In the Name of Love

A philosopher looks at our deepest emotions

Are Commuter Marriages Good Marriages?

The wish to be close to the beloved is characteristic of profound love. However, can romantic closeness be too close, causing lovers to feel as if they are in captivity without any personal space? Should we (as John Stevenson suggests) keep a loose rein on our marriage in order to keep it steady? A commuter marriage is an option worth considering. Read More

I can't comment on commuter

I can't comment on commuter marriages, but I can comment on cohabitation relationships and long-distance relationships. I've been in both for extended periods of time and while I respect some of the points made in the article, I think it all boils down to personal preferences and idiosyncrasies. I don't know if this makes any difference, but as an INFP (Myers Briggs), I tend to like close, intimate experiences with people I encounter and crave deep, meaningful connections. I don't tend to need a lot of personal space from my significant other because I live in my head most of the time and experience things so much internally...and we have spent so much time building up an understanding of each other so that he pretty much knows what is going on inside of me at any given moment, even if I am not always very expressive. When we lived thousands and then hundreds of miles away from each other (he has moved a few times during our relationship), we had to rely on phone conversations and seeing each other every couple of months and while the sex was exceptionally great during that time ;) I was unsatisfied with the superficial connection that nightly phone conversations provide over the long-term. I experienced a lot of unnecessary anxiety and dissatisfaction during that time. Since we have moved in together, things have gone a lot more smoothly and I feel a lot less anxious about our relationship or about spending time apart when necessary, etc. It is much easier to solve conflicts and talk about concerns living in close quarters.

distance and superficial connections

You are right in indicating the individual differences—for some, a long-distance relationship is fine and even valuable and for others it is a negative experience. Within the people who like it, the issue of the distance and especially of the frequency of meetings is crucial. Seeing each other every couple of months is in most cases too long and may prevent that development of profound relationship. The main consolation is indeed superficial: having "exceptionally great" sex for that limited time

"When my former husband and I

"When my former husband and I lived in a commuter marriage, I felt good about having my own personal space so I did not have extramarital affairs. After eleven years of marriage, when we moved with our three girls to a house of our own and stayed in the house every day, I felt that my personal space and freedom were being violated by my husband and as if I was in captivity. At that time I began to have affairs.”

The glaring problem with this example is the complaint of loss of "personal space and freedom."

This is not a unique complaint to change from a "commuter marriage" to "a cohabitation marriage."

In fact, the same complaints, loss of; freedom, space, identity - feeling captive - are common complaints when a marriage experiences infidelity.

And why wouldn't they be common complaints from a cheating spouse? A spouse at home every day would rarely give the other spouse the freedom and space to have an affair!

If we brush away the Disney-fantasy of Love being some type of mystical destiny, and look at it from a more logical perspective, it isn't difficult to see why these types of marriages aren't more common, nor do they last longer.

Romantic Love is an abundance of positive memory associations attributed to a member of the opposite sex.

Time, of course, erodes memory... Love fades. Negative memory associations counter positive association... Love fades.

Commuter marriage? There is a large sample ripe with cases for you; military marriages. And they have an abysmal divorce rate.

Increasing need for space

Dear Dr. Ben-Zeév, I have become a big fan of your blog. I feel you offer a rare perspective on relationships that few are able to objectively consider, due to our social taboos and cultural mythologies. I just read your article on commuter marriages and can definitely relate to the idea of needing space for a relationship to flourish. When my husband and I were in the early stages of our relationship, we couldn’t stand to be apart for even a short period of time. But over the years I’ve come to appreciate and respect my need for personal space. We both have different standards of orderliness, and I am unable to be comfortable amidst a large amount of clutter. Conversely, clutter does not bother him, and he does not like his things touched or moved (regardless of where he might have dropped them!) So, this results in some tension given that we share a home. Due to his atypical sleep schedule, we’ve also found it easier to have separate bedrooms for sleeping. The bedroom, where I sleep (or my room), is still not really mine as it is littered with his things. I need a sanctuary for myself where I can feel peace, beauty, and order. Thus I often feel trapped by not having my own space. I have very little privacy. I like to travel just to get some distance from the relationship, and I like it when he goes on business trips so I can reclaim my home. When we’ve been apart we fight less and can tolerate more. The more time we spend in close proximity, the more difficult it is to endure. I have often thought that we might have a better relationship if we lived in two separate places, and just went out on dates.

increasing need for space

Dear working wife and mom,
Thanks so much for your very kind words. I am glad that people find my blog beneficial to them.
As it is clear from your message, a personal space is indeed very important. Commuter marriages are just one option of creating the distance underlying a personal space. Other options are having separate apartment in the same city, street or an apartment building. Another option (which is more affordable) is yours: having different spaces within the same apartment. Needless to say that each option has its own advantages and shortcomings.

