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Separated, whether you like it or not!

Separate house, separate rooms, separate states – would you choose to live like that or would your marriage survive it if you had to live that way? Believe it or not, between all the negatives and heartache by not being able to lie behind hubby’s back every night, there are a few advantages.

Separate houses

One of the new international lifestyle choices is separate houses. Research by the Oxford University and Leeds University have shown that more and more married couples (or couples that have been together long term) in the United States don’t live together in the same house – Namely LAT (Living Together Apart).

It’s said that in 2005, 2 million couples in the United Kingdom are living in different homes. “Fantastic! Tomorrow I am going to get my own place,” you think when hubby doesn’t put on the toothpaste lid for the millionth time or doesn’t throw his dirty socks in the wash and you wish you had your own peaceful oasis to escape to. But think nicely, before you make you decision. Financially, logistically, children and work can complicate the situation.

Famous couples who live apart

  • Sarah Jessica Parker (from Sex in the City) and Matthew Broderick stay in two different homes according to
  • Even though they were not legally married and only life partners for about 12 years, Mia Farrow and Woody Allen also lived in two different homes in Central Park, New York.
  • The same goes for Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton. They have been life partners since 2001, they have two children and two homes right next to each other in Hampstead, London.


Separate rooms

Barbara says on to Diane Mapes that her husband moved to another room after he hit her in the jaw one night while they were lying in bed and his arm got a spasm. She and her husband have been married for 22 years, but Barbara gets so little sleep as a result of his snoring and muscle spasms.

Diane writes in her article, we’re married, sleeping separately, that, according to an on-line poll, as many as 1 in 4 people regularly sleep in another room to get a good night’s rest. She also writes that the National Builders Association have since 1990 been getting many requests to build houses with 2 main bedrooms.

According to Sheri and Bob Stritof, regular contributors to web about marriage and married for 43 years, couples are prepared to make sacrifices early in the marriage when they begin to sleep in the same bed. After about 5 years all they want is a good night’s rest.

In Barbara’s case snoring led to separate rooms but lists many other reasons for separate bedrooms: disagreements about who will sleep on which side of the bed; different sleeping positions; the temperature of the room; spooning or not; the sheets texture; alarm clocks that go off at different times; rolling around in bed; teeth grinding; the amount of silence in the room; regular getting up throughout the night; the size and firmness of the bed; open or closed windows; children or pets that sleep in the bed with you; nightmares; sleep walking; the amount of pillows and blankets; sleep rituals that differ (sleep times); insomnia; and Spousal Arousal Syndrome (when you are regularly woken up by your spouse’s snoring).

You can most likely nod your head in agreement with a few of these problems. Before you run off to the shops to by curtains and bedding for Hubby’s new bedroom, first try to sort out the problems and stay in one bed (you don’t want to give up on spooning so quickly with the winters around the corner!) or weigh the pros and cons up first.

The Con’s of sleeping apart:

  • To sleep together brings emotional intimacy and peace. When you don’t share a bed you lose that.
  • Spontaneous sex is something of the past – to be woken up with soft kisses in the middle of the night is just not going to happen anymore.
  • Extra bedding costs money.
  • It’s not always so easy to let the children understand what is going on.

The advantages of sleeping separately:

  • A shortage of sleep can lead to heart attacks, diabetes, depression, sleepiness, mood swings and a lower sex drive. To solve all these problems and to function better throughout the day can make you consider separate bedrooms.
  • Sex gets another dimension. Some claim that it’s more special because you can surprise your partner, you can do it in different beds and you will appreciate sex more because you are not together in the same bed every night.
  • Habits before sleep time don’t bother anymore, for example: Hubby that lays watching television till midnight or you that can’t put the latest romance novel down.
  • When you then sleep in the same bed it’s because you want to not because you have to.

William F. Harley Jr., a clinical psychologist and marriage counsellor, warns that red lights start to flash in your marriage if you start to feel that you don’t want to spend time together anymore. “When I see a couple who want private time – they want to be alone, they want to have their own friends, they don’t want to feel as if they are joined at the hip – my question is immediately: “What is it about being together that bothers you so much?” He also says that sleeping together “is a very important part of being integrated together”.

If you and hubby battle to sleep because you don’t both want to spoon the same length of time or the one prefers more sheets then first try to reach a compromise suggests Sheri and Bob. If you are physically disturbing each other as you try to sleep then you must be realistic and consider this type of arrangement.

Separate States

On the other hand you might be one of those couples who don’t choose to live apart, but if you are forced and for you it’s unthinkable to choose to be apart.

Gisela and Divan have recently celebrated their third wedding anniversary. He’s a professional cricket player and she; even though she has qualified in communication science is attempting her B.Sc in food studies.

