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Saturday, February 2, 2013

SL Letter of the Day: Independent But In Love

Posted by on Sat, Feb 2, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Originally published April 16, 2009:

I am a 30-year-old female with a live-in boyfriend. While we're not without our problems, the relationship is wonderful. My only big issue is that I don't enjoy cohabitation. Before living with my boyfriend, I lived in a studio apartment, my little castle, and I relished having my own space. I would love to go back to us each having our own domicile, but I am afraid of losing him. The thought has been met with such criticism by my friends that it makes me wonder. Is it unusual to want your own space?

Independent But In Love

My response after the jump...

I know a nice, loving couple—married, straight, with kids—who each have an apartment in the same building. The kids' rooms are in mom's; the meals are prepared and eaten at dad's. They decided to live like this because, like you, they both liked having their own spaces.

You can do it, too, IBIL. Stop worrying about what other people think and start being honest with your boyfriend about your preferred living arrangement.


Comments (50) RSS

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Packeteer 1
I think the real answer is to just answer the question she asked. Yes, it is unusual to want your own space? So what?
Posted by Packeteer on February 2, 2013 at 10:47 AM · Report this
After 15 years of generally wonderful marriage (yes there were a couple pretty rough patches that lasted a few months each, but in general the marriage has been really successful) I have often thought that this solution would be a great solution. Go forward with the idea, and I hope you man is loving, wonderful and sees the postives for him as well.
Posted by NorwegianCanuck on February 2, 2013 at 10:49 AM · Report this
I remember that letter! At the time, I thought that would be the perfect solution for my then-bf and me.
Posted by migrationist on February 2, 2013 at 10:52 AM · Report this
I went from having a great relationship. to living together, which was fine, there weren't fights, but everything just changed. We broke up. got our own places, and the relationship snapped back to its previous state of being great.

Never actually figured out what about living together changed it, but it did.
Posted by cpt. tim on February 2, 2013 at 10:58 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 5
"Stop worrying about what other people think" is the best advice in most any circumstance.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on February 2, 2013 at 11:10 AM · Report this
ScienceNerd 6
I tried this once. He refused and said I was taking a step back in the relationship. We ended up breaking up.
Posted by ScienceNerd on February 2, 2013 at 11:26 AM · Report this
Foghorn Leghorn 7
Just get a place big enough for you each to have your own space. I have my office, my wife has her separate office, and we make sure never to comment on the state of each others' spaces.
Posted by Foghorn Leghorn on February 2, 2013 at 11:31 AM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 8
I've known a couple of couples that tried this. They both ended up breaking up, but I'm pretty sure they would have anyway. After all, most couples do.

Cohabitation is a lot harder than most (young) people appreciate going in.
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on February 2, 2013 at 11:34 AM · Report this
Obviously living on your own is much easier than living with somebody. However, I think it's crazy to pay for two rents. Surely it would be better to get a house and literally have your own space. With some effort, you could make that work.

PS. I used to think this way however I have changed my mind. He drives me crazy at times, but he can be wonderful as well.
Posted by JJinAus on February 2, 2013 at 11:52 AM · Report this
Robert B Parker and his wife Joan, Helena Bonham-Carter and Tim Burton, my husband's brother Bob and his wife Jude. Go for it, IBIL. If he freaks out at you just bringing the subject up, that will tell you something you really need to know about his openness and flexibility, two attributes that have a lot more to do with the success of your relationship than where you live.
Posted by agony on February 2, 2013 at 11:56 AM · Report this
T 12
Moving in together killed what was otherwise a healthy, loving relationship for me. I couldn't get away from her enough. And we had an apartment that was plenty big for the two of us, she just gradually took it over with her messyness. She hogged the bed. She never did dishes. Drove me insane. I don't know if we would have lasted living apart, but it certainly didn't work living together.
Posted by T on February 2, 2013 at 12:09 PM · Report this
Jaymz 13
Assuming this remains a monogamous relationship, I say give it a try, but perhaps have an agreed schedule of regular, no-cancel "sleep-overs" at each place and regular, no-cancel "alone time" - like locked in stone child visitations - so each has together-all-night time to look forward to. Obviously, there would be other more spontaneous nights together as well.

I also would suggest at least some personal items of each at each place.

