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The Key to Our Long, Happy Marriage? Separate Houses

November 27, 2014 in Blogs

By Edward Morris, Salon

Norma and I have lived voluntarily apart for 33 years. That is what enabled us to stay close

My wife Norma and I never imagined we would spend the last 33 years of our 55-year marriage living apart voluntarily. But there it is, and here we are: she occupying her own spacious home in a forest 30 miles outside of Nashville, me making do quite nicely in a rented, cluttered, one-bedroom apartment near the heart of the city. We each live alone, which is exactly the way we prefer it. Ours isn’t an arrangement most married couples would want. But for us, it’s been a liberating experience. And it’s kept our marriage fresh.


It wasn’t choice but economics that first separated us. In 1981, we and our three grade school- to college-age children were living in the university town of Bowling Green, Ohio. Norma was a textbook writer and editor, and I was out of work. Then Billboard magazine, the music trade journal, hired me as an editor in its Nashville bureau. Because I had never managed to hold a job longer than three years, Norma wisely decided to stay put until our two younger kids finished high school. As they did, they also gravitated to Nashville. Finally, in 1991, Norma moved down to join us. She did not, however, invite me to move back in with her. And I knew why.

During those 10 years of living apart, we both had discovered that we really liked being in charge of our own surroundings, schedules, finances and circles of friends. Together, we had constantly bickered with each other, usually over those small matters that loom large when you’re making just enough money to get by. We were never loud, abusive or spiteful, but we were sufficiently inventive to leave a trail of bruised feelings. Under the same roof, we had to accommodate each other’s eccentricities and tastes. Now we didn’t.

And we still don’t. I’m a vegetarian, Norma a carnivore. I’m a night owl, Norma an early-to-bedder. Norma likes television as a faint background noise; I want to be able to hear it …read more


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