Entering a life of Living Apart Together

March 14 |
"The City moving announcement" from Minted.

So last week, my partner got an amazing job offer in another state. He accepted the offer on Tuesday. Yesterday, he moved into his new apartment six hours away from our home.

We had to make quick decisions and plan a second Rockethaus household in the last few days, and I'm finding myself thinking about very different home topics: Safety! Security! How fast can I acquire more cats! Will I eat anything besides potatoes!

Yes, folks. I'm now entering a lifestyle known as "Living Apart Together." It's not as uncommon as you might think — hey, there's even a Wikipedia entry all about it — but it is new to me. Here's how the transition is going…

Changes so far:

  • No regard for THE MAN'S imposition of "time." I was already pulling pretty odd hours, but — and this may help you have a better idea of how hermitous I am — turns out that when I'm alone, "days" mean something totally different. I'm trying to keep myself somewhat in tune with the rest of the world's timeframe.
  • I have made an entire list of projects in the house to tackle. Last night, I set up the guest room as a seedling nursery.
  • I don't eat without other people around. Consumed in last 36 hours: 2 mochi balls, 2 potatoes, 1 GIANT salad with goat cheese, raisins, and ranch dressing, pineapple, 2 cups butter coffee

I can see that my first challenge is going to be food. I LOVE to cook, but am way too lazy to cook for a table of one. I think I'm going to have to give myself a carrot to get over this sloth and continue to feed myself responsibly, sometimes. Since I think the best carrot is shredded on top of pho, I'm finally sitting down to learn to make it at home, really well, this week — so there will be a recipe for a good one-person pho coming up tomorrow!

For those of you've who've done the Living Apart Together thing, any advice for me?

  1. My parents do this. It has worked out well for the best 10 years. My husband is in the military so over the years we have done it as well. It has it's pros and cons,but I would say my experience has been pretty positive.

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  2. Thanks for the post, my husband is expecting a job offer very soon that would take him far far away for a few years… We havent decided on living arrangments and such so im interested to see what others have to say. Good luck!

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  3. My husband and I did this for the first 10 years of our relationship. It worked out fine. We have been living together full time for 5 years and while it took a lot of adjustment at first, it is also great. I think any combination can work with the right set of people. As long as you don't let anyone mire you down with what their idea of normal is. :)

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    • We're lucky in that we did the distance thing in the beginning of the relationship. This time around the hardest part seems to be that he's moved away from all his friends. Trying to be supportive from afar is more difficult!

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  4. My old ob/gyn's husband lived and worked in the middle of the country while she worked/lived on the east coast. Every couple of months they'd take turns flying to see each other.

    I can't wait to see the pho recipe!

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  5. Talk about good timing, My husband just moved out of the country (Ireland) to work in Poland. It has only been four days so I don't have much advice for you yet. However I totally get you about the food thing. People have been asking me how I'm getting on over the last four days and my first answer has been that cooking for one sucks! I know this is not going to be an easy thing for us as a couple but in our case the long term benefits for our future are going to outweigh the temporary loneliness! Looking forward to reading everyone's advice here as we have had a less than positive reaction from some of our family and friends.

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    • Right? Every time I talk to my dad about this change, he says things like "Everything will be all right." NO I KNOW THAT DAD I'm excited, not sad!

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    • How about cooking in MAJOR bulk, and then packing it, that might get round the laziness (we've all felt it at some point!) and will allow you to be productive in one big go.

      Just read the comment below and realise I just said the same thing.. well great minds and all!

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      • I was thinking they could have a skype cooking date, where they both cook the same thing from the same recipe…then eat together!

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        • Holeeee crap. That's the best idea ever.

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          • Dude, dinner Skype dates saved my long distance relationship with my (now husband, then fiance). We were long distance (me in NY him in San Fran) for 3 years, after dating for 2 years in close proximity. The longest we went without a visit was 6 of the hardest months on our relationship. Being apart just wears you out, so make sure you put in the time for frequent visits. 6 hours is not bad at all! You can take turns driving out for weekends. But, coming back to my original point, is that Dinner Skype dates kept us going. We'd order or cook a nice meal, set mood lighting, even dress up for each other. Helps you feel like a person, helps you feel romantic, and not so bored. Gotta love modern technology. :)

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          • YES I am so excited about this idea!

