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. 😉