For some couples, choosing to continue living apart after entering into a committed and monogamous relationship is a case of “once bitten, twice shy.” We may gaily rush into a relationship and all its associated paraphernalia when we’re in our twenties, but by the time we’ve reached mid-life we’re a little skeptical. We’ve come to learn that the dream we harboured many years ago of domestic bliss in a cozy cottage with a rose garden and postcard picture views, isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be. Once we’ve reached our forties, some of us have had more than our fair share of cozy cottages and have discovered that those rose gardens can bear very sharp thorns! But it’s not only our life experience and mild cynicism that puts us off wanting to play house when we fall for someone, couples who get together later in life bring with them a lot more literal and metaphorical baggage than their younger counterparts. Children are added to the relationship mix, and anyone who’s been through an acrimonious divorce or separation, and seen the traumatizing effect it can have on their children won’t want to see it happening again. A divorce or separation can cause enough emotional wreckage to put people off embarking on a relationship for a very long time. It can take years for a newly divorced or separated woman or man to rebuild their life, and the lives of their children, so much so that when they do meet someone they like and trust enough to want to date, they are wary about introducing him or her into the world they’ve re-built. For some people, continuing to live separately while in a relationship means that the safe haven they’ve constructed for themselves and their children isn’t disturbed and a sense of continuity is maintained. In addition, some people discover that the independence they find after years of living in the shadow of their former partner is something that they not only relish, but don’t want to relinquish. And whereas a younger person might see this attitude as a reflection of his or her partner’s lack of commitment, a more mature man or woman will be better able to understand the importance this has for their significant other and respect their wishes.
For others, living apart isn’t so much a choice but rather a necessity. Some people feel that they are so set in their ways that it would be almost impossible to share their living space with another. While they may think their partner is the most wonderful person in the world, some individuals know themselves well enough to accept that they would be driven mad by their partner’s habits. An excessively tidy woman may not be able to live with a man who leaves his newspapers and magazines strewn over the floor. (Individuals with relationship experience know that love is no guarantee they will be able to view all those little quirks their partner possesses as endearing!)
Mature couples may be more likely to accept the idea and see the advantages of living separately, while in a relationship. Some like being able to choose when to be together. And the time you do spend together isn’t taken up with griping at each other about untidy rooms or whose turn it is to take the garbage out.
Some relationship experts might argue that to live in such a way is lazy, and that couples aren’t prepared to put in the hard work that an intimate relationship requires; while friends and family members might comment that a relationship is lacking in some way, that if a couple were truly committed they would live together period. But the way in which intimate relationships are conducted has changed over the years. Couples no longer marry for life at the age of 20. And relationships, as well as people, are complex; there are no hard and fast rules as to what makes them work.