            We'll definitely be doing visits. He's home soon, and since I have the freedom to work wherever, I'll be going out to stay with him quite a bit too. Already have my favorite bar there picked out :)

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        • Ooh actually I've had a skype dinner with my family before once when I was abroad travelling. Well they were eating a nice home cooked dinner while I was eating campsite sandwiches but it was a nice thing to do though! Really helped with the home sickness!

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        • Although we never cooked together My husband and I used to have takeout dates on skype. We would both order chinese and eat together

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  6. Cooking for one DOES suck.

    My advice is to make a big pot or pan of something that will last for days (chili, stew, lasagna, etc.) and supplement it with side dishes which change every day. It's less like cooking for one and keeps me from getting sick of the same dish over and over and over.

    My non-cooking advice is to make sure you socialize enough. My fiance was my primary work-week socialization until he took a job 2 hours away and moved in with some friends so we could afford the commute. That was hard. I'm trying to get out of the house a lot and set up plenty of to-do lists and fun (or at least time consuming) tasks which keep me occupied. Well, that and Assassin's Creed Revelations.

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  7. My husband and I have done this 3 times in our almost 4 year marriage, once for him to go to school, and twice for jobs. It was hard, but it's a lot easier if you make a point of staying social and seeing people. The worst of our three attempts involved him living alone in an otherwise vacant boarding house, and me and our daughter living in the countryside with no car. Long story, but my parents bought us a house down the street from them, except the only job my husband could find in the area only paid minimum wage. He made some work friends and I hung out with my parents a lot. For us it was a matter of sucking it up and making do until we could afford to move everyone together.
    I kept lists of things that needed to be done, and I took help from my parents when I needed to (How does a single mom get 3 bags of garbage to the end of the driveway with an infant in tow? Grandpa, thats how)

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  8. I think you and I may have the same disease. It's called the "Living Alone Crazies".
    My husband travels for work for 1-2 weeks out of every 8 or so. I work from home, so I keep weird hours sometimes, and when he's not here, I sometimes go for days at a time without every seeing another human being. It's fun for a few days… I watch TV shows he hates, pig out on junk food, etc.
    By about day 4, I start to lose my mind. I have weird fears about everything terrible that could happen to one of us, I sleep odd hours, and I talk to myself a lot. Sometimes I start going to the library or the grocery store, even if I don't need anything, just to see people and get a grip on reality.
    I cannot tell you how to cure the Living Alone Crazies, but I can tell you how I ease the symptoms.
    1. Write up a schedule. It should be ridiculously detailed. Plan what you're going to eat and at what time. Decide when you'll work, when you'll watch movies, and when you'll go to bed. This helps me keep up with reality.
    2. Pick a few different things to eat. I won't cook for just myself, either, but if I can switch around between grilled cheese, baked potatoes, and salads for dinner, it helps define the days a little.
    3. Journal. This especially helps with fear. Writing things down helps take away their power.
    I hope this helps!

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  9. This blows my mind, because I am in the exact same situation right now–moving in 2 days for a new job and leaving my fiancé behind to finish school. Granted, we'll only be 2 hours apart, but I definitely have flashes of fear (will try the journaling idea–I haven't done that in years!) and wonder what my new food schedule will look like. I guess I'm planning on trying to be as social as I can for the first month or two, esp. since I won't have a car (but the town is so tiny it has no Starbucks…).

    I read somewhere that whenever you get to see each other, you should plan when you're getting together next. Even if it doesn't work out, it supposedly helps to have that goal of "I'll see Joe in 2 weeks". I plan on trying it out since I do better when I have things I can plan.

