Could You Get Into a Long-Distance Marriage?

I always envied my ex-mother-in-law, who has what I consider to be the perfect cohabitation arrangement with her boyfriend of 20+ years. He lives in the upstairs apartment, and she lives downstairs.

Feb 6, 2013 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

I love my boyfriend. I’d say we are blissfully happy like 70% of the time, which is saying a lot, considering we have lived together for almost three years. I think I’ve mentioned before that we spoon in bed and hold hands and tell each other we love each other every day, and he calls me Somerplum, even though I haven’t come up with a suitable nickname for him yet. (It’s OK, I have a lifetime to figure it out).

I know, we’re kind of gross, and I am not at all sorry about that.

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A couple of years ago at a wedding. (No, I don't know why Jeff makes that face.)

But even still, as much as I like to be near my dude, there are times I miss having my own space. My Own Space is a ghost I gave up long ago, first in 2000 when I started cohabitating with Seth, and then even more when I had Oliver. There is no privacy with a seven-year-old in the house -- no, not even in the bathroom. I can’t even poo in peace without the kiddo knocking on the door to ask me an “important” question, like how much marble money do I owe him, or can he have a juice box.

I always envied my ex-mother-in-law, who has what I consider to be the perfect cohabitation arrangement with her boyfriend of 20+ years -- they own an old Victorian house in Portland, Oregon, that was, at some point, divided into two apartments. They didn’t bother converting it back into a house. Instead, he lives in the upstairs apartment, and she lives downstairs. YES I AM SERIOUS. 

They each have their own living rooms, kitchens, dining areas, bathrooms, bedrooms,\ and guest rooms. They keep their own messes in their own places. They don’t have to argue about cleaning or who ate all the granola. When they want to, they can visit each other for meals or companionship or whatever else (whatever else = keeping it clean here, this is my son’s grandma we’re talking about).

And in fact, Seth and I used to joke about maybe buying a duplex one day and living similarly, but of course then we got divorced, so no duplex. Last year I took Jeff to Portland and we stayed with my ex-mother-in-law, and my up-until-then skeptical boyfriend got a little gleam in his eye when he saw her living arrangement firsthand. It really is brilliant.

So I think separate (but close) living spaces are great. What I don’t know if I could handle is living in different cities, or even different countries,  like this couple in the Daily Mail -- she lives in the UK and he lives in the US. They are married, and they visit each other when they can. But mostly they have a marriage over Skype.

I think their arrangement probably works really well because they are not raising children together. In my experience, while absence may make the heart grow fonder, it can also cause it to fester with resentment, particularly where raising kids is concerned.

When Seth and I were together, I often felt resentful that he was out of town on business trips, or taking classes, or spending a lot of time at home writing in the evenings (there’s a reason we’re called “writing widows,” you know).

Now, I’m not saying this because I still feel that resentment -- I don’t, I released that a long time ago and Seth and I made our peace. I’m saying it because not having him around to help with the childcare started to really, really suck, big time.

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And just this past year at another wedding.

And this is where I have to stop and give props to military spouses, like my friend from high school whose husband was deployed just weeks before the birth of their third child. Not only that, it was something like his fourth deployment. Honestly, I don’t know how military spouses don’t lose their freaking minds. Not only with the stress of raising children, if there are children involved, but also with the heartache of being that far away from the person they love.

I don’t know if I could be that strong. While I may be the kind of person who could handle some sort of shared-but-separate living arrangement, I don’t know if I’m built for the kind of relationship where I don’t get to spoon in bed every night, or can hug my significant other at the end of a rough day.

How about you -- do you need to be near your boo all the time, or do you like to have a little distance? Do you cohabitate, and do you miss your own space? Does your S.O. live far away? How do you manage it?

Somer is on Twitter: @somersherwood