What's Up With The Whole 'Married But Living Apart' Trend?

You just might be surprised by how many married couples are living happily ever after...apart.


I'll just say, off rip, that while we encourage comments on all of our articles, when it comes to this one in particular, when I wouldn't just encourage it; I'd deeply appreciate it. The reason why I say that is because—pause—is it just me, or is traditional marriage becoming more and more taboo these days? Although I totally get, believe and support the fact that, since each marriage consists of two individuals, every union is automatically unique in a variety of ways, it does seem like some things that used to apply to all—or at least most—relationships, simply don't anymore.

The Couple Who Sleeps Apart Stays Together


Take sleeping together, for example. Recently, we published "Larenz Tate On Why Sleeping In Separate Bedrooms Is A Must In His Marriage". I watched the interview that the piece was pulled from (what he says about our people and our community is stellar). From what I remember, Larenz said that he sleeps in another room in a joking kind of way. He also said that it was 1) because his wife is mad fertile and 2) sometimes, after decompressing from a role, the space can be good for their relationship overall. But after he got so much media attention for talking about sleeping in another bedroom, I decided to dig around, just to see how common married couples sleeping in separate beds actually is. You know what? He's not even close to being the only one who does it.

Today published an article last month citing a survey (via a company called Mattress Clarity) of 3,000 Americans.

31 percent said that they are all about getting a "sleep divorce"—you know, remaining married but not sleeping together. Not only that but 1 in 4 couples already sleep in separate bedrooms or beds.

Some of the people interviewed in that article said that it was "cool" because sleeping apart provides the chance to have command of the entire room. Plus, you can get your own space in the process. Then there are the couples who sleep apart because one or both spouses snore. A lot. And loudly. If they are going to remain sane, short of a pillow over their (or their spouse's) head, sleeping apart was the only option for them.

That got me to do some off the cuff interviewing of married couples who I personally know. When I asked a few of them if sleeping apart was ever a consideration, this is what some of them said (I'm leaving real names out on purpose):

*Allison. Married 10 Years. "Trust me, if I could get my husband to consider it, I definitely would. Between us both liking the room a different temperature and him always wanting to cuddle when I'd prefer to sleep without all of that all of the time, I'm sure I'd get a lot more rest."

*Andre. Married Four Years. "Sharing a bed is an adjustment. I mean, as much as I love my wife, there are times when you just want some alone time. We've never talked about sleeping in separate beds, but I can't say that I'd be opposed to it."

*Mark. Married 25 Years. "The Bible doesn't say that 'sex in marriage is undefiled'; it says that 'the marriage bed is undefiled'. There is something intimate and special about sharing a bed with my wife. I've never considered not doing it. Not once." (The Scripture he's referring to is Hebrews 13:4, by the way.)

*Crystal. Married Seven Years. "Why does it seem like folks are looking for more ways to not be married? Your spouse is not someone who comes over for a slumber party. A part of what comes with marriage is sharing a bedroom and a bed. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, if you ask me."

How Many Married Couples Actually Live in Different Homes?


See what I mean? Different people bring different views into the concept of marriage. As far as what Crystal said, although I definitely get why she feels that way, it might trip her—and a lot of other people—out that it has been reported that approximately four million married couples live apart. The reasons vary from conflicting work schedules and personal preference to one partner being incarcerated or in a nursing home. In the article that cited the sleep divorce stat, it featured couples who said they are very happy being married and not sharing a roof. Psychotherapist and author Tina B. Tessina said it works well for so many because, "Couples who are living apart successfully are individuals who like living alone, but still want companionship and the financial benefits of marriage." Soo…it's like dating exclusively but still getting a tax write-off? Interesting.

When I read another article on the topic, a counselor said he does it as a way to keep a couple from divorcing. He has the spouses sign a 120-day contract stating that although they will agree to live apart, physical and emotional affairs were not allowed. According to him, it worked for some of his couples. As a result of being apart, they were more proactive about spending a few nights a week together and "sleeping over" on the weekends.

Yeah. That still sounds like dating to me. I mean, as a marriage life coach who specializes in reconciling divorced couples, I dig the whole married-but-living-apart approach as a last-ditch effort before two people decide to call it quits. But for two people who aren't in marital trouble, doesn't it provide an unrealistic approach to the marital dynamic? Isn't it kind of like "playing house" or being "kinda sorta" married? And as far as what Tina said about couples living apart because they would prefer to be alone, why not just be…single?

Because honestly, a lot of what I've shared about all of this sounds a lot like another article—"More Older Couples Stay Together Because They Live Apart". It was published this past July and it features couples who aren't married but are in committed relationships. Basically, the article gets into the fact that more and more seniors are opting out of getting married or living with someone; instead, they prefer to have dinners with their significant other during the week and sleepovers on the weekend. One of the studies in the article stated that unmarried couples between 57-85 were twice as likely to live apart than together these days. All because they enjoy being together without living together.

I get that. I mean, I personally have no intentions on living with someone prior to saying "I do". But again, that's speaking to single folks and a perk of being single is not having to share your space if you don't want to. But when you're married, is it cool—and more than cool, is it realistic—to have the benefits of marriage without the responsibilities as well? Isn't actually living together a part of the marriage package?

I went back to the four people I interviewed about sleeping vs. not sleeping with their spouse. This is what they had to say on the matter.

*Allison. "Girl, I wish I would tell my husband that we should live in different houses. I think that taking girl and guy trips without your partner sometimes is cool, but living apart sounds like you're separated. It also seems like you're living in a fantasy world. If you're not having to deal with the day-to-day of being with the person you vowed to spend your life with, you're not married in its totality."

*Andre. "I haven't been married five years and already get how awesome this whole concept could be. I also think it can make you think that you're single when you're not. Being married is about sharing more than last names and tax write-offs. It's about sharing your entire world. That's hard to do under two different roofs."

*Mark. "I bet a man came up with this whole 'Hey babe, let's be married but live apart' thing. Sounds like another version of the cow vs. the milk if you ask me. When you live with someone, you really get to know them. It also teaches you a lot about yourself. Marriage isn't for selfish people. If you're down with living apart from your spouse, that sounds pretty convenient…convenient to the point of being really self-absorbed."

*Crystal. "Shellie, do you really have to ask what I think? If you don't want to live with someone, don't get married. It's as simple as that."

If you're curious what I think, I actually have a ton of thoughts on all of this. But the Reader's Digest version would probably be, if you'd be down to not live with your spouse, ask yourself why. The answers could very well reveal if you've truly contemplated all that comes with marriage. Because Allison and Andre are right—if you don't want to share your entire life, if you only want to give access to pieces and parts of it, why get married at all?

But again, I want to hear your thoughts as well; especially if you happen to be a married person who is currently living in a different spot than your spouse (and it's not due to a separation). What are the pros? What are the cons? Do you think it's a wise thing to do or do you advise against it?

Since there are currently millions of married couples who don't live together, if there's one thing that we all can agree on, to a large extent, is there is no one way to be married. Some people are making theirs work and last by choosing to ditch the tradition of living with their partner. Instead, they seem to be more in love than ever by actually choosing to live apart.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Ending Your Marriage

10 Things Married Couples Wished They Paid More Attention To While Dating

These 7 Married Men Have Some Marriage Myths They Want To Debunk

I'm Not Your Relationship Goals: A Word To Single Ladies From A Married Woman

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