I Love My Boyfriend, But I’m Never Going to Live With Him

Life & Love

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My son was struggling with AP History in the kitchen while my new-ish relationship—a boyfriend of six months who I am really enjoying seven years after my divorce—was waiting on the couch in the living room. With the TV remote in his hand, ready to play a chilling documentary—our favorite form of relaxation—I knew I was about to fail one of them. Unwilling to let joy slow-leak out of my life again, I headed to the living room to lay out a hard truth:

“I can’t do this this way. I’m done with domestic partnerships.”

Which is not to say I’m done with romantic relationships. But on the verge of playing house with a new partner I really like, and knowing how fast the mundanity of a home life consumes want, intrigue, and quality time… I am taking a hard pass.

I’m uninterested in co-mingling my romantic life with my home life again. In my experience, they are not the same, and combining them robs me of the joy in both.”

At the end of my marriage, I told multiple friends I wanted my future relationships to be the icing in my life—not the foundation. I want a partner for dates, travel, meaningful conversation, and sex. This was repeatedly met with a pat on the shoulder, along with reassurances that someday, when my pain was gone, I’d be ready for something real again.

I’m not done with domestic partnerships because I’m in pain. As a straight, white woman who is also a mother, I have enjoyed social acceptance for all of my life choices. But to my unspoken shame, I have never been able to draw emotional strength from any family unit— not from my family of origin nor any of the subsequent ones I’ve created, despite relentlessly longing for it. Family systems are or become something I serve.

This is the actual reason I’m uninterested in co-mingling my romantic life with my home life again. In my experience, they are not the same, and combining them robs me of the joy in both. And I’m betting I might not be alone.

Women are encouraged to compartmentalize every part of our lives, except for romance. Having love for my work and my children is estimable. But somehow, my romantic needs are meant to fit inside both of these other lanes and still flourish, which has repeatedly left me feeling alone in a house full of people I love. It’s caused me to ask if the last piece of decentering a man in my life is letting go of the idea of making a home with him.

Women are encouraged to compartmentalize every part of our lives, except for romance.”

I can’t say this is true for every straight man, but I’ve rarely met one who didn’t feel a woman has made his home life easier. Yet at every stage, living with a lover has added things for me to manage. This sounds like a generalization, but when I moved in with and later married my former husband, I was aware that this life path was created out of a need to make farmhands, who I would bare and then raise, and who later would tend to the crops our family needed to survive. Or in the New York City version of this narrative, that I might leave the two roommates I shared a three-bedroom with uptown to graduate to a studio in Brooklyn with just my lover.

I waited a long time to get on this conveyer belt to adulting. I thought putting off marriage until my late thirties would mitigate its pitfalls, which is to say, I thought money and agency would help. I owned a house and could employ child care, as well as maintain an established career outside my home and thus my own identity. It turns out, all this also left me zero time with a man I had once really loved.

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Diane Farr.

And I fought for time with him. The last years of my marriage, I kept trying to sweeten our union with the perks separated parents enjoy. I scheduled one weekend on with the kids and the next alone with my husband. First in sexy hotels, then on the world’s shortest getaways, and later, in an apartment I rented just for us. But, the truth was, our home life buoyed him. He didn’t want time out of our family. I know many people would feel the same. I needed a break, specifically in the form of meaningful adult connection.

Now my decision to not live with a partner nor spend more than occasional time with each other’s kids and parents might just be an attachment disorder—maybe even a trauma response, a protective mechanism, or a control issue. I’ve asked myself this as well as multiple therapists over the last decade. They flood me with Esther Perel and scientific evidence in podcasts and books, as well as avant-garde healers and PhD experts, all of whom remind me of the same fact: That pathologizing my lived experience also requires me to ignore basic chemistry; fire needs air.

With support to accept my lived experience, I can say it tells me that even minimally cohabiting with a partner causes a fog of “family love” to surround me and them, making everyone I share a home with feel like they are a sibling, parent, or child; those are three sets of people I don’t want to have sex with. Thanks to a cocktail of hard work, luck, and privilege, I probably have the means to live alone forever now, if I so choose. I am betting my happiness on the idea that doing so does not mean I need to be emotionally alone.

I’m also aware that if foregoing a domestic partnership is not an unhealthy abnormality, I might have just become the world’s greatest girlfriend. I think my lover deserves more than AP History homework before bed, and I’m hoping it’s OK for me to now say, so do I.

Lettermark

Diane Farr is the author of two books about women and love: The Girl Code and Kissing Outside The Lines. She has also penned a humorous monthly column on pop culture for 300 Herald Tribune newspapers around the world for 12 years and has been featured in The New York Times. She contributes to Rolling Stone, EW, and O Magazine and currently stars on CBS’s hit series Fire Country playing Sharon Leone.

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