This many sound silly and childish, but I actually think it would work, particularly for older people who have become very comfortable living alone but still want a special, monogamous relationship.
Posted by Jaymz on February 2, 2013 at 12:18 PM · Report this
Jaymz 14
PS - living together is not necessarily the next step in a relationship. Many happy couples include one partner who regularly travels, for example, and being apart does not separate them. Why not "travel regularly" to your own place?
Posted by Jaymz on February 2, 2013 at 12:22 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 15
The LW is probably a pretty strong introvert. Introverts often feel like they have to be "on" all the time when they are around other people, and sometime just need private alone time to decompress. If you live with a partner 24/7, then finding that alone time can be a real challenge. Having a separate apartment seems like a perfectly workable solution, if it doesn't make the BF all insecure or jealous. An alternative might be a separate room in a house or large apartment that he agrees not to disturb you in when you need your alone time.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on February 2, 2013 at 12:35 PM · Report this
Here's a thought, Dan... if you're going to go into the way-back machine and run old columns (that all of your die-hard fans have already read a zillion times), how 'bout pulling something out that predates the posted archives???
Posted by transient on February 2, 2013 at 12:40 PM · Report this
very bad homo 17
I know a couple that has been together 19 years and they have never lived together. They're a few blocks away from each other, and spend weekends together, so it works.
At the very least, couples need to get a 2 bedroom place so you can each have a space to relax, close the door, and read a book or watch a movie by yourself when you need the space. When the BF and I move in together (some day), I will definitely have my own space. Some people just need their alone time, and there's nothing weird about that.
Posted by very bad homo on February 2, 2013 at 12:41 PM · Report this
This is my dream: side-by-side studio apartments. Or adjoining estates, but in my case the former is more likely. My last relationship probably would still be going if we didn't have to live together. But he never would have gone for separate spaces--he didn't even like it when we stayed in a hotel and I wanted to sleep in my own bed--which goes to show that the relationship was doomed.
Posted by Prettybetsy on February 2, 2013 at 1:00 PM · Report this
I would LOVE to be able to afford to do this! go for it! Each of you having your own space makes things so much easier!
Posted by abrock_ca on February 2, 2013 at 1:08 PM · Report this

On the one hand, I tend to think a couple that can't live together have no (long term) future - a few months, a few yrs, at best. When you connect and click in all the right/critical areas but absolutely can't tolerate living with them? Done. Especially if you'd thought of marriage in future and/or kids. Unless you have Tim Burton's money, or at least a very decent salary X2, it's way expensive to live on yer own (particularly if you aren't splitting heat/utils.)

On the other hand ... living together can be the death knell of an otherwise good and happy relationship because of good ol' familiarity breeding contempt/roomate-type annoyances that, unless one or both offenders change their ways, can work to ultimately undermine the whole thing.

So either way, you're fucked.

Posted by Velvetbabe on February 2, 2013 at 1:13 PM · Report this
Ballard Pimp 21
Nobody has quoted Kate Hepburn...
Posted by Ballard Pimp on February 2, 2013 at 1:26 PM · Report this
I WONDERED if someone would say that: She said the best way was to have a guy live next door, so he is there when you want him, but not always underfoot! (Do I have it right?)
Posted by BG on February 2, 2013 at 1:34 PM · Report this
The late David Rees wrote quite a bit in both his fiction and his non-fiction of his preference for such a living arrangement.

[I know a nice, loving couple—married, straight, with kids—who each have an apartment in the same building.]

That sentence really could have been better arranged. It comes off as way too reassuring.
Posted by vennominon on February 2, 2013 at 2:17 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 24
Pulp author Robert B. Parker and his wife lived in separate parts of a large house for 6 days a week, and met once a week for dinner. They were married 54 years until his death.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on February 2, 2013 at 2:17 PM · Report this
Some friends of mine have been married for 40 years, but have slept in separate bedrooms for nearly all of that time. Apparently he snores SO loudly, nothing else could be done.

