We’re get­ting mar­ried BUT LIV­ING APART

It sounds ab­surd. But LUCY CAVENDISH and her fi­ance are join­ing a grow­ing num­ber of older cou­ples who refuse to set up home to­gether . . .

Daily Mail - - Inspire - Do you and your hus­band live apart to­gether? Email in­spire@ dai­ly­mail.co.uk

THIS De­cem­ber i am get­ting mar­ried. On my 50th birth­day, my­self and Ed, my part­ner of the past three- and- a- half years, will be say­ing ‘i do’ in front of an as­sort­ment of our friends and fam­ily.

We’re not hav­ing a big, glam­orous do — we’re both too old and too strapped for cash to have a huge bash. it will be a small, slightly bo­hemian party, but it will be heart­felt and mean­ing­ful. We have both moved on from youth­ful grand state­ments and the rose-tinted glasses of first love.

Ed has been mar­ried be­fore and i have had long-term part­ner­ships but this is my first wed­ding, so we are, i hope, more re­al­is­tic and hon­est, less starry-eyed (in a good way).

Which is why, af­ter spend­ing two nights of mar­i­tal bliss to­gether over my birth­day week­end — our blended fam­ily of six chil­dren be­ing looked af­ter by well-mean­ing aunts, un­cles and nieces and neph­ews — my new hus­band and i will part ways.

We will do what we have done ev­ery Mon­day since we got to­gether in 2013. He will go back to his life and i will go back to mine. Ev­ery week, af­ter our week­ends to­gether, he packs the small trav­el­ling suit­case he comes with and sets off for Cam­bridgeshire, where he works and lives. He is a builder, cur­rently in the process of ren­o­vat­ing a beau­ti­ful Grade ii-listed build­ing, and he lives on site.

Af­ter he goes, there is barely any trace of him left in my house. He leaves no pos­ses­sions be­hind and i leave none at his, not even a tooth­brush. if you walked into my Ox­ford­shire fam­ily home to­mor­row, you’d have no idea he even ex­isted.

This is the way we both like it and, up un­til re­cently, i didn’t find it at all odd. i have a life. He has a life. i have four chil­dren (rang­ing from the age of 20 down to just nine) and life is hec­tic.

in many ways i have never wanted him to be part of that do­mes­tic drudgery. i have, in short, loved feel­ing as if i am on a per­ma­nent date and never hav­ing to ask him about whether or not i should wall­pa­per a wall, or why doesn’t he put the top on the tooth­paste?

But, let’s be hon­est, it’s also to do with the fact that we are both far too set in our ways to live to­gether. i do love him, which is why i am mar­ry­ing him. it’s just that, given i’m older than i once was (and less able to ad­just to liv­ing with some­one new) we still don’t in­tend to live to­gether once we are mar­ried,

it was only af­ter we an­nounced our en­gage­ment and peo­ple kept ask­ing me when he was mov­ing in that i be­gan to re­alise not every­one views re­la­tion­ships in the way we do. There’s not one per­son who didn’t com­ment on our plan to live apart.

i don’t see what liv­ing to­gether has got to do with be­ing mar­ried. For as much as i want to be with Ed, i cer­tainly don’t want him con­stantly at my home. Post wed­ding, he will be work­ing, while i will be get­ting three out of four kids to school (my el­dest will be home from univer­sity but will, no doubt, be slum­ber­ing).

On Mon­day evening he and i will have a quick chat on the phone, a run- down of the day, then i will cook din­ner for the chil­dren and head to my lo­cal Youth Coun­selling cen­tre where i work as a ther­a­pist.

Ed will cook him­self din­ner and prob­a­bly set­tle down with a news­pa­per and do a cross­word. i know, be­cause he is a crea­ture of habit. in fact, i’d say we know each other al­most bet­ter than peo­ple who live to­gether be­cause liv­ing apart means you have to be good at com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

WE’VE also got to the age where it’s far too much ef­fort to go off chas­ing other peo­ple. We are happy as we are and, any­way, liv­ing to­gether doesn’t pre­vent in­fi­delity. i know many a cou­ple whose hus­bands have lived en­tirely clan­des­tine lives. it’s the know­ing of each other that’s im­por­tant, not how much time you spend to­gether.

i also know plenty of peo­ple who cling to any­one, how­ever un­suit­able, through fear of be­ing alone. i re­spect the fact my hus­band-to-be can func­tion quite con­tent­edly with­out me. it means that, when we see each other, it’s be­cause we want to be there, rather than be­cause we’re avoid­ing the pain of the void.

in fact, when we de­cided to get mar­ried, it never oc­curred to me that Ed would want to live in my fran­tic do­mes­tic whirl­wind full­time. He dips in and out but he has his own life, too. Now his own daugh­ters are grown-up, why on earth would he want to fin­ish work and then deal with the end­less cook­ing, laun­dry, fights, com­plaints, home­work?

it’s not that he doesn’t care for my chil­dren or feel part of their lives, but it is me he is mar­ry­ing, not me plus them, plus my house, do­mes­tic chores and end­less wor­ries about the state of the roof. To give him his due, he did get the roof fixed for me, but it is im­por­tant for me to know he doesn’t feel that by mar­ry­ing me he has to be­come my Other Half in ev­ery way.

