by Gideon

September 9, 2019

Living together in one home doesn’t mean that you’re living the same life together. You might be entangled but that doesn’t mean you’re a couple in a healthy relationship. Living separate lives is just one of the common marriage problems many couples face in a fast-paced world and going faster all the time. And although technology is giving us plenty of ways to stay connected and keep in touch more frequently, instead it appears to be driving a wedge between couples as each attempt to keep up with their social network and jobs, leaving little time for each other.

In my coaching work with couples, I see this all the time – a couple sharing a home but really, living separate lives.

Just because you’re sharing a home, bills, mortgage, cars, or have kids together, doesn’t mean that you’re a couple in a healthy, happy, and intimate marriage or relationship.

Let’s just repeat that,

Just because you’re sharing a home, bills, mortgage, cars, or have kids together, doesn’t mean that you’re a couple in a healthy, happy, and intimate marriage or relationship.

But I promise you that living separate lives is more common than you might realise.

I see it all the time.

And what makes it dangerous is that we know from research (for example by the Gottman Institute) that of couples who have split up, 80% said that it was because they grew apart.

Living separate lives will definitely cause you to grow apart.

There is no way that you’ll establish and maintain a healthy connection with your partner or spouse when you’re living separate lives.

It doesn’t take too much to realise that living too independently can take away the connection and joy that you experience from a strong relationship.

Marriage couples are intended to function as a team, each having their own interests and jobs, yes, but always coming together as a unit in the end.

Otherwise, what is the point?

You might as well be single and on your own.

It is super important as a couple to manage your life in such a way that you always prioritise your relationship and its well-being.

Furthermore, it is absolutely vital that you work very hard to stay connected with each other when life is pulling you in separate directions.

I mean, that is what life does.

And that’s fine.

We all have stuff going on.

But we need to find a way to stay connected even when, for especially when, life gets super busy.

It simply isn’t good enough to put your relationship on the back burner, hoping that she’d be all right and you won’t pay the price.

So, work hard to stay connected.

For example, we know that coordinating schedules and making important decisions together are just two simple ways of staying connected while your job and friends continue to pull you in different directions.

Living separate lives as a couple happen very quickly but should be avoided at all cost.

Just because you’re busy, is no reason to start prioritising other things over your partner and marriage.

And dare I say, that includes your kids.

I’ve seen this happen so many times working with couples, where their kids are the biggest reason why they’re living separate lives as a couple.

Now, by no means am I saying that our kids are not important.

Of course not.

Our kids are super important.

But when your marriage starts suffering because all your time, energy, and focus go into the kids, you’re setting yourself up for issues down the road.

Do not step into that trap.

You do not have to feel bad for prioritising your marriage!

I truly believe that every other relationship will be healthier when the core relationship (i.e. our marriage) is healthy and taken care of.

Living separate lives is not taking care of the core relationship.

Not even when your time is taken up by your kids.

Now, some of you might be asking at this point, but what if our life is really busy – what do we do then?

And I’m gonna keep my answer very simple – decide what is truly important to you, and schedule it.

Couples should take the time to schedule time together. 

Because sharing experiences together as a couple are the things that create new memories and keep us happy as people and as a married couple.

We call these experiences of shared meaning.

Researchers have found that money spent on things and gifts are not nearly as powerful in making people happy as going through experiences together.

Good and positive experiences generate new memories and solidify a stronger bond between two people.

But living separate lives means not spending quality time together.

And THAT is a relationship killer!

When you eliminate that time from your marriage, you risk getting casual and taking the relationship you have with your spouse for granted.

Worse than that, you start taking your spouse for granted.

But if you assume that just because you’re married you don’t have to work on the relationship any further, you’re surely mistaken.

Unfortunately, too many people believe that working on their marriage is not a priority or it’ll take care of itself.

But do you know what the consequence of that type of mindset it?

Too many ended marriages.

When you pull back from the marriage by putting your priorities outside the relationship, your partner will most likely do the same.

And that is the start of living separate lives which is also the beginning of the end.

Listen, if you know right now that you’re stuck in living separate lives, then it is time to do something about it.

Cut out the distractions from your life outside the home and spend time with your spouse and children.

And there are literally hundreds of things you could do:

  • Rent a movie
  • Play a board game
  • Play cards
  • Go to the beach
  • Go out for a coffee
  • Have a nice coffee outside at home
  • Make dinner together
  • Go for a walk together
  • Go watch a rugby game
  • Have pizza
  • Sneak away from work and have lunch together
  • Play chess
  • Play video games
  • Work in the garden together
  • Before going to bed each night, shut off the television and spend 20 minutes just connecting over what happened in your day or what you have planned for the next day or work …

The list is almost endless.

Seriously.

But if your life outside of your marriage is getting in the way of of your marriage, then you need to seriously consider what’s important to you and also what you’re really busy with doing.

Taking the time to prioritise your marriage will only make the relationship stronger and develop deeper bonds between you as a couple.

Which is what you want, right?

The reality is that if you allow the relationship to stagnate or for you both to grow apart, it’s not long before one or both of you is considering finding the intimacy you desire outside of your marriage.

Trust me on this.

Living separate lives is NOT a good strategy for marital bliss at all!

Relationship Coach Gideon Hanekom signature

About the author 

Gideon

Gideon is the Owner of The Relationship Guy, a top-100 marriage advice blog that helps married couples create happier relationships. He is a trained professional counsellor (DipProfCouns., DipMSHT.), has been happily married for over fifteen years and is a dad of two.​ He also holds Bachelor and Master degrees in the field of Theology and is currently studying Psychology at Massey University (New Zealand).

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