We hadn’t planned things this way. It unfurled, as things do, after you graduate college and end up somewhere. First, my partner (J) graduated and moved to another town. Then I graduated and moved to a city, and J moved again, to a town near where we’d gone to college. Then I moved again, to a different state, where I stayed for four years before I moved to the city where I live now, and where I’ve lived for the last ten years.
I’m glossing over the rough periods we had, the ones triggered by crises both his and mine, existential and otherwise. But in short, the two of us did discuss living together, sometimes with intention, sometimes less so, the way you might talk about how great it would be to live in a house made of cheese. The decision we arrived at is that for now, and for the foreseeable future, living together is not something we want to do, for reasons that work well for us, and confuse the hell out of most everyone we know.
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Neither of us wants to get married or have kids.
Since we know this about one another, and because we’re both sure of it, especially the no-kids having, not living together is an option that we have for as long as we want. There’s no time pressure to “settle down,” i.e. buy a house, combine our money, get married, or rearrange our lives for said children. This situation we have, where I go there and he comes here, can be in tact for as long as we want it, and if/when we want a change, we can make it, and we’re the only ones impacted.
Our individual space is super important to the both of us.
Recently, I read about apartnership, a concept that can best be summed up as: “I want you, I need you, I just don’t want to live with you.” It feels so true to me, it makes such perfect sense, I can’t believe it took so long for me to find out that it’s actually a thing people are, people who aren’t just me. It turns out that some people prefer long distance relationships, so it’s not totally weird to not want to share space with a romantic partner, it’s just not something we hear about because it goes against the norm of date, fall in love, move in together, get married (or get married and then move in together). J and I are both makers of things, poetry and fiction, respectively, and both of us need a lot of space, physical and emotional, to be able to do what we do. I’m also someone who deeply values my mobility — I like being able to take off for a new city or country when possible, and J is a homebody. These differences in our personalities shouldn’t deter us from being together, and sharing a space might create tension and resentment if one of us (me) were constantly leaving.
When we are together, it’s really great.
Ultimately, I think our arrangement isn’t so strange; it’s us being real with ourselves about what we both need, which has led us to being in a strong and enduring relationship where we can share space when we want to. Not so long ago, I spent a long time living at J’s house, recovering, financially and emotionally, from my post-grad school slump, surrounded by cats and indulging in the comforting rituals we share when we’re together. It’s a good way to be; together, and it is sad and hard to leave one another, but it’s good to be able to be apart when we need to go back to the other lives we’re living, and to know that we’re not lacking something by not being together all the time.
I understand how our situation could seem confounding to people; I’ve been told by more than one person that they think it’s sad that J and I live apart, that they want me to be happy, and that I’m purposely denying myself happiness by not living with him. (Yes, this is super condescending and presumptuous, in spite of people’s intentions.) I could, I suppose, move to the town where we both went to college, where he lives, and we could cram ourselves into a life that makes other people feel better because it’s what they recognize, but, and listen closely here, there isn’t a day I don’t wake up and thank something (God? The universe? Caffeine?) that I’ve found a partner who isn’t afraid to be who he is, with and without me.