And we’re not alone. Ac­cord­ing to a 2013 study, Liv­ing Apart To­gether, funded by The Eco­nomic and so­cial Re­search Coun­cil, one in ten peo­ple in Bri­tain to­day has made this grow­ing, and in­creas­ingly ac­cept­able, life­style choice, a phe­nom­e­non iden­ti­fied as liv­ing apart to­gether (LAT), whereby cou­ples who re­gard them­selves as firmly com­mit­ted have separate homes through choice or cir­cum­stance.

in the study cou­ples who saw them­selves as to­gether for the long haul were di­vided into cat­e­gories. Thirty per cent were LATs out of choice, where one or both part­ners pre­ferred to live apart: others cited ‘con­straint’, mean­ing they might have liked to share a home, but cir­cum­stances made it dif­fi­cult; and some were ‘ sit­u­a­tional’, re­gard­ing their choice the best they could make in their cir­cum­stances.

i think Ed and i are a real ex­am­ple of how modern, mid­dleaged re­la­tion­ships can work. if we were all a lit­tle more brave, isn’t it true we’d all like more space and time to our­selves? i see long-mar­ried cou­ples who ei­ther bicker con­stantly or have be­come so bogged down by do­mes­tic drudgery they no longer speak.

Who wants to spend their lives co- or­di­nat­ing diaries along the lines of, ‘isn’t it your turn to do the foot­ball run/cook the din­ner/ feed the dogs?’ That doesn’t mean to say Ed doesn’t do these things, but by choice. it is not

the bedrock of our re­la­tion­ship. This free­dom means I feel so much more alive, young and en­thu­si­as­tic with him. Our re­la­tion­ship is a treat. I like go­ing on dates with him or meet­ing him for a sneaky glass of wine on a Fri­day evening. We have so much to say to each other.

Re­la­tion­ship ther­a­pist Maria Curry thinks there are many cou­ples who might like to fol­low this model of liv­ing apart to­gether. ‘It’s hard to “blend” fam­i­lies and, if this works for a cou­ple, then I think it is to be en­cour­aged. It is about tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the fam­ily as a whole.’

She also thinks it works well for older cou­ples in gen­eral. ‘ In terms of cou­ples whose chil­dren have left home and wish to stay to­gether but live their own lives, this form of separate liv­ing can work very well. It isn’t about sep­a­rat­ing or try­ing to meet some­one else. It’s about lis­ten­ing in an hon­est and gen­uine fash­ion to what you both want.

Re­la­tion­ships that work can be fluid in this way. We don’t all have to stick to so­ci­etal norms.’

On days when we don’t have the chil­dren to look af­ter, we do lovely things to­gether. FOR

Ed’s birth­day I hired a small, cheap but beau­ti­fully kit­ted­out shep­herd’s hut and we spent the week­end cook­ing out­side and walk­ing the dogs round the Dorset coast. We’ve spent two hol­i­days to­gether on a barge. We had Valen­tine’s Day in Suf­folk. We have fun, we talk, we curl up to­gether, we dis­cover new places and things to share.

I’ve been on the planet for half a cen­tury — him slightly more — and I have got used to it the way it is. I like to go to my yoga class, I like to stack the plates a cer­tain way in the dish­washer. I like see­ing friends, scent­ing the house with in­cense, eat­ing at odd times, hav­ing a sleep in the af­ter­noon. I am a woman of habit.

This is be­cause, by 50, most of us have life in place as we like it, es­pe­cially if, like me, you’re a mother. The chil­dren have got used to it be­ing me and them; this is time we have come to trea­sure. It’s im­por­tant to me that we can still be our own unit and my hus­band-to-be re­spects that. He knows they need the firm base of my steady ma­ter­nal love.

They don’t need to see us coo­ing away ev­ery night. They need to know that they have ac­cess to me, that we can all spend time to­gether and mess about and some­times my hus­band will be there and some­times he won’t. In the past I have found that it is the en­forced in­ti­macy of cou­ple­dom that strikes a death knell. I have enough do­mes­tic­ity in my life with­out tak­ing on any more. I don’t want to wash his socks, iron his shirts, cook din­ner ev­ery night. I want to talk and laugh and eat and have fun.

Of course, Ed and I won­der if we can sus­tain it. In truth, we have no in­ten­tion of this go­ing on for­ever. One day, when the chil­dren are older and less de­pen­dent (or gone en­tirely), I imag­ine we will sell up and find our own place to­gether.

We don’t want to live sep­a­rately all our lives, es­pe­cially as we get older and pos­si­bly more de­pen­dent on each other. We look for­ward to the time when we have our own house, just the two of us, read­ing our books side-by-side in front of the fire­place. This is our dream. But right now, as soon as we sit down, some child comes in and de­mands some­thing and we have to get up and go again.

It is much eas­ier to have a re­la­tion­ship if you are both un­der the same roof. But our part-time life to­gether gives us both sup­port and emo­tional nour­ish­ment, while also al­low­ing for the fact that we both like our own space.

It is such a treat to see Ed ev­ery week­end. I can’t wait for those Fri­day nights when he reap­pears and off we go. I know it may seem cu­ri­ous to others but, for me, it makes ut­ter sense.

Shun­ning con­ven­tion: Lucy and her hus­band-to-be

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