At the end of 2013, my wife and I had reached a breaking point. Divorce appeared inevitable. Then, out of desperation, the idea of living apart together was raised. For nearly two years we managed to conduct a relationship in which I returned home at weekends and for holidays.
At first, we thought we had found the holy grail. Our relationship improved. The number of arguments fell, if only because we were spending considerably less time together. For the first few months, it was even quite romantic. However, to me, it never felt like a solution. Rather than a bold experiment in a new way of living, it felt neither here nor there. There was always a question at the back of my mind – how is this going to end?
And ending it would have been fairly easy. Having in effect half moved out, and established a separate base, it made the denouement relatively straightforward. You just had to say the word – all the practicalities were already in place.
As it happened, we both felt that there was enough hope left to try again as full-time cohabitees. The return – which for me was joyful, at least in the short term – lasted little more than a year before we finally split for good. Moving out had not helped to address any of the underlying issues that led to our separation: none of the problems that had been lurking, it turned out, had been dissipated by distance.
Having said that, it doesn’t feel like a decision that should be regretted. Apart from anything else, it bought us three more years as an intact family, in which our children could avoid the pain of having separated parents. We had some good times and some good holidays during those years, and there were quite a few moments when I really believed it was going to work out.
Although this didn’t prove to be the case, I think anyone whose relationship is struggling – certainly when children are involved – needs to give everything they can to engineering a possible solution. This may include counselling, therapy, meditation, or living apart together – whatever it takes. We tried them all – and they were all worth trying.
I do not think that living apart together as a more permanent arrangement will work for many. However, if you can afford it, I can’t doubt that it is worthwhile. But it is not a magic pill to cure an ailing marriage – more like a temporary painkiller that sooner or later is bound to wear off.