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  10. my mister was gone for a weekend — just a weekend! thursday night to sunday night! — recently, and in that time i:

    -left the house maybe twice
    -watched the entire first season of downton abbey
    -rearranged the bedroom
    -stayed up until 2 and slept 'til 10
    -installed a hammock
    -lived on cheese and swiss cake rolls
    -lost five pounds

    so, goodness help me when i have to live on my own for a month at a time during my clinical rotations. =)

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    • This sounds exactly like what I do. Except I swap out cheese and swiss cake rolls to nachos and soup.
      This summer will be the 2nd time my husband and I have Lived Apart Together. So maybe I'll finally install that hammock I've been wanting!

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  11. The first year of my relationship was long distance (2.5 hours) not that far, but when your relationship is only a little fledgling it can be hard. We were doing out graduate degrees at separate universities. Definitely the planning of visits helps if you are close enough to have semi-regular visits. We would visit every other weekend (I would go there, or he would come to me). Consistency is key in a distance relationship! Knowing when you will talk to each other each day, you don't want to be expecting to talk everyday and having him out and not being around to chat.
    We emailed/facebook/gchatted, some sort of internetted with each other on and off throughout the day and then usually had an end of the day chat before heading to bed. This may seem excessive (not for everyone!) but for us it helped to keep us really involved in what was going on in the other person's separate life, so we were, separate but together! That way whenever visits occurred we didn't feel left out and were ready to jump right in to whatever was going on in with the other person's life and friends etc…
    Also having things that you both do and then can talk about is fun too, such as reading the same book or watching the same tv shows.
    Another thing I really endorse is having something that you always do together as your pre-I have to go back to my respective home now ritual. For us I always visited weekends so we'd pick out a new recipe to do together for dinner on Sunday and watch a favourite tv show. It makes leaving not so sad and is a nice way to share that last bit of time together.
    Hope this helps, enjoy your new found freedom/living alone quirks!

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  12. I'm in the same position…I moved 600 miles away from my bf and shared household back in August. We see each other every three months or so, but talk everyday. Unfortunately, he cooked the majority of our meals and after our 5 years of living together, I had really gotten out of the habit. I'm super lazy about cooking for just me too, so I definitely don't get home-cooked meals anymore. More like, "what can I make in 15 min or less." On the plus side, he can't complain about the weird hours that I keep and the massive amounts of studying that I do :)

    Best of luck to the both of you!

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  13. My husband works at a mine so he's there for 8 nights then home for 6 nights (that's a good roster by the way, alas it is about to change so he'll be away longer). We've been like this since we started dating four years ago so I'm pretty used to it by now. I'm crappy at the looking after myself when he's away part so am taking on those suggestions above, but the important thing for me is that i talk to my husband every night before I go to bed. We get to talk inanities about our days and wish each other a good sleep and be generally coupley – even if it is over the phone (alas, internet at the mine isn't good enough for skype). When he's on nightshift our daily chats become morning chats before he goes to bed but it still works.

    Good luck!

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  14. You've gotten great advice so far. 2.5 years ago, I moved to a teeny coastal town 3.5 hours away from my partner and our dogs. He eventually joined me, but I lived alone in a Airstream trailer during the week and drove home on the weekends.

    I agree with whoever said Skype! We had nightly Skype dates, and it was so nice to just actually chat face to face about our days.

    Cook in big batches. I'd make enough to have food for lunches/dinners on end.

    Make a list of things YOU want to do on our own (though it seems you're well on your way with that seed room). I read so many damn books and walked around exploring a lot.

    Also, recognize it's OK to be a bit of a weirdo sometimes. For example, my dude just left for a two day work trip, and you know what I plan on doing after I walk my dogs? Eat a bowl of popcorn the size of a car tire. And I did that when living alone too, a lot :)

    Make dates with people. Maybe once a week? So you at least know you've got friend contact planned, and give yourself a reason to get out and about.

