The idea of voluntarily living apart from your spouse is a relatively new concept. In the past, couples who lived apart were thought to be having relationship problems. The exceptions were for families who were in the military or who were separated by other issues, such as incarceration or jobs that required travel. Many couples today are living apart voluntarily. Some of them live in separate cities due to job opportunities. Others choose to live separately because they like the arrangement. But the question arises: can a commuter marriage be healthy over the long term?
The census bureau reports that approximately 3.1 percent of married couples live apart. It appears that this number is on the rise as well. This doesn’t appear to be the case just for younger couples. The AARP reports that older couples living apart have increased over the years as well.
Technology’s Impact on the Commuter Marriage
Technology may be helping couples overcome some of the obstacles of living separately. This may also be contributing to increased numbers of couples being willing to have a commuter marriage. Cell phones, video chat options, and email, make it possible to stay in almost constant contact even when you are thousands of miles apart. However, all the technology in the world isn’t a substitute for in-person contact.
Technology also has allowed for online dating. Online dating increases a person’s pool of potential mates significantly. In generations past, most people married someone who lived close to their geographical area. However, online dating has given people access to others from the opposite end of the earth in an instant. Couples who have established jobs and residences may choose to forgo moving in with a new mate on the opposite side of the country or the world.
Dangers of a Commuter Marriage
There are many potential downfalls to a commuter marriage. Despite all the technology in the world, it cannot substitute for in-person contact. Lack of physical affection and sexual intimacy can take a toll on a marriage over time.
Lack of emotional intimacy can be another problem. Sometimes couples avoid discussing serious subjects on the phone, but when they are together they don’t want to ruin their time together arguing. This can lead to important topics never being addressed. Resentment and anger can build as issues go unresolved.
Loneliness can be another serious issue in a commuter marriage. A commuter marriage requires each partner to attend social events alone. It can lead to a couple growing apart instead of growing together as leisure time interests are separate.
Dealing with a Commuter Marriage
If you must be in a commuter marriage, take steps to work on your relationship. It can take extra care to make a marriage work when you are frequently apart. Learn how to communicate with one another effectively. Don’t substitute real conversation for text messaging or email. Instead, set aside time to talk as much as possible.
Be willing to talk about what is not working in the relationship. If you are not happy with the arrangement, consider whether or not it is worth it. For example, if you are living apart for financial purposes, paying for two residences may not be saving you much money in the long run and it may not be worth the toll it is taking on the marriage. If you are unable to live together due to your circumstances, talk about what you need to make your relationship more successful.
Set goals together. Even if you are not going to live together, it is important to have some goals together as a couple. Talk about financial goals, vacation plans, or hobbies you want to engage in together. Working together on goals can help you to feel more connected.
Make time to visit one another. Although many couples report that absence makes the heart grow fonder, taking one another for granted can still be an issue when you are apart. Make time for one another so that you can have in-person time together as often as possible.
If you are struggling to learn how to manage a commuter marriage, consider marriage counseling. If you aren’t able to go to counseling in the same place at the same time, consider individual counseling. Individual counseling can teach you skills and help you learn strategies to improve the state of your marriage, even if your partner is unable to attend with you.