IT HAPPENED TO ME: Living Separately Saved Our Marriage
I remember reading an article when I was younger about the increasing number of married couples living in separate homes/apartments. Aside from being a huge waste of money, I judged the amount of love those couples had for one another. But then I grew up to become one of those couples and my opinion completely changed.
My husband and I had been dating for three years and living together for two-and-a-half before he proposed. In fact, we were so comfortable with our future together that the proposal was a complete non-event. He asked “So, do you want to, maybe, marry me?” and I said yes. Then we went to bed because nothing had really changed -– we'd already made the commitment to one another. Now all we were going to do was sign a piece of paper and plan a party.
In three years of dating we had never truly yelled at one another. The majority of our “fights” consisted of one of us sitting the other down and calmly explaining why it wasn't OK to leave a wet towel on the other person's pillow after a shower (apparently there are towel racks for that sort of thing), or why a comment in front of the other person's parents was entirely inappropriate (in general, penis jokes should be left out of family conversations).
Our voices stayed level, we hugged at the end of the discussion and then we'd change our behavior for the other person's benefit.
Moving in together was just as simple. Besides a slight disagreement over one person's hideous silverware, living together required no adjustment for us. Basically, we were a TV couple; nothing bad ever seemed to happen and if it did we resolved the problem by the end of the episode.
That all changed when we started to plan a wedding.
The first few months of planning were perfect. We both wanted something simple and family oriented. I liked saving money and he liked low-key, making us a wedding-planning match made in heaven.
Until the last month.
All of a sudden my husband-to-be turned into a mute, uncooperative sea cucumber. I would ask him for something simple like an email address for one of his friends and in return I'd get a blank stare. Which, in turn, made me act like a crazy person. I would shout, and scream and threaten to stab him in his sleep
We devolved to the point that I yelled at him on our wedding day and he spent most of the night ignoring me. In short, our wedding was the antithesis of our previous relationship.
As soon as we got back from our honeymoon, I took off to my hometown in the Midwest. My mom was starting a business and my family was moving one of my older relatives to a new apartment so I headed back to help. The original plan was for me and my husband to move together so he could experience the town I grew up in.
However, his office denied him work-remotely privileges at the last minute. When he told me he couldn't come, it was just another thing that made me want to karate chop him in the throat. In hindsight, being forced to live apart for those six months was the best thing that could have happened to us.
I found an apartment for myself in my hometown and my husband got to spread out in our tiny Manhattan one bedroom. I threw myself unapologetically into work, where I find myself most content, while he had the chance to live completely on his own for the first time in his life and procrastinate as much as he wanted. We loved every second of it. After the stress of wedding planning, it was as if we both got our own, wonderful honeymoons.
Everything was fabulous.
Until something strange happened. I slowly started to miss my husband. Sure, he came to visit me every few weekends, but day-to-day I was alone. The frustration of our wedding slowly began to fade, and I gradually became sane again. When we spoke on the phone, I wasn't constantly insulting him and he magically stopped zoning out in the middle of conversations. We reverted back to ourselves.
The months apart allowed me to evaluate what had gone wrong and let go of my anger. I understand now that my husband was slowly adjusting to the idea of legal marriage. While we were comfortable with the commitment, the paper signing made him think about how much younger he was getting married than he had ever planned before. He procrastinated with his guest list because he needed a little more time to accept the event as a whole.
On a much shallower level, he was the worst person in the world to ask to keep a deadline. Some people are great at working quickly, he is not. But that doesn't mean I can't love him, it just means that I need to avoid planning another wedding with him. Thankfully, most couples only do that once.
I also understand that I allowed my perception of his behavior to make me psychotically irrational. At no point in one's life should a person catch herself screaming at the top of her lungs, in public, about what a terrible human being her significant other is for being 1.5 minutes late to dinner. It took me three months of living alone to realize that.
It took another three months to fully let go of the damage that had been done to our relationship and get back to a place of unadulterated love.
So when the six months was up, I moved back in with my husband with a fresh perspective. I was more in love with him than the day we met, not only because we are naturally comfortable with one another, but because we'd been to a bad place and learned from it.
We've become that sickeningly happy couple once more. It turns out the saying is true, absence does make the heart grow fonder. And the forgiveness easier. And the mind more rational.