No wonder so many of our parents and grandparents had separate beds. Some of them had separate rooms. For all their “traditionalism”, they had some good ideas about how to keep relationships balanced through the manipulation of distance–ideas that some consider to be progressive nowadays.
There is truly something to be said for the “man cave” and the “she shed” where he or she can escape the confines of unrealistic marital expectations for a head-clearing spell… and libations.
Kerry Bradshaw kept her own apartment in Sex and the City 2 where she could hunker down and work on her writing if she was in need of a short retreat. I always thought that was the shit. I just hated the way she got all stupid when Big suggested they make taking “breaks” a regular occurrence. That might have actually kept her from getting so bored and annoyed with him so quickly.
But she had fallen for the same bad idea that most of us seem to have about love and marriage— that love equals proximity, and that if you love someone you have to be grafted to their hip, close enough to watch their armpit hair grow during every waking free second of your life.
I’m exaggerating, but not much.
In a 2007 NBC News article written by Judith Newman, she claims that in 2006 (according to US Census data) there were about 3.6 million married couples out there who didn’t live together. Now, of course, some of those couples were, for all intents and purposes, apart but just never did the legal untying. But there are many others for whom distance is a helpful, even vital element in maintaining their relationships.
It’s not a new concept. She includes Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera (artists), Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir (philosophers), and herself and her husband to the lot of married couples living happily apart. I’ll also throw in Grace Jones and Jean Paul Goude who shared a child but were smart enough (in their case) to live apart.
I’m sure this idea sets many people’s insecurities alight. The first thing that comes to people’s minds is that the distance would tempt a person to cheat or that it could erode intimacy. Because of course, people who are living right up under each other’s noses never cheat.
Have you checked out the numbers lately? As far as I know that divorce rate applies just as much to couples who have lived together. And intimacy? Please. This idea of the sexless marriage is a cultural norm. There’s a reason some guys treat weddings as if they’re on par with funerals.
Judith says it best:
“The notion that two people can live apart and still be in a traditional marriage, neither celibate nor throwing key parties, seems to make folks’ head explode. To which I can only reply, in my own head, ‘That’s logical. We have separate places, so we must never have sex. Because as everyone knows, the thing that makes for a hot sex life is proximity.’ It’s not as if most people feel more intimate when they share a space.
“…If you live apart from someone and trust him, you have intimacy without that incestuous feeling that comes from too much information, which can lead couples to stop having sex.
“…To us, living together in the same physical space has nothing to do with living in the same emotional space. In my more hippie-granola moments, I like to think that there is a certain purity to our arrangement. I am married simply because I happen to love the guy.
“…Simply put, we don’t live well together. Does that mean we can’t love each other or the kids? So far, the children don’t seem to think much about it, especially because Dad is always around for dinner and to tuck them in. They talk happily about their uptown and downtown houses.
“…We do find each other essential; it’s just that, like many couples, we find each other deeply annoying, too. The only difference with us is that sometimes we can breathe a deep sigh of relief at the end of the day and say: I love you, honey; now get the hell out of here!”