In a recent article in Self magazine, Judith Newman describes her 14-year marriage, during which she and her husband have never lived together (although he does spend the night at her apartment three times a week or so, and they have twin sons). She cites some statistics from the US Census Bureau (2006) that 3.8 million married couples in this country don't live under the same roof, so apparently this couple's not as unique as one would think - it's officially known as "living apart together."
It's an interesting account, and it got me thinking:
For most people, keeping separate homes would be a much more costly arrangement, but due to peculiarities related to their living in New York City, this couple actually saves money living apart. Not that this is their main reason for doing so, but it's a factor.
But aside from practicality, Newman claims that the reason she and her husband live separately is that apart from their love for each other, they have nothing in common (emphasis mine). They have very different habits, interests, likes and dislikes. Their relationship takes the expression "I love you, but I just can't live with you" to a different level; most of the time, couples in that predicament just end up getting (often amicably) divorced. Given that, it's commendable that they've found a way to make this work, although she acknowledges that they probably fight at least as much as, and maybe more than, couples who cohabitate (married or not).
I think having "alone time" is very important for individuals, and that some time apart benefits every couple, but I have my doubts that large amounts of it are really good for a relationship. If you and your partner are lucky enough to have a big enough home to allow each of you a room (or at least a space) of your own, I think that's a great advantage - but spending the majority of your time there probably isn't one, as far as your partnership is concerned.
Also, having been in two marriages and through one divorce, I've really come to believe that - like it or not, and popular music notwithstanding - love is not all a couple needs, unfortunately. I believe that for a relationship to grow and last, a couple needs commonalities. Having shared interests and hobbies is a big plus, but more important are shared values, and compatible worldviews and life goals. Living together day to day is one important way to help develop the commonalities between people and help them take root, since I think that sort of companionship is one reason couples want to be couples in the first place.
I don't think living together is a requirement of couplehood by any means, but I'm not sure I understand going so far as to marry - and have children with - someone with whom you don't want to share a home, and all the aspects of life that are part of that. Having said that, though, I have believed for quite some time that no one really knows what goes on in a relationship except for the people in it - and sometimes they're not sure themselves. Separate married lives work for Judith Newman and her husband, and apparently many other people as well - but I don't think that would work for me, and I really don't think I'd want to try it and find out. Would it work for you?