Wednesday, 17 April 2013

# 55 (2013) Independent Living

Is the goal of a relationship to live together? Once upon a time marriage was the ultimate, and expected, reward of a mutual partnership. But in our modern age where social media makes it easier for us to keep in contact with each other and our increasingly independent and singular existences, is living independently from your chosen partner the new key to staying in a happy relationship? 

In the past I have moved in with most of my partners pretty fast for a variety of reasons. Doing so immediately put the relationship in jeopardy. Even though most of them did turn out to be long term situations, I’m sure that moving in at such speed had a detrimental effect on their longevity. Had I not moved in most of them would have ended a lot sooner.

Firstly, moving in fast doesn’t give you time to work out if you really like the person. Secondly living with someone all the time isn’t easy if you are naturally independent and have your own agenda. What if your needs within the relationship aren’t compatible with the other person? What if you’re just fine with your own company? What if you want to work and be out all the time and they are a stay at home?

Not moving in with someone straight away gives you time to work out if you are actually compatible. Moving in is also invariably an unnecessary commitment since although most people can’t afford to live in their own accommodation, house shares of all kinds are common throughout the land. 

Despite the cost of living in the UK continuing to rise, about 7.6 million people live alone, 4.2 million of them working age adults. But how many of them are in relationships whilst still thriving on their independence? Incidentally cohabitation for both straight and gay couples has doubled in the last 6 years to just under 6 million couples, suggesting that to many people marriage is no longer the final stage of a happy union.

Living apart means you will probably only see the side of your partner that they want you to see. But maybe that’s just fine. Maybe you don’t want to see them in all their ‘first thing in the morning’, ‘man-flu’ or ‘Sunday afternoon’ glory. And maybe you don’t want them seeing you like that either. Sometimes we all need space. It’s nice to be able to kick back with a good film, get on with work in the evening or sleep star fish style in your own bed with no one to fight with over the duvet.

Maybe we are less tolerant of each other but at least we are dealing with it and it’s probably making our relationships stronger. Isn’t it more fun to gear up to a ‘weekend together’ than come home to the same face every day after work or wake up in the morning grumpy and wishing you didn’t have to engage in conversation? It doesn’t mean you have any less of a bond with the other person.

Not all of us are made for cohabitation. I don’t know if I’m one of them or not. I've seen it from both sides. But this time around we have taken things slowly and it’s made for a better, more interesting and more rewarding relationship. And whilst nothing has been ruled out, no one seems to be in any rush to make things official with a matching set of house keys.

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