    Keep open communication! And have fun :)

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  15. Boy, this hits close to home! My guy and I started being long-distance about two months into our relationship. He was transferring to a different university, 8 hours away, which we both knew going into this. It's been really hard these past two years, partially because he's bad at planning and I over-plan, so when he can't make it out the weekend he says he can, I feel crushed. This semester has by far been the worst because I'm working on my senior thesis, and he's doing his super-grueling junior-level thesis-type course, so we can only see each other twice, at our spring breaks, versus a weekend a month normally.

    I will also tout the wonders of skype in this situation. Spontaneity has actually been a saving force–he manages to surprise me in all sorts of ways, including the dinner-date way. For Valentine's Day, he ordered me a pizza, and he made his own pizza. We were able to share a meal that we otherwise wouldn't have been able to, even in reality–he's a carnitarian, I'm a vegetarian.

    Having an end date to all this has also helped, and we are able to spend most of the summer together, but without our friends, we'd both go nuts, so definitely get out and socialize! I get depressive if I'm a hermit for too long, so he'll actually refuse to skype with me until I go out and talk to people. We've watched movies together, picking something online and coordinating starts and stops over chat.

    Basically, skype is your best friend, and if you can convince him to write letters to you (my guy hates his handwriting, even though I send him things all the time), watching the mailbox for those can be fun. Phone calls are also great, as are surprise visits. But make sure to devote time to yourself, too–all the schedules and projects are perfect for this.

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  16. Just dropping in to say that LAT is the ideal couple dynamic for me, and yet everyone I've managed to attract has been a super-traditional type in terms of relationships. Ah well, forever alone! :)

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    • Certain professions are more attracted to this kind of lifestyle: miners, seamen, certain kind of farming, International language tutors, oil pipeline/rig workers (of all sorts).
      So don't despair, your mate is out there!

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      • Well, I say 'forever alone' with the smiley because I don't despair, and that is what my living situation would hopefully look like (partnered or not)! Unfortunately, you can't exactly tell people in the early stages of dating "sleeping in the same bed as someone else is very uncomfortable for me and I would love to maintain my own separate living space" because you get labeled as a crazy person. I was an international ESL teacher and I found that people in this situation typically are looking for either a spouse to travel with them or to settle down together one day when it's all over. I can't say I know anything about those other professions because I've never met anyone who did them. I'd rather be alone than try to be a typical person… tried that and it was baaad;)

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  17. Good luck with it! I've never been in that situation, save for a week when I was working at a school camp and then-fiance was home. We were both miserable, so I'm grateful that we haven't had to go through it.

    But let's talk food! Several of my favorite recipes could easily be made for one. They go along the lines of pasta + veggie + cheese. Cook the pasta. Heat olive oil in a frying pan, cook garlic, toss in the veggie (some need to be pre-cooked, so steam first), toss in the cooked pasta, a bit of the pasta water, and the cheese. Asparagus and mozzarella is good, as are broccoli and Brie. (We add prosciutto and basil to the first, and walnuts to the second, so other bits are good to toss in too!)

    Get a bag of mixed frozen veggies, stir-fry, toss some oyster sauce, fish sauce, and soy sauce in, serve with rice. It's easy enough to save half the veggies for another meal – like on top of a baked potato? (My weekly meal planning is basically two rice stir-fry meals, two pasta, two meat + potatoes, and a curry. Apparently my advice is, too!)

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    • I've lived alone most of my adult life, and I absolutely detest eating the same meal more than twice in a row, so I have a few pointers for cooking for one:

      1. Cook for two! Every time you cook, make enough for two servings, and refrigerate or freeze one serving. That way you have dinner one day, and lunch the next day (or whenever you decide to eat that meal again).

      2. Bulk cook a few starchy side items – I make brown rice by the pound, and once it cools I freeze it into single-serving batches. It reheats well in the microwave. I've done the same with couscous.

      3. If you eat meat or fish, buy packages of pre-cut chops or fish fillets, then freeze them in single-serving packets. I'll often take a salmon fillet, a pack of rice, and a pack of some sauce I made weeks ago and froze, pan-grill the salmon, reheat the sauce and the rice, and steam or stir-fry a veggie. Healthy dinner done in 15 minutes tops!

