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damage control

The question

I posted a dating profile 18 months ago stating that I wanted a Living Apart Together (LAT) relationship – deep and long term, just not under the same roof. I love having my own place, which I’ve spent years making just the way I want it, and I’m an introvert who needs space to recharge.

I met a fabulous woman who said she accepted my preference – and understood it because her own father, after divorcing, had a wonderful LAT relationship for a decade before his partner died. My partner and I spend two to four days at a time together at her place or mine – then a few days on our own, while calling, texting and e-mailing frequently. We’re incredibly compatible and crazy about each other. I’d love to marry her and grow old together (we’re in our 50s), but I still prefer having my own place. She’d prefer to share a place eventually, but says she understands I need my own place, and doesn’t want to lose me over this difference. Am I fooling myself to think we can keep sharing love but not real estate?

The answer

Excellent question and let me answer with a question of my own: Why not?

Far be it for me to tell someone to fix what ain’t broke. If living apart works for you, God bless!

I’ve never been a fan of the long-distance relationship, but on the other hand I`ve also always said words to the effect of “I have no specific statistics but intuition tells me more marital-type relationships founder on the logistics of cohabitation than any other single cause.”

(Except maybe exhaustion when you have little kids: that’s a strong contender for the number 1 spot.)

I hope that isn’t too wordy and everyone gets what I’m saying.

Basically: It’s hard to live with people and their annoying little habits and ways.

Do I exempt myself? Hell no! My wife Pam has what I call Pam’s Protocols and I’m constantly falling afoul of them. The one which drives her craziest is: ice-cube tray with only one cube in tray, in freezer, all the other ice-cube holes empty.

(Odd sidebar: She’s never more beautiful than when furious with me. I’ve often wondered: What’s going on there, evolutionarily?)

But there’s also sitting in chair in such a way as to press it against the wall; sitting on couch in such a way as to squish cushions flat; pulling sheets away from her when we’re sleeping (can’t really see her in the dark, but assume she’s more angrily beautiful than ever at these moments); and on and on it goes.

It’s lucky she finds me vaguely amusing (her slightly sexist/heteronormative aphorism for relationship longevity: “He must continue to amuse her; she must continue to arouse him”) or else she’d be flipping through the Yellow Pages looking under “Lawyers—Divorce” and I’d wind up in a fleabag with a neon sign outside with burnt-out letter “H-O-T-zzt-L”, sipping a mickey of whisky as tears stream down my cheeks and I stare at photos of wife and kids as I sit on the cheap, threadbare bedspread of my room...

“Now what the hell,” you may be asking yourself, with total justification, “is this columnist talking about?”

Basically: Cohabitation is tough, and if you can honestly work it out so you can have a romantic relationship that does not involve cohabitation, far be it from me to advise you in the opposite direction.

Bottom line: What you call LAT could indeed work extremely well.

(Better than the converse, which I’m seeing more and more of lately, perhaps partly because of crazy real-estate prices: “We’ve split up but we still are under the same roof.” The acronym for that being, uh, SBUSR: Separate But Under Same Roof. Anyway: Not a fan. It just seems like keeping an open wound.)

The only thing I’ll say about it is if she wants to live together and you don’t, truly your biggest problem could reside there. Perhaps if you want long-term happiness you should think about swallowing your reservations about cohabitation and see if you can try to handle it – out of love for her. I will say nothing makes me happier than if, let’s say, in the middle of a nightmare I wake up in a cold sweat and reach over and there’s the shapely form of my wife. Heaven on earth, to me! Worth whatever friction cohabitation might cause.

Failing that, well, continue to pursue your part-time arrangement.

In other words: “Have your cake and eat it too.” Which has been mankind’s ambition since the inception of mankind!

Or at least since the invention of cake!

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