Divan’s career demands that he’s regularly away from home. “Divan and his team always leave on a Tuesday or Wednesday, depending where they are playing. They then play from Thursday to Saturday a three day game and Sunday a one-day game. Monday they come home. Sometimes they go away for two or three weeks away in a row. When they play in Bloemfontein (where we stay) then he’s here at least, but still spends the whole day on the field,” explains Gisela.

According to her it’s difficult to go from one extreme to the other because in the off season he’s home most of the time. “He sometimes gets into my hair because he’s away a lot or home all the time! It’s an adjustment to go from one extreme to the next. But it’s very nice to have him with me after he has been away so much,” she says.

When he then comes home, they normally go on a date and enjoy a romantic meal together to keep their marriage special. “It’s important never to neglect romance and to take enough trouble with each other and to make time to catch up on the things you’ve missed,” she believes.

In spite of the fact that she says a person gets used to being apart from each other, her heart still gets sore every time he has to go away. To make it easier, each one has clearly defined roles in the marriage and communication plays an important role. “The part that makes it easier is that we both have our own areas in the marriage, for example I make the decisions about which furniture goes where in the house and what food we are going to buy. He controls the finances and admin. So I don’t ask him about everything and can go on with things when he’s not there, but we always discuss the big decisions,” she says. We talk often on the phone and arrange things together “it’s easy to live past each other if you don’t make the effort”.

Even though a marriage like this is not sunshine and roses and the advantages are few, there are a few advantages with all the extra challenges.

“The disadvantage for me is that at times I have to be very independent and then at other times dependant. If things break in the home or things go wrong, I have to handle it myself. It’s then difficult for me when he comes home and he tells me what to do. Sometimes it feels as if I have to handle difficult things on my own and make big decisions on my own, because we may not phone them when they are on the field (from 8:00 to 19:00). Other times I have to stand back and let him take the lead.

“The advantages are that I get to build my own career and have my own news to tell him. It helps to stay busy, and then the time passes quicker. I also make many news friends. The cricket wives always visit together when the men are away and sometimes we sleep over at each other’s homes and have girl’s nights. So, I have the best of both worlds. Plus the cricket wives are always without men at the same time. We sometimes see each other a lot in three weeks and other times a lot in one week,” says Gisela.

With couples like Gisela and Divan, there are naturally also cases where Hubby lives in the cape and you live in Johannesburg because that is where your family is settled. This kind of marriage is described as a commute marriage.

Dr. Jannie Botha explains that this kind of lifestyle places extraordinary stress on a marriage. He further explains that couples don’t always know where this pressure comes from or how to handle it. There are several levels where this stress can be experienced. When this stress is handled incorrectly, it causes conflict and the cycle is repeated. If couples don’t learn how to cope with it, the cycle will repeat itself more often and with greater stress”.

Should you find yourself in this situation, it’s cardinally important that you make yourself aware of the few advantages (yes, there can be advantages!) and the many disadvantages of a marriage like this and you must be willing to work extra hard on your marriage.


  • Trust and your bond grow and become stronger.
  • Teamwork and communication also improves.
  • For the individual it can mean that your self-confidence, self-image, independence and personal achievements also get better.
  • You can focus more on your work, children and friends when your partner’s not home and then you have an excuse to focus more on your partner when he is home.


  • Although a relationship like this is motivated by better finances (a higher salary), it can also cost more – petrol money, telephone and internet costs to communicate, possibly two homes that have to be maintained and so forth.
  • There is also always the possibility of crying on a third party’s shoulder – make sure that your communication channels are open and that you use them!

This is how you survive a commute marriage:

  1. Talk! Often and continually!
  2. Define your roles in the marriage – Who is responsible for what; how do you divide the daily tasks and also crisis’s.
  3. Keep your finances simple – then it’s one less headache.
  4. Ensure that both of you have a good support system.
  5. Make friends and spend time together or join a club with something you enjoy doing.
  6. Be empathetic towards each other – understand each other’s needs and try as far as possible to meet them.
  7. Use the “me” time to the full so that you can spend quality time together when your partner is back.
  8. “Delegate” certain tasks – it may sound strange, but get a handyman or someone to help in the house to make these types of tasks less stressful.
  9. Technology must become your best friend. Talk with the help of Skype, send daily e-mails or SMS’s or write a web journal (blog) that your partner can read daily to stay up to date with what is happening at home.
  10. Stay positive (no matter how difficult)!

No matter how – whether you are in separate homes, rooms or states – it’s not always as easy as it looks. Yes, there are advantages, but make sure that you first make sure that your pros outweigh the cons before you let yourself into this dynamic that changes your marriage and home life!

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