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Thread: Want To Stay In Love? Then DON'T Live Together

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    Want To Stay In Love? Then DON'T Live Together

    As more and more couples live apart, is this the death of romance? On the contrary, says novelist Deborah Moggach

    Ten of the happiest years of my life were spent not living with the man I loved. A couple of times a week, I would cycle to his Soho bedsit, carrying my trusty sponge bag.

    So keen was I to preserve my independence that I didn’t even leave a toothbrush there.

    We would spend the evening together and in the morning eat breakfast at a nearby cafe, chatting to his friends.

    Then I would bike back to my home in Camden, North London, and start my day’s work, writing. This carried on for a decade, unchanged and blissful, until he died 19 years ago.

    We loved each other to bits, but I don’t think it even crossed our minds to move in together. We certainly never talked about it.

    At the start, I was newly divorced with small children, and he — the cartoonist Mel Calman — was the veteran of two marriages. We bore the scars of prolonged co-habitation and had no desire to jump into domesticity again.

    It soon became clear our unconventional arrangement worked for us and we had no desire to change it.

    Mel had his own life — 18 years older than me, he never wanted to leave his beloved bachelor pad and move somewhere big enough for two, let alone a house with room for a family.

    And it wasn’t all one-way. I had my life, which centred on my two children and writing novels.

    I loved being a parent with them and a vamp with him; apart from the fact it was fun, keeping the two parts of my life separate avoided all sorts of tensions and problems.

    I don’t think our relationship would have survived if we had moved in together: he would have got annoyed at my children’s mess and the way I brought them up. I think he thought me a slapdash and indulgent parent, though he was far too wise to tell me so.

    Nor might we have survived my children’s hostility towards him as the cause of my divorce from their father, though this tension eased as the years passed. Besides, he’d already had a set of stepchildren and I didn’t want to inflict all that on him a second time.

    While some of our friends thought our set-up was strange, it turns out we were trendsetters.

    According to a recent survey, 23 per cent of couples — that’s 2.2 million people — in a serious relationship live apart, whether by choice or circumstance, and this number is growing rapidly.

    Indeed, the number of men and women ‘living apart together’ has increased by 40 per cent in the past decade. Famously, they include the actress Helena Bonham Carter and her director husband Tim Burton, who live in adjacent London homes.

    Research suggests young couples live apart because they don’t want to sacrifice their independence, while those who are older have accumulated too many possessions to fit in one property.

    But I think there are myriad reasons why living apart appeals to so many. There are women who have worked hard and don’t want to risk losing their savings when an ill-judged cohabitation goes wrong, and men who value their independence — and vice versa.

    I know several couples who live apart and prefer it that way. This especially applies to those who have got together later in life, when each person is more likely to be set in their ways and less willing to adapt.

    They’re surrounded by their own stuff with no room for anyone else’s. Some have emerged from a long marriage and are scared to commit or just reluctant to return to domesticity. Others have grandchildren nearby and don’t want to uproot themselves.

    They’ve done the marriage thing; falling in love again recaptures something of their carefree youth, so why not keep it carefree?

    Having two homes is also an escape valve. One couple I know, who have been together for seven years, work from home and divide their time between her flat in London and his cottage in Hastings, East Sussex. Sometimes they go together, sometimes separately.

    ‘What’s vital is that we each have our own space and know it’s there if we need it,’ they say.
    I’m not scared of commitment or sharing my finances, but I’m terrified of domesticity. After Mel died, I did live with someone. My children had grown up, I was a free agent and my boyfriend needed somewhere to live.

    So I bought a house and we renovated it together — a passion killer if ever there was one. What began as a fine romance ended with us trailing round Homebase looking at bathroom fittings. Our love affair died of a slow puncture, in a cloud of plaster dust.

    I missed the thrill of impermanence that separate homes had brought to my relationship with Mel. When we were together, at a stroke I could have vanished from his life, leaving no trace. Unlike my next boyfriend, there were no rows about chores.

    In a two-home arrangement, you are a guest in the other person’s house and guests are more polite. Better still, you don’t have all those conversations about the guttering and bills and who’s phoning the plumber.

    Nor do you build up resentments about doing more than your fair share of the washing up. Domesticity is a relationship killer.

    People nowadays seem to move in together very quickly, but I think you should have a long, hard look before you jump into buying a bed together, because sharing a home changes a relationship.

