‘Goodnight, honey,” I say. “Goodnight, sweetheart,” my husband says. I turn over to go to sleep. He turns to the door to catch the train home.
That has been my nightly routine for 25 years. Well, not every night. Occasionally, there’s some reason John needs to be in my neighbourhood early in the morning. Or, now that we’re old – correction: with our 29-year age gap, I’m old, he’s ancient – there’s the issue of his knees, and if they’re particularly bothersome, he might brave a night with me and our 15-year-old twin sons instead of the New York subway. But, for the most part, he arrives around 4pm, I make dinner for 6pm, we obsessively watch the news for a few hours (thank you, President Trump) and later in the night my husband goes to his apartment a couple of miles away.
Here’s what my marriage is. We have argued at Walmarts across America on vacations. We’ve secretly congratulated ourselves on our stellar DNA when our son Henry brought home a chess trophy. We’ve burned dinners, fretted about tax returns, held hands when we’re too tired to do anything else, made hasty trips to the ER when the kids used the bed as a launchpad to nowhere. In other words, we’ve had a marriage like any other. Except for this one thing: John and I have never lived together. Is that so strange?
Depends who you ask.
While I have blithely been living what I considered the most tediously conventional existence, I have somehow become cool, or at least part of a gently escalating trend. The current infelicitous phrase, coined in 2004 by sociologist Irene Levin, is that I’m part of an LAT couple, Living Apart Together. That is, two people who are married or in a long-term committed relationship who do not live under the same roof. (Canadian Sharon Hyman, who is directing a movie on the subject, has come up with a phrase guaranteed to appeal more to punsters: “apart-ners.”) Studies on the subject vary, and different countries define LAT differently….