The art of living apart

There is no such thing as “the perfect plan;” there’s always a glitch.

The glitch in our master plan of moving to the country is that is my husband and I will be living apart. He will be spending a week at a time away from us to continue working in the city, returning to stay with us for a few days and then off he’ll go again. And this cycle will repeat, so long as he works in the city and our home is in the country.

I’m having a bit of trouble wrapping my head around this arrangement. Two years of watching his tail lights wind up the driveway and disappear for yet another week apart makes me want to throw up the bottle of wine I just guzzled thinking about it. As sad as this seems, it’s actually not as uncommon an arrangement as I thought. I have done a bit of research on the subject and it turns out that one in 12 Canadians “live apart together,” according to Statistics Canada. Although these “LAT” arrangements are most common for people between the age of 20 to 29, 44 per cent of people in dual-home relationships are age 30 or over, with 14 per cent in their forties and 11 per cent over fifty.

That’s a lot of couples living apart! The reasons behind these arrangements vary. School, work, finances, religion, immigration, convenience, severe bitterness…all of these things have presented as valid reasons for couples to choose this lifestyle. In fact, looking back through history, this has more often been the case. Men would leave their families to go off to battle for months or years at a time.

My big question is, how do we make this work in our marriage?

There are many blogs out there listing the benefits of LAT. It would seem despite being apart so much, the old adage that “distance makes the heart grow fonder” actually holds true. When couples are apart for long stretches, their together-time is more special. We all know what it feels like to be reunited with your loved ones after a long trip: it’s exciting to see each other again and catch up. Your time together becomes more quality focused. And let’s get right to it… it certainly can’t hurt when it comes to the bedroom!

Scott Haltzman, MD, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University and author of The Secrets of Happy Families, says there’s good evidence that a LAT can actually increase your sexual attraction to each other. Doctor Haltzman was recently quoted this way by Carrie Sloan of elle.com: “Fifteen years ago, experts in the field of sex therapy used to say that the best sex was among the people who were the most intimate – who knew all of the warts. But there’s been a pendulum shift in our thinking. We now know that one of the things that improves sexual attractiveness is not always being in the presence of another person”

Bring. It. On!

According to a 2013 post on aol.com by Krisanne Alcatra, the chances of your marriage surviving this type of separation has a lot to do with how strong your foundation is.

“Though Sharon Gilchrest, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage, thinks that LAT relationships are becoming more commonplace, she said that a lack of normal, intimate daily connections between partners could be detrimental to a marriage.

“By its nature, living more separately causes a couple to lose myriad connections that are essential for a healthy and happy marriage that lasts through all the ups and downs, that any couple will have over the long haul,” Gilchrest told AOL Real Estate. “I have worked with a variety of couples that ended up divorcing after some form of ‘separate living.'” But, she concedes she’s also worked with married couples who have the luxury of two homes and are able to co-exist harmoniously in those separate spaces — couples, she said, who would have most likely divorced had they lived under one roof.

Rob and I have our own reasons for this arrangement, and fortunately it won’t be forever – I hope! With a two-year plan in the forecast, there is light at the end of the tunnel for us. And to be perfectly honest, there are elements of this arrangement I find quite appealing! Let’s just say it the way it is, girls: How many of us have secretly fantasized about our husband moving into the garden shed on a permanent basis?

Sorry honey, but if I want to leave my underwear on the bathroom floor, I’m going to do it! And you can have all your things perfectly arranged and accounted for in your own space! (I say this lovingly of course).

Any marriage has its challenges. Only time will tell if we will successfully manoeuvre our way to the end of this two-year plan. Fortunately, our foundation is solid. And speaking of solid, I’m looking forward to putting Dr. Haltzman’s theory to the test. 😉

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Scary, but good

You never truly appreciate something until it’s gone. Or in my case, almost gone.

These past few weeks, I’ve become acutely aware of just how much I love the city, and all its eccentricities. Sitting on the stairs at the backdoor of my home, I have a full view into about seven yards. Of course, that means they can all see me too. This lack of privacy is strangely comforting. Over the years we have all learned each other’s ways, and the continuity of their habits and quirks means that all is well in the universe.

Before we bought the farm property, privacy and quiet were my top priorities. I was so preoccupied with these things that it made city dwelling quite challenging. We built tall fences, planted strategically, grumbled under our breath at loud and inconsiderate neighbours… It’s funny, but not all that surprising, that now that we have an abundance of privacy and quiet at the farm, my tolerance level has risen dramatically! In fact, I’m drinking it all in. Now, these noises are welcomed.

And the city is full of noise.

I love the sound of the birds chirping, mixed with the construction truck beeping in reverse somewhere up the street… as I sit here writing, my music can be faintly heard from within the house, competing with that of another neighbour. The summer always brings delights like this. I have a neighbour somewhere who, in the summer months, practises piano with the window wide open. It casts a spell in the early evening, and makes it feel like it’s the soundtrack to your life in some movie. The sound of the keys floating through the air has a romantic quality.

In the summer, impromptu backyard barbecues with smoke (of all sorts, if you know what I mean!) wafts over the fence lines, onto someone’s laundry hanging on the line…nobody seems to notice, or care. My Korean neighbours speaking in their native tongue keeps me guessing as to what they are saying, and the loud and very expressive conversations from my 86-year-old Italian born neighbour (who the kids call Nona) is very entertaining!  The laughter and excited chirping of friends getting together in backyards here and there echoes in bizarre juxtaposition of the many sirens screaming past, on their way to an emergency.

The city is alive!

I’ll miss the day to day chaos of life in the inner city. And I’ll be sad to leave my neighbours who, despite what country folk think, are extremely kind, caring and hospitable. My network of friends within my city neighbourhood is large and will be greatly missed. I will find a new community in the country, I’m sure. Even though I’ll have to drive somewhere to see them!

I keep reminding myself that change is good. Scary, but good. And I’ll try to appreciate what I have while I have it, instead of waiting until it’s gone.