    For a start, you no longer get to enjoy romantic arrivals and departures.

    When you don’t live together you always kiss when you’re reunited and you have lots of stored up news. You don’t take each other for granted. You dress up for each other rather than slobbing around in a tracksuit.

    After all, that tracksuit is waiting for you at home, when you can flop about, read trashy magazines, revert to your other self.

    You can see the friends your other half dislikes and do the things he doesn’t like doing. You can go to a gallery while he goes to the football; catch up with TV programmes you want to watch; and do stomach exercises without inflicting the sight on your lover.

    Independence is fun, especially when there’s a beloved waiting in the wings, and freedom makes you a more interesting person. Having separate lives brings fresh air into a relationship.

    A chap’s annoying habits are far less annoying when you know he’ll be gone tomorrow.

    I like missing someone and being missed; I like looking forward to seeing him again. I like getting emails and texts with lots of xxx’s.

    And, most importantly, I do believe we can’t expect another person to be everything to us. Even in the greatest love affair there are parts of you the other person doesn’t nourish.

    Living together places a huge burden on the other person to be lover, friend, entertainments manager, chef, domestic help, which is almost impossible and can lead to disappointment.
    If you don’t live together, you spend more time with other people and ease the pressure off your lover.

    So, I’m sure that the number of couples living apart will only increase in the future. After all, we’re living longer and likely to have several relationships rather than one long one.

    It doesn’t suit everyone, of course. Living apart is hardly possible if people have children together. It can also be more expensive to maintain two homes. But then it’s expensive to break up when you live in one property.

    Today, I’m involved with someone who lives in Wales. We’ve been together three years and see each other every weekend, splitting our time between his home and mine in London.

    And again it works. He’s never had a family, so why should he be interested in my two grandchildren?
    They’re my other love affair, deep and intense, and nothing to do with him.

    I can roll around on the floor playing with them without looking at my watch. And I like being myself sometimes, rather than half of a couple.

    All this might alter, however, as the years pass. I’m 64 and don’t want to become really old alone. At some point, no doubt, I’ll long to hunker down with someone, gnarled hand in gnarled hand.

    Sometimes that vision fills me with claustrophobia; just recently, however, it’s been starting to sound rather nice.

    Who knows what will happen ten years from now? With matters of the heart, you never can tell.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is that love, like life, never turns out quite as we planned.

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    Can confirm. Definitely true. For a while, as it's nothing more than a speedbump.

    Living apart extends the initial rosy phase of a relationship, the first ninety days. If you can spread 90 days of physically being together out over a period spanning a year, you're getting to know each other slower while at the same time cultivating feelings of longing. You're genuinely as happy to see your lover on the sixtieth day as on the third. And there's something to say for that. There are side-advantages too: if you see each other only twice a week, there will be five other days for completely different activities, such as hobbies. It's especially great if you're somewhat of an introvert needing your own space and me-time after mingling with others.

    The problem is that this phase ends too - and far worse is the impossibility of it leading to anything very serious and lasting - how will children ever figure into this setup? This is student dormroom romance. If you want children you can't do this (anymore).

    Still, it could be a good idea for 55+ year olds whom have already build their own lives and perhaps divorced people with children. And of course it's good for everyone at the beginning of any relationship.

    We must be aware though that such relationships are the product of dysfunctional gender relations and a broken world living in decadence. They're not a positive evolution.
    “As brothers and sisters we knew instinctively that if we were going to stand in darkness, best we stand in a darkness we had made ourselves.” - Douglas Coupland

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    Maybe this recipe works for people who like to have a lot of space or want to continue forever in the dating stage. However, that sounds to me like an illusion.

    I'm perfectly happy to live with my partner and it wouldn't make sense another way. I remember a time while we still lived separately, but we still practically moved in with each other. We often stayed the nights, had some spare clothes at each other's place, and so forth. So in the long run it made more sense to get a place together. Not to mention it's economically more viable. You can get a larger place and split the rent.

    Living together is, I think, a very good way to get to know each other, the true characters. You see each other as you are, the real persons, for example the person without makeup and fancy clothes on, without that aura of mystery/unknown. Sure, some people are afraid this could lead to monotony, but why live a lie? Why should your spouse not get to know you the same way your family does?

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    This article makes me think of the Duke of York and Fergie. They're officially divorced forever and yet together unofficially forever, after the drama of being forced to live apart while married.

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