No habitation a less than ideal situation

“My husband is coming over to visit tonight,” I announce at lunch. My co-workers snicker because it’s as true as it sounds ridiculous. Kerry and I have been married for six months and still live 42 miles apart.

His youngest son has 16 months until graduation from Mattawan High School and we don’t want to relocate him so close to the end of his school career.

Plus, it’s not as if Kerry could sell his house right now. He’s had it on the market, but didn’t get any takers. We’ve come to regard our apartness as crappy economy collateral damage.

Pressed to define our living situation, we came up with the term “nohabitation.” We figured that if living together without benefit of marriage is “cohabitation,” then NOT living together once married is “nohabitation.”

Label it whatever you like, as long as you don’t call it “easy.” Our only married benefits so far are shared Willard Library and YMCA membership cards. Huge perks!

Nohabitation is twice as expensive as cohabitation. Two mortgages, property tax bills, electric bills, heating fuel bills, phone bills, garbage bills, grocery lists, driveways to plow, yards to maintain, and two houses to clean. Two separate sets of potential (and actual) mechanical problems. Too much!

To spend time together, we each have to neglect things at our respective homes. I also have to transport a dog and two kids with me when I go to visit him. That’s a lot of packing. Parenting responsibilities, work commitments, and weather conditions are the major determinants of our time together, which averages three evenings in a good week.

And how invasive it must feel to Kerry’s son and two college-age daughters to have Dad’s new wife and step-kids drop in for an overnighter. Yippee!

Some people are baffled by our nohabitation. “If you aren’t going to take his last name and you aren’t going to live together, then what’s the point of being married?” one long-married couple asked me. “You should have waited until after he sold his house to get married.”

That might have been the twelfth of never, given the state of the housing market. I believe there’s more to marriage than simply sharing a last name, a mailbox, and a bed. At least I hope there is.

Other people eagerly embrace the separate household arrangement, seeing it as more of a solution than a problem. “I sure wish my spouse had a separate house,” they say. “That would suit me fine.”

Speaking of suit, one of the most frustrating aspects of traveling back and forth is forgetting to pack something for the next day. It’s most problematic weekdays. One morning Kerry awakened at my house to the realization he’d forgotten dress clothes for his job in Kalamazoo. The Hawaiian shirt and shorts he’d worn to my place the night before simply wouldn’t do. While I’ve worn his underwear in a pinch, he ignored my skirt and blouse offer.

He now keeps backup clothing here like I used to for the kids at daycare, in case of an “accident.” But that puts him searching his house for pants he forgot are hanging in my closet. The same happens to me with migratory pans, travel mugs, and Rubbermaid containers that end up at Kerry’s. The tearful issue of left behind kids’ toys is even worse. 

It feels like I’m still dating my husband. Had we wanted to just date, we wouldn’t have tied the knot. Nohabitation logistics tie our stomachs and schedules in knots. We sometimes meet for dinner or movies, then get into separate vehicles and go our separate ways. Saying good-night by phone is standard.

Separation is typically an exit route from a marriage, not the entrance ramp. It feels wrong to have to long to spend time with one’s spouse. Cynics attribute it to our newlywed status. I attribute it to Kerry’s attributes. He’s a great guy, the kind you truly enjoy spending time with. I’ve known him 17 years and haven’t got sick of him yet. He’s still fond of me, too.

My Valentine’s Day plea to Cupid was for an end to this malarkey. Is there a message here? Yes. Just say “no” to nohabitation.


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