Conversations with friends and acquaintances usually start with the assumption that we are married. No. Oh, okay.
Then the person asking assumes we live together. No. Oh, so you must be a new couple then?
Most people are too polite or too shy to fish any further. But, at least in our suburban corner of west Florida, we find very few people who can wrap their heads around a long-term couple not living together.
So why don’t we? We are not overly religious. We don’t have an open relationship. And while the hardest part of our lives is the expense of living in two households and the lonely nights, we decided that living apart is best for our kids. My man’s daughter is a tween and lives most of the time with her mother. My son has a dad, and he made it clear long ago that he does not want another.
So my man and I have put a Venn diagram of a life together. Our kids, both only children, have the love-hate relationship of siblings without having to share a bathroom.
The four of us eat together on weekends and play charades on Saturday nights. My man comes over several times a week. We finish each other’s sentences and keep joint photo albums. As 50-somethings, we share the bond of raising teenagers when most of our friends are becoming grandparents.
I won’t say I can’t imagine living any other way. I imagine it all the time. I have shed tears over it. Surely we should have the wisdom to know that our kids will be fine if they lived under the same roof.
But no. We don’t.
After serious talks and a few fights, we’ve come to this conclusion: When you’re a parent, you must be that first. For our kids, in our particular situation, it is better to live separately but parent together.
My girlfriends worry I am being strung along. They don’t quite believe me when I reassure them that my man and I are happy and committed to each other.
I would be lying if I said there was no upside to living apart. His junk drawer could be an ad for The Container Store; my junk drawer is the whole house. I can spend an afternoon on social media; he still uses a flip phone. He sleeps with the TV on; I don’t even own one. And I would be lying if I said I don’t enjoy getting ready for our dates alone: the razors, the tweezers, the illusion of mystery that keeps things fresh.
Of course, we crave those times when both children are staying with friends and we get to have adult sleepovers. As the kids get older, there are a lot more of those. There might be a time when I take out the wedding dress I got at a deep discount, when we will stand on the beach where we had our first date and, surrounded by our grown children, make it official. Or we may not.
But in a few days, on our eighth anniversary, he will pick me up from my house and we will have a seafood dinner at the little bistro where we celebrate every year. We will toast the fact that each love finds its own way home.