They have six kids. So it doesn't seem to have hurt their intimacy level overall.
Posted by Pope Buck I on February 2, 2013 at 2:17 PM · Report this
11 plus years my sweetie and I have been in love and not living together. We like our own space, we like being in each others' spaces, but no need to 24/7 it. The myth of cohabitation = True Love is parallel to the Monogamy = True Love. Whatever works for you and the person you love is love.
Posted by Chicago Fan on February 2, 2013 at 2:18 PM · Report this
In addition, if he really, really wants to live together, you guys probably aren't right for each other anyway. I'm the kind of person who wants to live with and sleep with my partner every night, and if my partner didn't want that, it probably wouldn't work out. Not because there's anything wrong with either approach, but because they'd feel unhappy and stifled living the way I want and I'd feel rejected and lonely living the way they want.
Posted by alguna_rubia on February 2, 2013 at 3:24 PM · Report this
LaSargenta 28
Loverman and I (2 yrs now) have our own places in two seperate states (but work a block and a half away from each other) and have agreed that if we ever "move in together" we are getting a duplex. Different aesthetics. He likes having a TV, I don't own one. If I wake in the wee hours, I like to get up and read or work, he doesn't. Lots of things. But, it seems to be working so far. That's all we can hope for.
Posted by LaSargenta on February 2, 2013 at 5:26 PM · Report this
Lissa 29
My husband and I have separate homes. We call it the Omar Sharif Model of marriage. Works for us. Makes dates with our other significant others logistically easier too.
Posted by Lissa on February 2, 2013 at 5:55 PM · Report this
sirkowski 30
Couples should live together. She'll contribute to raising the housing costs with her bourgeois sense of entitlement. Just get your own room.
Posted by sirkowski on February 2, 2013 at 6:12 PM · Report this
If Charles reads all these posts about separate apartments or couples having their own spaces in the same house, his head will explode. He thinks all couples should be sharing studio apartments of no more than 400 square feet.
Posted by Clayton on February 2, 2013 at 7:45 PM · Report this
Lissa 32
Oh no. Charles would need more room that 400 square feet for his ego surely?
Posted by Lissa on February 2, 2013 at 8:20 PM · Report this
bugwitch 33
This is one of the problems I foresee if I ever meet someone worth dating. I've been single and living alone for so long that I cannot imagine living in a small space having to sleep next to someone every night. It's just so stifling to me. But first, I have to meet someone who is attractive, intelligent, and sane before anything else would even become a point of discussion. So far, no luck.
Posted by bugwitch on February 2, 2013 at 8:56 PM · Report this
"Live Close By, Visit Often".…
Posted by cowboyinbrla on February 2, 2013 at 11:35 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 35
My ex-wife suggested this approximately one week before jumping into bed with the sad-sack who was teaching her creative writing class at the local community college. Good times. My only objections were financial and "what exactly does this mean?"
I'm not saying it's inherently a bad idea ... just sharing my data point.
Posted by aureolaborealis on February 2, 2013 at 11:39 PM · Report this
My partner of 3.5 years has just bought the other side of the duplex I own. This could not be a more perfect arrangement.
Posted by Fishface on February 3, 2013 at 5:41 AM · Report this
Megaera 37
I and my partner of 22 years lived separately for the first 8 years of our relationship. We spent most of our time in each other's space - weeks at a time, sometimes - but always each knew we had our own home to go to.

Neither of us ever felt entitled to criticise the other's living arrangements, whether it be housekeeping skills, staying up late, having noisy parties etc. because we didn't have to be there or put up with it if we didn't want to.

At any point, either of us could say: 'I need some headspace: I'll come back tomorrow,' and go home for a while, and the other would understand. We had a set arrangement that we would always spend Saturday afternoon and evening together, whether quietly at home together, or going out.

This all made it a lot easier when we needed to move in together for financial reasons. We were already pretty accustomed to living in each other's space, and dealing with each other's ways of doing things. Which is not to say that there were no tensions - of course there were - but it was pretty painless on the whole.
Posted by Megaera on February 3, 2013 at 6:15 AM · Report this
James6 38
Separate bedrooms. Done.
Posted by James6 on February 3, 2013 at 7:08 AM · Report this
Alanmt 39
@11 It will tell you no more about his openness and flexibility than about hers, and perhaps less. It is perfectly reasonable to want and expect to live with one's spouse or longterm bf/gf.

Incompatibility does not always require one to make judgments on character or morality or fault. Sometimes people are just incompatible as a matter of style or personality.
Posted by Alanmt on February 3, 2013 at 8:07 AM · Report this
People should think more about retirement. In our increasingly "you're on your own" society, separate residences are a luxury that people on the lower end of the income scale should think very carefully about avoiding.

Two can live together more cheaply than two living apart. A 1BR is less than double two studios in most cities. Rent can be combined for a mortgage -- if you're together more than 5 years, building net equity (even if you wind up not being together forever).

