capital N and O.

  10. Amriba

    unless you absolutely cannot help it,it is a bullshit idea coming from a bullshit place. m ajor things like new job, unable to get a visa, etc are reasons why married couples cannot stay together…not some fanciful notion of “oh il just like the extra space”. if you need some me-time, book a weekend away from your family. if you really need more time away from your spouse than necessary, then there is something fundamentally wrong in the relationship. just my opinion.

  11. Nana Ama

    Among the Ga people, each spouse continues to live in their father’s house after they get married! (They get a lot of ribbing from other ethnic groups in Ghana for this ‘weird’ practice).

    Whether it is a polygamous relationship or not, the wife(ves) take it in turns to go to the man’s house, for a day(s) and return to their own father’s house. Like having a weekend in a hotel?:):)

    Their children are sent with trays of food to the father’s house at set times. This gave a lot of teenage girls excuses to go out under the pretext of running errands to and from either parent! (‘Mi ya impa gy33/Mi ya imaa gy33’). Perhaps this practice of Ga spouses living apart is dying out, I don’t know, but it was very common in my youth. (I am in my early 50s)

  12. Nana Ama

    David, I soooo agree with everything you said.

    But I guiltily confess to holding a 3 hour cellphone conversation with my teenage daughter, recently, from 2am-5am, when she is only two doors away from my bedroom! The novelty of it was good and the airtime was free (and we stayed snug in our warm beds), but I won’t do it again!

  13. Julia

    I secretly dream of living separately. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband dearly but he is a totally different species from me. But maintaining two seperate homes entails twice as much finances. I think this could work with children if the parents lived close, next door, I don’t think we can judge another couples situation. Marriage is for the long term. There are seasons in life and maybe living separately is apart of the journey.

  14. Emmanuel

    Hi, am neither a mother nor a girl. I am a guy who reads your blog constantly. You have got incredible mind that goes through deep thought processing. Although I do sometime find you ideas very controversial and irrational, I should say that you entertain me. You also make me question a number of things that I encounter and see around me.

    • Malaka

      Haha!! Your comment reminds me of the conversation between Sigma and Pi. I like the idea of being considered irrational. It makes me seem mysterious and unpredictable. 😉

      Thanks for playing!

  15. Nafeesa Mangat

    Awesome blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?

    I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any ideas? Cheers!

    • Malaka

      Hey! First of all, well done on perusing your writing!

      I just chose WordPress because it was free, easy to use and I was new to blogging. I think you should chose a platform that’s going to serve your long term needs. If you want to monetize your blog with ads you should do that in the beginning so that your readers will be accustomed to that environment. There are so many great services out there to choose from. Happy trails!

  16. thewomaninthearena

    Oh goodness. I stumbled on your blog while looking up the topic of marrieds living separately. I’ll start by saying that YES I want to do this. My love and I have been together for almost 2 years (went to high school together and reconnected 15 years later after each of us had divorced…seriously, it was AFTER both of us had divorced! Ha). We have a child. First for me, third for him. I have told him that I will marry him if we can have two separate places. We will still be committed to each other in every way. It’s so hard for me to come out and say it but I don’t want to be a traditional stepmom! He has a 12 yr old boy and a 6 yr old girl and they are goo kids… But we’re already having your typical blended family issues. I know it sounds selfish but I want to enjoy the one and only child I’ll likely ever have. I love this man and would like to make sure that we don’t become among the 70 something percent of 2nd marriages that break up. :(. Hoping I can make his work for us. Thanks for your open-minded ness on the subject.

  17. ewurabasempe

    This was a great read.

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