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And They Lived Happily Ever Apart

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Years ago, when I met someone who had life-partner potential, someone who could be my first real adult relationship, I held on tighter than Donald Trump to a bad hair style.

“I love you,” I said.

“I want to be with you all the time,” I said.

“Let’s get married,” I said.

I said a lot of things. We got married.

At first, it was just like the movies. There was love and passion and caring and sharing and laughter and plans for the future. We were like the models on Hallmark greeting cards. There were fields of daisies and we were running across them, in slow motion, toward each other, arms outstretched. It couldn’t have been mushier or cornier, but we didn’t give a damn. Other singles envied us.

“Be strong, little singles,” we told them. “We were you once.”

Flash forward. A dozen years. A couple of kids. A few conflicts.

“I want you” was replaced by, “Are you still here?”

“Do you realize we’ve been having sex for six straight hours?” was replaced by, “Do you realize we haven’t had sex for six straight weeks?”

And “I just love all your little quirks,” was replaced by, “That sound you make when you sneeze makes my skin crawl.”

Being together day after day for 14 years sadly lost its luster.

We tried to save the quickly expiring marital patient. Counseling. More counseling. More counseling. But it was not to be. We decided to pull the plug. Divorce. Mediation. Married couple becomes two singles again.

When you’re alone, you look around and it appears as though everyone else in the world is in love, except you. All the other animals on the Ark are in pairs — except you, the sole pig — Porky, party of one.

So I jumped back into the quest. Almost another decade of dating; of periods of JDates, no dates, good dates, bad dates, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am dates. And now, once again, I’ve met someone who has life-partner potential. I want to be with her all the time. I see fields of daisies, the two of us running across them, in slow motion, toward one — wait a minute. This is starting to sound familiar. I try to remember the TV show or movie that’s reminding me of what’s happening, and then it occurs to me that it’s a rerun from my own life. Oh, God. I’m repeating the pattern. Will I be stuck in this Dante’s Romantic Inferno forever? Will this be my personal hell? My Vietnam? My Iraq?

Is this going to be the arc of my romantic growth? To go from “All You Need Is Love” to “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”? Is there any way to change my fate?

Life has a way of stepping in when you need it. This time (Adult Relationship No. 2), I can’t spend all my waking moments with my new girlfriend. Because of our work, children, pet and activity schedules, we can only see each other a few times a week. Maybe that’s why each time we do, it’s like we’re meeting for that first time. We’re constantly in a state of missing each other and accumulating experiences and feelings to share. We’re not together every day. We’re definitely not living together. And we’re both fine with that. Really. We’ve each been married before, so neither of us is in a hurry to rush into anything permanent. We each value both our time together and our independent time apart.

I remember many of those fairy tales we read as kids ending with: “And they lived together, happily ever after.” I suppose for some people that still holds true. But for myself, and for many others these days, it’s a new, revised fairy tale ending: “And they lived apart, happily ever after.”

Maybe it’s not the perfect fairy tale ending. Then again, what with the national divorce rate at 50 percent and higher, maybe we’re simply creating our own fairy tale.

Mark Miller is a marketing specialist, current JDate member, Facebook fanatic and comedy writer who has performed stand-up comedy in nightclubs and on TV, written on numerous sit-com staffs, been a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and is a current humor columnist for The Huffington Post. But he says he’d trade all his success away in a minute for immortality, inner peace and limitless wealth.
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10 Comments »

  • Hello, Mark-

    Somehow I stumbled upon your columns and I just can’t stop reading! I can absolutely relate to everything! I’ve been separated for almost a year after a 20 year marriage. I found myself back in the dating scene and it was everything you described in your “coffee date” column. After kissing lots of frogs, I finally found my prince charming! And, yes, we too are living happily apart. I’m hopeful we will live happily ever after together eventually, but for now this works! I’m writing to you because I just love your writing style, your humor and your honesty. I am a publicist and strongly feel you could be the next “Millionaire Matchmaker” from a male’s point of view! I would like to help make that happen for you! If you’re interested in promoting yourself as a male dating expert/coach/matchmaker, I’d be glad to help!

    I do hope to hear from you!