Even if they both own already, in many parts of the country, a single large property appreciates faster than two smaller properties and in most areas substantially lower carrying costs that two residences (in NYC for instance, price per square foot goes *up* as apartment square footage increases; in suburban and rural markets, two houses means two roofs to maintain, two hot water heaters, ...).

A LTR / partnership can have financial benefits as well as emotional ones. LW was 30 living in a studio apt. -- maybe by choice, but probably she was not at the income level where she would never have to worry about retirement, nor at an income level where the savings of coupled living would be trivial.

Some people just aren't cut out for coupled living, and happiness is important -- my point is that future financial welfare is also one important piece of one's well being.
Posted by delta35 on February 3, 2013 at 8:09 AM · Report this
Seems like living apart would make it a little too easy to avoid communication and sex.
Posted by Get Real on February 3, 2013 at 8:30 AM · Report this
@ 41 - If you need to be forced into communicating and having sex by living together, seems to me that your relationship is doomed anyway.
Posted by Ricardo on February 3, 2013 at 10:27 AM · Report this
We live together and enjoy it, but I travel frequently for work (and he's not allowed to join me until the work is either over or almost over, depending on how intense the project is) and we both have regular times we spend doing our own thing, as well as spontaneous evenings we spend alone. I think he'd drive me crazy if I didn't have some time to myself. We don't have a ton of space right now, but have discussed what we want in a house (we're 2-5 years off of that), and two office spaces or a separate den and living room keeps coming up. We don't have any issues now, but I think both of us are thinking that buying a house is going to increase our expenses, and neither of us are likely to make substantially more money anytime soon (the only upward mobility either of us have at work right now would be into management, and neither of us are interested in that), so I think we're both working on the assumption that we'd be dining out and otherwise going out less, both separately and together, when that happens.

People need their space. Some a little, some a lot. I don't think you're "doomed" if you want some private space. How to get that in a balanced way that makes you both happy and doesn't strain your finances can be difficult to figure out.
Posted by Ms. D on February 3, 2013 at 12:50 PM · Report this
First world problems
Posted by Angrybeaver on February 4, 2013 at 4:26 AM · Report this
smajor82 46
@45 - Do you really think people in 3rd world nations don't have relationship questions or issues with social norms? It's hard to read your comment and not wonder if your image of these people lacks some depth. It's also hard to not to infer (maybe I'm off base here) that there is some shaming going on. As if the presence of people with 'serious' problems means that everyone else needs to keep their 'trivial' problems to themselves, and in the process become mentally unhealthy.

Posted by smajor82 on February 4, 2013 at 6:17 AM · Report this
@46 it's hard to imagine you have problems.
Posted by Angrybeaver on February 4, 2013 at 6:42 AM · Report this
I give most of the credit for my 15-year marriage to the rambling house that I bought us 3 months after we got together. We have separate bed/bath/office suites. We're both severe introverts, there's no way it could work at closer quarters.
Yes it's first world problems, but so it is: if being married ever means sharing a bedroom, I'll be single the next month.
Posted by Moggadeet on February 4, 2013 at 3:38 PM · Report this
Lissa 49
@45 &47: Perhaps you would be less angry if you and your spouse had separate beaver dams to which to withdraw when their interminable twig chewing gets to be Just. Too. MUCH!!!

Many the wildlife marriage has been saved by separate burrows. True fact.
Posted by Lissa on February 4, 2013 at 6:32 PM · Report this
Neptune 50
I remember this letter. It was one that really opened my eyes. It honestly changed the way I think about future relationships. Separate apartments would probably not be my ideal setup, but after reading this and thinking about it, I realized how much I love the idea of separate bedrooms. I strongly dislike sharing a bed. I like to sleep diagonal! Since no one is reading this far, I will also mention that my ex acted all shocked and pouty when I suggested that we could bring both of our beds if we moved in together. (So glad we didn't!)
Posted by Neptune on February 4, 2013 at 10:06 PM · Report this
@49 Angry Beaver does not like laughing. Please don't let it happen again.
Posted by Angrybeaver on February 5, 2013 at 1:51 PM · Report this
Lissa 52
I beg your pardon. I understand that a the civil engineer of the forest must take things seriously.
Posted by Lissa on February 5, 2013 at 8:48 PM · Report this

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