Is this whole idea of

Is this whole idea of "commuter marriage" based on Laura's lame excuse for cheating?

tried it both ways

This is a timely article for me. I was in a long-distance relationship for several years before we amalgamated households, primarily to share finances and parenting responsibilities for our children from prior marriages. We shared a house throughout the children's school years but now that they are adults and living elsewhere, I find living in the same house less tolerable. I preferred our relationship as a commuter one and enjoyed my freedom to pursue my own goals without constantly checking in with the other party about their plans and needs. We have separate bedrooms and take separate vacations although we remain good friends, sexual partners and co-parents. But it's not enough space for me. Now I am actively making plans to move several hundred miles away for several months of each year, and this article is validating of my preferred couple-ship style.

I've been thinking a great

I've been thinking a great deal about this subject. Most often people consider military spouses as the only people who routinely live apart, forgetting about fishermen, oil workers, and many others stuggling in a global society.

My husband teaches overseas in a war-torn nation 6 months of the year. He is gone, generally, 8-10 weeks at a time. I remain in our home and at my job. It situation is a choice we made together, and neither of us complains.

However, we are looking to have children in the next 1-2 years. I refuse to live apart with small children, and he supports my resolve. Where we will go, and who will change jobs is all up for discussion!

commuter marriage

My husband and I live during the work week in separate town, 180 miles apart. We've been married 4.5 years, and it's always been like this despite my effort to get hired in the town where we bought our house. I'm 39, he's 38. This was the 2nd marriage for both of us--he has 3 teenage kids, and together we have a 3.5 year old. Step kids don't live with us, but one did for awhile. I am a teacher librarian in Kansas who has substantial education which makes me an expensive hire in Texas during budget cuts and hiring freezes. We bought a home there together after our marriage, and our daughter and I travel 'home' each weekend/summer and stay during school breaks with daddy. During the work week, my daughter and I stay in my hometown, living with my aging parents, for whom our daughter is their only blood grandchild. She stays with them while I am at work. She was a pure miracle as I thought I could not have children. Due to pregnancy complications, I can have no more. My husband has missed out on the joys of staying up all night..lol...and I have gotten the sweetest help from my folks who are overjoyed that they were blessed with just one grandchild. Because he had 3 before we had our daughter, he knows what he's missing, and what he's not. It is difficult at times to be apart from my husband as I sometimes let myself feel guilty for not being able to get hired on in the TX school district in which we live... and I am keenly aware of our daughter's emotional health with the distance from daddy. She and I skype with daddy almost nightly --we both work long, hard days, and are quite tired in the evenings. The hardest part of it all for me is the guilt I feel at being treated invisibly after obtaining all the education I have earned. Teaching (I'm a librarian actually) is one of the careers which has been turned upside down in a testing numbers game and a budget crisis. Those who were once valued for their education are shunned because they are too expensive and/or overqualified. My husband is supportive, and my daughter gets to know her grandparents as closely as I knew my own. My husband is the most 'laid back type a personality' I've ever known, and I love him for this. I own a Prius, an Audible.com account, a dvd player which doubles as a headrest...and Friday evenings, we drive 2.5 hours home. Sunday evening, we do it again. Daddy sometimes comes up to see us --for holidays and other times when family is coming to see my folks... I know that other teachers drive one hour, one way, TWICE a day, just to work where I do now. The pay is better in KS and teachers aren't relegated to working for substandard, near food-stamp wages where they are dismissed if their students don't pass the state test. Ironically, my sister just got hired in the town where she and her husband own a home. She lived with her inlaws during the work week, which is where she was able to find a teaching job at the time. It would have been an 80 mile drive one way to stay with her husband daily. Her inlaws lived only 10 miles from where she got her first teaching job after getting married, so she stayed with them the past few years--When times are tough, you've got to do what you've got to do. I was raised to PAY YOUR BILLS...and couldn't live with myself if I let my responsibilities go. Also, getting a job nowadays involves having good credit, which is definitely needed. I can't afford to quit my job now to go work as a substitute teacher where we live, earning minimum wage. I am still paying on my education (which ironically doesn't help me in getting hired.) I get all kinds of strange looks and sympathetic comments from people who haven't been in my situation, and who I feel are probably jealous because they don't have enough personal space in their own marriage where they 'live on top of each other.'

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Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D., former President of the University of Haifa, is Professor of Philosophy. His books include: In the Name of Love: Romantic Ideology and its Victims.

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