    Best-
    Andrea Foreman

  • Marci says:

    Dear Mark,
    And all those others that find writing about the current circumstance & situations we find ourselves in when confronted by the possibility of the end or beginning of a romantic relationship ! I am in the middle of a divorce after 22 years, in retrospect I must own the responsibility of accepting my needs wants and desires out weighed all the red flags that I witnessed and ignored, wanting to believe that “LOVE WILL CONQUER ALL !” Please don’t kid yourself ! Maybe for you, “LOVE CAN CONQUER ALL !” BUT PLEASE DON’T EXPECT THAT THE OTHER PERSON HAS THE ABILITY, INTEREST OR DESIRE TO, OR EVEN MORE IMPORTANT WILL ADMIT IT !
    Like I said I do own this mistake assuming that everyone wants to connect, commit, have a life partner, NOT THE CASE ! Hard to accept & even harder to believe !
    Good luck !

  • Curls says:

    Here here to Deb’s comment of Jan 6, 2013. I agree with everything you said about the toll on kids and the courage of sticking it out being bred out of us.

    Also wanted to add as a reply to Mark’s point of view, that living apart only works well during a certain age range…eventually we get old enough that individuals in a couple become invaluable live in mates.
    Otherwise the scenario eventually becomes that you and your current “life-long partner” gfriend, visit each other in your respective old age homes? really? that’s the way it will go?

    I think there is a balance to be established btw work, kids, activities w friends, exercise etc.,. and the one you love. So that even if you live together, it doesn’t mean that every spare moment is lived together. You can still have experiences and “miss each other”.

    Luck to you,
    Curls

  • De says:

    Hi Mark,

    Sad to read this.

    I am divorced and I remember all those same things you do, right down to the end. Many years later, and many dates later, I realize that much of the demise of that loving feeling, was brought on by the stress of combining work, children, mortgages, summer camp, and groceries, and our own inherent selfishness. And, so we bailed, because life seemed so much rosier on the other side. And because we could. And because all the experts (who were getting divorced, too) told us our kids would be happier and mentally healthier if we divorced.

    Truth is most kids of divorce don’t grow up happier or healthier. Most carry the emotional toll right into adulthood. And of course, they learned to give up on their marriages too or maybe never to commit to anyone at all.

    Commitment takes courage and faith and endurance. It almost feels like those characteristics are being bred out of us. And that is the most sad of all.

    I still believe in marriage.

    Deb

  • Ria B says:

    Hey Mark,
    It’s me–
    at your suggestion, I signed up!!
    I now expect you to help me find a boyfriend!!!
    Love
    R

  • Hannah says:

    Great idea Mark for someone who enjoy living alone like myself. You get both of best worlds! A relationship we all need with the “arguments free luxury” but you need integrity for a commited relationship of this kind. In NYC they call it “living together..separatly” but still not adopted by many, I wonder why. What do you think Guys and Dolls??

  • Barry says:

    Mark,

    If 50% of marriages fail, and yours was one of those, then the odds would say your next one would succeed. You’ve had one that didn’t go the distance and got that part of the 50% out of the way, so you are now possibly destined to experience the other side of the equation, the 50% that do succeed.

    Hey, I’m not an accountant but the figures seem pretty straightforward. By my calculations, the odds are in your favour this time around.

  • ruth says:

    Mark,
    I agree with Holly.
    I was married for 30 years and lost my husband to cancer. We had high points and low points but we never got so low at the same time to even discuss divorce. We were lucky, we found our compatible life-partners, and then his life stopped, the love between us never will.

    I wish you the magic of finding and loving someone for eternity.
    50% of marriages don’t make it that’s true and you’ve already done that. No need to repeat.
    I wholeheartedly hope you find her and live together forever and after.

  • Holly Howarth says:

    Dear David, I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with u. I lived happily ever after for 30 years. It was a close intense and fulfilling marriage which ended because my husband died of cancer. I believe u just had the wrong partner ; and u lost your sexual connection. The strong sexual relationship would have helped u thru the rough patches. Holly

  • David says:

    Mark, good for you. This way of doing things would have to be smarter than simply remarrying — if you already did it once and it didn’t work despite best efforts, how insane is it to try the same exact thing again? Better for everyone to learn from mistakes.

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