You may have heard about couples sleeping in different bedrooms to improve their waking relationship, but could the same be said for living in a completely separate home?
According to data from the Census Bureau (as reported by the New York Times), the number of married couples “living apart together” (L.A.T.) increased in the year leading up to the pandemic. That number went down during the pandemic, but now that the pandemic has waned, it’s begun to rise again.
In 2022, there were 3.89 million Americans living separately from their spouses, which shakes out to 2.95% of all married adults in the country. The numbers don’t include those who are living apart because they’re contemplating divorce, but they do include those who are forced to live apart by their jobs (like military families).
As highlighted in the above-cited New York Times article, the decision to live apart from a spouse is often led by women who feel they need to find out who they are beyond being caretakers and who feel the need to have their own space.
One woman told the outlet that she moved into her own home away from her husband during the pandemic to be closer to a major city as life on their rural farm was a drain on her. As it turns out, she found that the distance worked for her relationship, saying it made her and her husband feel as though they were back in the dating phase of their relationship.
She added that having her own home helps her remember who she is by herself and what she likes doing by herself, which she called “a lovely gift.”
From October 2021 to June 2022, Sana Akhand lived 30 minutes away from her husband in New York City so she could create the life she’d dreamed of as a young girl, which included establishing a successful career.
Having been married since 2015, Akhand said she felt she was losing her “independent nature” as she fell into culturally-driven gender roles, like what it means to be a wife.
While living on her own, Akhand was able to redirect the time and energy spent worrying about her husband to her own priorities, which resulted in her first book deal. It also helped her realize what she needed in the relationship when they finally moved back in together, including a space of her own where she can meditate, work on fulfilling projects, and just blow off steam dancing.
It’s all too easy to fall into the notion of what a marriage should look like: dinner on the table by 6, trips to Home Depot on Saturday mornings, or binging the same new hot series on Netflix on Friday evenings. It appears that the couples profiled by the New York Times found the experience of living separately as an opportunity to take a step back and focus on what matters to them as individuals as well as challenging traditional concepts of what a marriage should be.
While most of the couples eventually moved back in together, the time apart let them figure out how to make their marriage stronger. Additionally, especially for the women, it allowed them to find their identity that was starting to fade with weekly chores, weekend soccer matches, and daily cooking.
So while financially living separately might not be feasible for many, perhaps a brief hiatus of spending every day together could be just what you need to find yourself again and bring a better version of yourself back to your marriage.