A recent New York Times article got me thinking. In “Living Apart Together,” Constance Rosenblum profiles couples who have eschewed cohabitation to maintain separate residences in spite of being in long-term, monogamous relationships.
One couple, Ingrid Doyle and Michael Kenny have been together for 13 years and live 30 blocks and a $7 cab ride apart, while Robert Fontanelli and Rolf Sjogren continue to maintain separate residences after six years.
“Because let’s face it,” Mr. Kenny said, “I’m an old dog.”
Ms. Doyle, who is about a decade younger, lives more elegantly in a seven-room prewar co-op on West 143rd Street in northwest Harlem that she bought 20 years ago for $25,000. Her space is wreathed with 11 windows, and includes such amenities as a dining room and the outline of a fireplace discovered during a recent renovation.
“It wasn’t really a decision,” Mr. Kenny said of the arrangement. Both he and Ms. Doyle have grown children from previous marriages who are sometimes in residence. “Plus we’re not newlyweds,” he said. “We’re grown adults.”
Despite different addresses, their lives overlap with an easy rhythm. They vacation together. They see each other most evenings, with him usually staying at her place, the tidier of the two. And although some couples who live this way worry about a loss of daily intimacy — the unexpected hug or the soothing words after a bad dream, Ms. Doyle has no reservations about their lifestyle. “It’s hard to think of downsides,” she said. “Sometimes I miss him, but he’s just a $7 taxi ride away.”
He, in turn, walks the 30 blocks to her place or jumps on the subway. And his reservations are minimal. “I miss the casual comfort of being around someone,” Mr. Kenny said. “But I’ve lived alone for so many years, I think changing would be hard. I have my ways, my possessions. It’s the old saw, that strong fences make good neighbors. A door that can close makes for a good relationship.”
Despite the arrangement working for them, many predictably don’t quite understand the appeal of living apart from one’s significant other.