I had been married for almost 25 years when I made the heartbreaking decision to leave my husband. At that time, approaching 45, I felt decidedly middle-aged, not very attractive, and thought it quite unlikely that I would ever again meet anyone who might be interested in me.
Which goes to show just how wrong a girl can be.
On an evening out with a group of friends not even a year later, I was introduced to a man with whom I would eventually fall in love. In the dizzying first months, we were barely apart. I discovered that my new lover and I were compatible in all the little ways that make being together uncomplicated. We just seemed to fit.
Spending blissful hours together sharing stories, cooking, talking, laughing, and lying in each other’s arms listening to Paulo Nutini — as if the words had been written just for us.
The first time I fell in love, I hadn’t hesitated to pack up my worldly possessions (a suitcase of clothes and some cassette tapes) and set up home with the object of my desire. This time it was different. As much as I loved being with my new man, and as right as the relationship felt, I realised that I felt a deep need to retain my new-found independence, my identity, and a home that was my own. That was ten years ago, and today we are still together, but we still live apart.
Do we sleep with other people?
Most people are puzzled when they first hear of our arrangement.
Are we exclusive? Do we sleep with other people? Would I marry him if he asked me to? WHY NOT?
My boyfriend (I find the term amusing) tells me how some men’s eyes light up at the thought of all the women – young and hot no doubt – that must be tripping through his apartment. The women I speak to are concerned that I have no idea what he gets up to while he is on his own, unsupervised. They are convinced that if he just popped the question, all of this silliness could come to its necessary end. I love the idea that we are together for no other reason than that we choose to be, and that we are free to make that choice each day. I feel as committed to the relationship as is possible; I don’t sleep with anyone else, and I have no reason to believe that he does.
We don’t see each other every day, but he is still my partner, my go-to person, my shoulder to cry on, and my chief advisor. We don’t feel the need to check up on each other, although on the days that we don’t see each other we often touch base with a short Skype date. This is highly amusing to my friends, not least because our apartments are about 200 metres apart.
I treasure the times I spend on my own in my gorgeous nest. Simply listening to music, reading, sewing, rearranging my furniture, or playing with my collection of vintage clothes. I love having the freedom to tap into my inner teenager and just inviting one of my girlfriends over for a pyjama party. We both climb into my king-size bed and sit up late drinking tea, painting our nails, giggling, and talking about boys.
Right now, I can’t imagine living any other way.