      4. Find some sauces that you can make ahead and freeze ahead. Pesto is great for this, as well as tomato sauce. One of my favorites is coconut curry sauce – SO good! http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/broiled-tilapia-with-thai-coconut-curry-sauce-10000000348346/

      5. Brinner! Omelets are delicious! If you're vegan, scrambled tofu is wonderful too!

      6. Don't feel guilty about going out to dinner on your own. It's easy to go out every day (believe me, I've done it, not easy on the wallet or waistline), but it's also easy to become a hermit.

      7. Make friends with people who also live alone, or who love having people over for dinner. I regularly have dinner with my good friend from childhood and her son, and I get together with a married couple pretty often.

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  18. My hub is a UK citizen (Scottish) who has lived/worked as project manager building drill ships since we met 8.5 years ago. I hold down the fort in our home in FL. He's lived in Brazil (offshore), Singapore and now, S.Korea. We've been on opposite sides of the world for as long as 4 months at a stretch. It's not always easy but most of the time it's been fine. Daily calls, email, text and Skype have made it possible to remain close. When he's home it's vacation time. I don't work so we're free to travel or just enjoy the novelty of living together.

    I will admit the time/space continuum has faded away for me, especially since I'm a hermit/introvert. I can go a couple of weeks without going anywhere and be perfectly fine with it. Our 2 dogs provide the only structure I have.

    Eating wise I do a lot of big vats of one dish meals and freeze portions. Sandwiches are good. Sometimes it's cheetos and beer. ha!

    This way of life is not for everyone but it suits us. He likes to ramble. I'm a homebody. When we come together in one place we celebrate. I'm 54, he's 57. Our children are grown. My family is here, near me. His children are in Scotland but come over to visit. Somehow it all works.

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    • OH DUH SANDWICHES! I've cut bread out of my diet recently, but I'm not totally against going back if it means I'll have easier, healthier food than what I've been eating.

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      • If you don't want to eat bread, you could explore your gluten free breads, rice wraps, corn tortilla's etc.

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      • oh goodness, cat! gluten free is soooooo hard. i've been vegan for over a decade & did gf for about a year to see if i got any healthier. it helped for awhile & after slowly introducing it, i can eat it again, but wow gf is TOTALLY harder than vegan … especially travel. i hope it works out for you.

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  19. it might be a bit of a "financial investment", so to speak, but if you guys are into gaming you can always have an xbox360 each & chat on xbox live. you can even do two different things at the same time, like say you watch a movie on netflix streaming & he play a game. or you can play co-op games, "together but apart." anyway, maybe super nerdy, but it's an idea & a nice way to spend some quality time that's almost as good as being together physically.

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    • NO! I love that someone else had this idea. We're a PS3 household, and the new Warhawk is coming out soon.

      I play a MEAN game of Warhawk, anyone with PS3…

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      • awesome! there are some online chatting & co-op gaming options w/ ps3 too, but 360 is a little more versatile.

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  20. I did this last year! He lived and worked in Southeast Asia while I stayed in our home country. Eating was an issue for me, so I decided I would try new foods to make me cook at least one substantial meal for myself per week. It worked out pretty well and I now eat a ton of different foods that he has never tried.

    The best strategy I had to get through our year apart was to keep busy. I'm naturally a homebody, but I made sure to go out with friends instead of turning down invitations. I also started new traditions like visiting the Farmer's Market every weekend. When he was gone, it almost felt like I had a whole new life, which, ultimately, made me more independent and confident.

    Keeping our relationship going was not too bad–we Skyped once a week and (thankfully) were able to text each other a few times a week. We also emailed often–just to keep each other updated on the random, everyday things we would normally talk about. A weird thing we did was to watch the same movie at the same time, so, even though we weren't together, we could talk about it later.

    To be honest, a year apart made our relationship stronger and I find living together even easier than before we were separated.

    Best of luck and try not to eat more than potatoes (although, given the chance, I would only eat potatoes, too.)

