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Can Married Couples Live Apart? - Relationship Advice

Updated on July 30, 2010

Dear Veronica

Your advice is so good I feel like our problem probably isn't big enough to bother you with. I hope you don't mind but here it is. My husband and I are together 12 years, 2 kids, lots of love but not a lot of financial freedom. We're not complaining, we are doing better than many people, we can make ends meet and we each have jobs. I work at a day care that is around the corner from our house. It's ideal because we don't pay commuting costs for me plus our kids can come to work with me for free so all the money I make is actually money that goes into the household bills instead of out the door on the costs of being a working mom. Even when they start school we can have them get off the bus right at the day care and stay there with me for my last few hours of the day. My husband has a good job with a big company with many offices around the world. We just found out they are sending him to one of the other offices for 6 months for a special project. We talked about moving there but it's not smart. For one thing to sell our house right now is not promising with real estate what it is. Plus my job is here and the kids have free safe daycare. We're not going to find that anywhere else. Even if we did give in and move the whole family we don't know that we can make ends meet if I can't find a job or if I do and we have to pay for daycare or babysitters. Plus it's only a 6 month assignment and the company has said they plan to send him to another location after this one for another project. They said at this time they don't know when he will just be working out of this office, if ever again. So we would be in the same boat 6 months from now and probably more financially strapped because of that move. He has sent out resumes looking for another job but it looks like we are going to have to stay with this job. This assignment is 1400 miles away. 

Do you have any suggestions for us Veronica? Will living apart wreck our marriage? Are we just kidding ourselves that we can make this work? What else can we do?


Dear Jamie,

I want you to reread your email to me. Look at how many times you said "we" instead of "he" or "I." Even in places where it would be common and flowing to just say it looks like he will have to stay with this job, or, I can have them get off the bus. You aren't thinking as an independent person regarding all these matters. You are thinking as part of a team.

That alone speaks volumes. I think with that kind of solid partnership you two will be fine with this. If your husband is the kind of partner you are, you are not fooling yourself. You're exemplary and you should be able to deal with this living apart thing.

There are many couples that have to live apart at times. When one or both partners are in the armed forces there are often long periods of time where they could be living on different continents. Couples with one or both partners holding dual citizenship sometimes have to be in separate countries for several months every year. Plus there are many careers where a person travels a lot or has to spend a few nights every week away from home such as firemen, pilots, actors, and more. Merchant marines and long haul fishermen are prime examples of people that may be away from home for months at a time.

You've made excellent points regarding both your careers and finances. And you're right, it's not a great time to sell a house or find a new job. It sounds like the smartest choice to keep this house where you are steps away from a good job which completely enables you to provide good care for your children. That stability is enviable. Hang on to that with both hands if you can.

There is no reason why your husband can't keep looking for a different job. He can go ahead and keep working this one as he continues sending resumes out. Maybe something will open up. Eventually, something will. It doesn't hurt to keep eyes open.

He can also continue to let his employer know that he prefers to work at the home office and he can be proactive about making that happen while still satisfying the needs of the company. Once he is at the new location, he may find that some of the job could be conducted remotely. He may discover he can get the 5 day work week accomplished in four 10 hours days. As long as the job is getting done, he may be able to propose to his superiors that he be able to divide the hours up differently. Maybe he only needs to be in the new city every other week, or just two weeks there and two weeks home each month. Or maybe he'll find he only has to be there for half the week and he can come home and work remotely for the rest.

Or maybe once he gets the special project underway he will find a way to tweak it so that he can come home even just one week a month. That would be huge. His proving to the company that their goal can be accomplished is the key. Going out to the new location and getting the work done will satisfy the company. That should create an atmosphere where it isn't difficult for them to listen to him when he explains that he'd prefer to do exactly what he's doing on a different schedule. He can also try to negotiate at that point, asking them to help him with the traveling costs. Maybe he can suggest it in lieu of a raise this year.

Meanwhile, communication is so much different today than it was 15 years ago. With your computer cam and your smart phone, you two can video chat for free every day. You can even leave the cams on all night long so you can kind of watch each other sleep. You can send each other texts and emails, photos, Tweets, Facebook updates. You can share things privately and you can also use social networks to include the kids and other family and friends.

Have you ever seen the television commercial where the little boy and his father are eating Oreo cookies together on cam over the computer? They are giggiling and just sharing a moment. And at the end The father says, "Good night, son," and the boy answers, "Good Morning, Dad," suggesting that they are on opposite sides of the world. You can have this too. All you need to do is time it. Your husband can turn on his computer cam every morning at the breakfast table. Even if you're distracted and eating, it's a way to peek in at each other, and chat when it's convenient. You can do it at night at dinner, and of course you can have your private time whenever that works out for you.

This isn't going to be as bad as you think. If you each have smartphones in your pockets you are in constant contact.

If you don't have webcams or laptops with cams built in, or smartphones, get them. You can't afford not to buy these things. You'll feel so much better knowing you can see his face and hear his voice every day so easily. In the beginning it'll be exciting and overwhelming, but you'll find your routine. It will be comforting and you'll look forward to those 4:00 phonecalls or 7pm video chats. (And those midnight rendezvous on Skype. Purrrr.)

One last tip. During the beginning of the change, be as patient and as understanding as you can be. You'll each be frustrated, sad, annoyed... he may feel guilty for not being able to find another job, you may feel jealous or possessive. These are all normal. Just be extra understanding. If he spends a little extra on something, or you're a little late calling because the day got away from you, make a pact now that you'll both really work at keeping those angst laden emotions in check. Don't pick, don't complain, try to talk about as many good things as day to day things or bad things. Be mindful to be supportive. And let the little shit go. There's no little shits that need to be dominating your conversations and thoughts, especially during the transition.

If you make the best out of it, and your husband keeps searching for a new job or keeps after this job to work better with him regarding home office work only, eventually this will resolve. He will eventually be able to find something else. It could take months, maybe even a couple years. In any case, it's a temporary inconvenience, and you already have the best tool to deal with it: you know how to be a partner.

Good luck to you and your family. I'm sure you'll do just fine.


Submit a Comment

  • tyra marieza profile image

    tyra marieza 6 years ago from Atlanta Georgia

    I know a married couple of 25 years who have spent the last 5 in this type of arrangement. It's very do-able if the couple is willing to make it work. Good article.

  • profile image

    colette mclean 6 years ago

    my fella owns his house i rent my house he has two girls and i have a son we want to get married but not live together yet until the kids are older. Is it within the law to marry and live apart? would my taxes be affected ect...No wonder couples dont marry anymore its too much hassel sod it i think ill stay an old maid hope somebody can help with the legal red tape council tax ect..

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY

    Thanks Sa'ge! I haven't heard back from her, I hope she sees this, I worked hard on it and I really do think they'll be ok. Just look at all the "we's" in her word. She is rock-solid partner material, that one.

  • Sa`ge profile image

    Sa`ge 7 years ago from Barefoot Island

    Good job of reading the person from her writing. Good solid advise there. Great work! ~aloha nui~

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY

    Thanks dallas93444. Yes, and I think this couple is that committed ;)

  • dallas93444 profile image

    Dallas W Thompson 7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

    Soldiers do it all of the time! Commitment.. Perhaps the wisdom in knowing what is right for you is knowing if it will work... Everyone's needs are different.

  • beebong profile image

    beebong 7 years ago from UK

    We do it and then get on a train , bus or aeroplane...need to write a song about that.

  • beebong profile image

    beebong 7 years ago from UK

    I do that all the time....:-) and so do millions of others