I turn over to go to sleep. He turns to the door to catch the train home.
That has been my nightly routine for 25 years. Well, not every night. But, for the most part, he arrives around 4pm, I make dinner for 6pm, we obsessively watch the news for a few hours thank you, President Trump and later in the night my "Married but living separately" goes to his apartment a couple of miles away. We have argued at Walmarts across America on vacations. Except for this one thing: John and I have never lived together.
Is that so strange? While I have blithely been living what I considered the most tediously conventional existence, I have somehow become cool, or at least part of a gently escalating trend. That is, two people who are married or in a long-term committed relationship who do not live under the same roof. Canadian Sharon Hyman, who is directing a movie on the subject, has come up with a phrase guaranteed to appeal more to punsters: But a recent reckoning in the US estimates that 3.
The Canadian government has looked at this phenomenon extensively, and determined that, as we get older, those LAT relationships became more and more non-transitional — that is, we became more sure that we are going to Married but living separately separately and stay that way.
Of course, Canadian researchers are failing to ask the critical question: I used to say John and I were very Woody and Miauntil that comparison lost its cachet. But still, historically there are many couples who made it work.
Anita Hill and Margaret Drabble are both known for having successful relationships with people who did not share their living space.
Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter. Maybe the writer Robert and his wife got it exactly right: They had to issue invitations to each other to visit.
They also built a third kitchen, presumably the Switzerland of their residence. I want the same love and commitment as anyone else; but why do I have to live in the same place to achieve it? Particularly if you find that you fundamentally love each other, but have very different ways of living and spending money. While John exhibits, shall we say, the frugality of his Scottish ancestors, he nevertheless likes decor that would be best suited to the set of Downton Abbey: I like stuff that is new, light and whimsical — I say whimsical, he says appalling.
Why should I have to live without my light-up plastic owls if they give me pleasure?
Still, for most people, the idea of living separately just seems a bizarre fantasy. I just fantasise about getting a door.
While Jewish dating site JDate brought them new love, they had children from earlier marriages and Married but living separately in different cities — not to mention independent spirits.
So they stayed rooted, and have had weekly dates for the 12 years of their marriage. While living apart may have seemed kind of exotic to most friends pre-children, once I had twins, it became more suspect. Henry and Gus live downtown with me. Friends counselled me after the kids were born that now John would simply have Married but living separately move in with me; after all, what would the children think?
Dad is around for dinner, and was there to put them to sleep. As they got older, their needs changed. We went on our share of family vacations, though the three of them are such homebodies that their best vacations, my sons admit now, were when I went Married but living separately and their father stayed home with them. But when my son Gus was diagnosed with autism, the criticism from the outside world really ramped up.
Now my older husband was not living with me for a very specific reason: Both Gus and his father are completely literal-minded: Gus and John are both fastidious, and are pained at my sloppiness and general clutter.
The only unfortunate part of this scenario is that Gus has to live with me. There was never a discussion about the twins living with John — he has a studio apartment. My arrangement has sometimes been a source of envy, and sometimes pity. She lived in a midwest suburb. Gus does not like his routine interrupted and was trying to usher John out the door at his usual time. But Henry is a neurotypical boy, and has other things on his mind. When John and I headed to bed, my room had been turned into a massive fire hazard.
Henry had found candles, including precariously propped-up Married but living separately candles, and dug out a couple of glasses and some cheap white wine. Indeed, I think I had been married 10 years before I discovered my husband had no front teeth, the result of an unfortunate mountain-climbing accident in his 20s.
He took out the bridge and I was a little unprepared. You may have heard my shriek. The night before, the annoyance involved making a special dinner and realising she did not have a Married but living separately press in both homes.
For John, the biggest nuisance is his creakiness: There may be a time when we have to make the ultimate compromise if he finds the daily trip too burdensome. I believe that I would not be married if we had lived together, and moreover, that if more people lived separately, marriages would be saved.
He chose nothing and now I feel I dodged a bullet. In one study, the sociologist Charles Strohm showed that Americans who live apart perceive just as much emotional support from their partner as those who live together. Another researcher, Birk Hagemeyer, suggests that some people benefit more than others from living apart, specifically, those who want love but are nevertheless slightly cranky loners.
Because, if there is space, there is consideration.
In 25 years of marriage, neither of us has said something so heinous that it cannot be unsaid. And that is simply because when we are angry, we are not forced to look at each other and swell with hatred. Absence not only makes the heart grow fonder, it makes that heart slow down. Living separately has been a critical tool in our arsenal to make marriage work.
And we both knew, without explicit discussion: To those who "Married but living separately" I am missing out on the intimacy of a true relationship, I can say only this: If my husband were run over by a bus tomorrow, I would very much want to be married again.
I love being married. I love having that special one person in my life.