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  21. Rediscover the mail. Send postcards, mixed CDs, love letters.

    We've been long distance over two years and the mail thing is my favorite part.

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  22. i'm clearly in the minority here, but i spent enough time living alone! i'm done with it. & when he got offered a job far away, i left all of my friends & family & any possibility of working (my career doesn't pay in this country) to go with him.

    once i got married to my husband, we have made every effort possible to never spend even one night apart & even always in the same bed .. even when that bed is a twin except for one night when he had to sleep in the bunk across from me on a train.

    not on a high horse … i'm obviously in a minority … but i can't think of any situation we'd be put in where we'd choose to live apart once being married … dating i can get. i know people who do this with their children on diff continents for a job.

    clearly i'm weird! maybe it's just the way i picture my ideal relationship. have you ever seen life is beautiful? when i saw that, i thought, if i am ever in that situation, i want to make exactly the same choice as that woman did. she was not jewish, but she got on that train b/c her jewish husband & child had to. … probably very much has to do with personal goals, definitions, & ideals.

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    • Thank God someone else with the same feelings as me. I was starting to feel like a baby because my new husband and I do not do well when we're apart. I'm currently away from him taking care of my mom who is ill and it's the hardest thing ever, I wish I was as strong as you guys! I also feel like I've lived alone for long enough and I'm ready to share everything with my favorite person. Now I'm embarrassed, hehe.

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    • I totally get that. SO DO. Both Scott and I are only children, so I think we're naturally predisposed to being more okay with being apart. PLUS we started dating over distance, PLUS this is not a permanent solution. Our hope is that we can use our house in DSM as a home base so that whenever we want to travel — or live abroad, or whatever — we can do that without totally moving everything. But in the short term, I'm okay with this.

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      • I think the point you make about being an only child has some validity. It's really interesting if nothing else.
        I am one of 4+ an extra cousin that lived with us and I couldn't even imagine being OK with something like this. I super hate being away from my husband. Like, I hate when we have to go to work/school, it's that bad! He had to be six hours away for four nights for a work conference. We made it through the first night (but it sucked) and then I drove down for the rest of it.

        I wonder if the other people who have had success with this a) had siblings or b) had success and happiness living alone single

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        • MM-HMMM! I wonder, too. Really, I could live very alone for a very long time. Notice how none of my post dealt with sudden crushing loneliness. :) I was like, "Huh, this is different." for about a day, and it can get spooky at night.

          When I was a kid, I was ALL ABOUT sci fi stories about living alone on Mars. Or on Earth after the apocalypse. Did lots of wandering for hours. I didn't realize quite how unusual this was until this post!

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  23. Just to chime in so mariegael doesn't feel all alone: I would not recommend it. Of course it can work for some, and some make it work temporarily out of necessity, but human beings are made to live in a family unit. It's in our genes, and for most people anything else is second best, and frequently ends in looking for "first best" — elsewhere. Seriously, playing Xbox together from different locations is NOT almost as good as being together. It can help; lots of things can help. Sorry to be blunt, but if this is a permanent plan, then odds are not in your favor unless you are special kind of couple, which you may be. But most people aren't.

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    • "It's in our genes, and for most people anything else is second best, and frequently ends in looking for "first best" — elsewhere."

      I think this is a little unfair. I think mariegael (and others) were saying this couldn't work for *them* – which I totally get: I'm in this situation temporarily, and I'm hugely glad it's not permanent. But I don't think you can generalise and say this is likely to be wrong for *everyone*.

      I'm living out of the country for a number of months. Later in the year, my partner will be doing the same. Do I think either of us is going to go and find our "first best" elsewhere? No. Living apart together with each other is still better than being apart from each other permanently!

      In any case, it seems like the majority of people here are in this situation temporarily and/or it's necessary because of work. Seems fair enough to me!

      1 agrees
  24. Are you vegetarian? Aidell's makes some kill Chicken Teriyaki meatballs that are precooked. Keep them frozen, then thaw out a few and throw them into a stir-fry with lots of vegetables.

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