“I don’t want you to take this the wrong way” he said the day after he got home, “but I don’t really miss you that much.”
“I know me either; I’m so relieved,” I replied, exhaling.
Unusual dialogue you might expect from a couple just within two months of their nuptials who had recently assumed their corners of the world—one in the Southwest, one in the Northeast.
My fiancé John and I had just spent three weeks together in fun and bliss. We road-tripped, met friends and family, attended a 10 day film festival, wrote together, rode on the Big Wheel in Seattle and drank champagne. It was great fun, lots of romance, fantastic sex, amazing conversations and almost zero conflict.
Yet once I dropped him off in Phoenix to head back to his rural Pennsylvania home, we were both ready for the break. You see we set it all up this way from the beginning.
“Could you ever imagine yourself in a long term committed relationship where you consciously chose to live separately?” I asked in one of our very early conversations.
“Where did you come from?” he shot right back.
Two introverts, we have both lived alone for awhile. Me longer at nearly two decades since my divorce. Him so far outside civilization that it takes an hour to get to the grocery store. One way.
We like our solitude. And still we want to couple.
We’d both experienced our share of failure and heartache in the love department and had decided to go it alone when an earthquake erupted in to our lives in the form of each other. We fell quickly and madly in love and didn’t really care about the logistics.
We were dealt this distance-hand and consciously decided to start where our feet were planted and see what could come of it. What we learned is this is our preferential style of living together.
“Our house is 2,200 miles wide” he once said with a twinkle. “We need that much space to contain our love.”
At 55, we both have full lives that would require significant detangling and sacrifice should either of us decide to uproot. I take care of an ill brother who lives three minutes from me and John has a young daughter who he spends lots of time with. Both of us work, although self employed (meaning more flexibility), where we live respectively.
“Who is moving where?” is the most commonly asked question we both get when announcing our plans to marry. It’s an understandable one. We also can appreciate the confused faces we get with our “no one is moving” answer.
“We have three houses between us,” I pointed out before he asked me to marry him, but feeling it coming: “Could you see a life where we float through them and sometimes we’re together and sometimes apart?”
I wanted to make sure we were on the same page. “That sounds perfect,” he whispered back. It was such a relief to admit what felt like a deeply held secret—this not wanting to live together all the time but get married—to another human being.
This lifestyle isn’t for everyone and likely we will outgrow it one day and find ourselves under one roof. People at times are looking with a jaded “long distance relationships never work” eye. I get that. And statistics show us that odds are against marriage as we’ve decided it to be too. What’s important is finding what can work for you—individually and together—and having the guts to claim it and go for it.
I’ve noticed that once a wave of skepticism washes through the conversation and I confidently own this choice, I’m hearing things like “I bet my marriage would have survived if we’d done something like that.”
We consider this the best of all worlds. Instead of worrying about what we need to give up to make this work, we are thinking about how we can expand together. I get to take two weeks to go write in his rural home with its beautiful expansive views of fields and mountains. He gets to experience city life, go to movies and restaurants with me before retreating back to his spacious solitude. Our relationship contracts and expands like breathing and we easily flow within the inhale and exhale. If this isn’t a real life, I don’t know what is.
For others, a long distance vacancy may be filled with angst and fear and wishes and if onlys. For us, the space we’ve created is filled with adventure and surprises and plans and flowers at my door and care packages at his. Monogamous by nature, neither of us entertains fears about fidelity. We waited too long for something this special and we know it.
In this age of technology I have more contact with this man two time zones away than my closest friends in my own neighborhood. We have a rule: no pressure to get back in any urgency unless an urgency is explicitly expressed. We get to be ourselves, have our own lives, enjoy our shared new life in all forms it takes and ease right in to love in our own way.
Another rule in this make-it-up-as-we-go-along style of living is that we don’t separate without a clear plan (this means a plane ticket) of when we next join. We anchor before we part. Our template organically creates itself as we go along. It’s a mindful coupling moment by moment.
We figured by now we’ve earned this carving our own path. We hope we are inspiring others as well. It’s a new era in the world of relationships and you can create whatever want, whatever works for you. Figure that part out, claim it and realize the only permission you need to ask is your own. Someone’s hand may be waiting to take yours who feels the same way, even though it may be from across the country.
Author: Kathy Monkman
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Author’s Own
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