Living separately not only saved our sex lives — it saved our relationship
- The Sun Uk
- Sex & Love
WITH 10% of couples now choosing to live apart together (LAT), Roberta and Steve reveal how he moved out to rescue their relationship – and why they’ve never happier.
Roberta Lee, 38, is a stylist and entrepreneur and lives in north London.
“Walking into my bedroom, I was horrified. My shoe collection was stuffed behind a cupboard and in its place were my boyfriend’s brogues and trainers. Steve and I had been living together for a month, but it wasn’t going well. I met Steve in January 2017 at a work event. He was charismatic and good-looking, and we started dating that April.
I’d lived alone in a small one-bed flat which I’d rented for eight years, while he was in a house-share in Greenwich after a divorce. I loved snuggling on the sofa with him and a glass of wine, and going out for walks in the park. We’d see each other three or four times a week. A year after we started dating, we decided to move in together. It seemed silly paying two lots of rent and being miles apart when we wanted to see more of each other.
Living with a partner is seen as a goal in a relationship, but neither of us gave enough thought as to whether it was right for us. In June 2018, Steve moved into my flat. I cleared out half my wardrobe and sold my sofa to make space in the living room for his desk, as like me he works from home. It meant we had nowhere to relax, apart from our bed.
I felt excited but I was apprehensive. I’d lived with a partner years before, but I did wonder how Steve and I would manage living and working in such a small flat. I felt anxious as I am neat and tidy and knew that Steve could be messy, but I thought we’d get over any teething problems.
For the first few weeks it was lovely waking up together, cooking meals and being spontaneous. I focused on all the benefits of living together, trying to ignore that my flat felt crowded with Steve’s books, clothes and kitchen gadgets everywhere.
But after the shoe incident, I began to find it harder to suppress my unhappiness. Maybe if we’d both had office jobs it would have been different. But it was intense and I craved space and alone time. Now, I had no space to do yoga, and when I’d find unwashed dishes in the sink and Steve’s paperwork all over the table, I tried not to nag, but I found myself making sniping comments about it being my flat.
We argued and Steve told me he felt like he was in the way. I hated that he felt like that, as I wanted this to be our home. I knew it was me who was the problem, as he’s more laid-back about mess. We were becoming emotionally distant. We felt more like flatmates who got on each other’s nerves than people in love.
We stopped having sex, as seeing each other so much had killed any passion, and feeling stressed at him killed my libido. Four months in, I confided in friends. They understood how hard it was for me to give up my space. So one night after five months of living together, I told Steve I was feeling unhappy, resentful and claustrophobic.
He admitted he didn’t feel it had ever become his home and that he didn’t want me to be unhappy, so perhaps it wasn’t the right space for two people at home a lot. It was a hard chat, but after months of bottling up our feelings, it felt cathartic.
Steve was worried I didn’t want to be with him any more, but I assured him that wasn’t the case and we could still be happy, just in separate homes. I know we could have moved to a bigger flat, which was neutral territory. We looked at a few places online but while Steve was open to it, I felt it was too soon when things hadn’t gone smoothly the first time.
Plus, I love my flat and didn’t want to give it up just yet. In February 2019, Steve moved out. I helped him pack with mixed emotions. Part of me couldn’t wait to reclaim my home, but I also knew I was waving goodbye to all the joys of living with him. Watching him drive off, I felt both relieved and sad.
Now, he lives with a friend in Essex. We FaceTime during the week and see each other at weekends, as well as going on holidays. Our time together is now quality over quantity, and we’re totally focused on each other, not distracted by irritations over housework. Missing each other keeps the spark alive and now we’re both happy with our sex life.
I’d never say never to living with Steve in the future, but I don’t want to get married or have children, so if we did it again it would be because it felt right. In the future, when we have a bigger income, I’m definitely open to moving somewhere more spacious with him.
When I tell people my boyfriend and I did live together but now live apart, they’re always surprised. But women also confide in me that they envy my decision, as they crave their own space, too. Now Steve and I have the best of both worlds.”
‘I hope we can try living together again one day’
STEVE Woody, 37, is a company director and lives in Brentwood, Essex.
“Driving away from Roberta’s flat, my car packed with all my belongings, I felt gutted. I’d been so excited about living with her, never imagining that within eight months I’d be moving out.
At first, I was oblivious to how unhappy she was. I’m not that intuitive when it comes to emotions, and even when Roberta would complain she had no space to do her yoga, it didn’t resonate with me just how much she was struggling. I just thought we’d get used to it eventually.
When Roberta first raised the idea of me moving out, I was shocked. But when she explained how she was really feeling, I understood where she was coming from.
Still, I felt like we’d failed as a couple, and that if we couldn’t co-habit it must mean we weren’t compatible. But Roberta assured me her feelings hadn’t changed.
MOST READ IN FABULOUS
We weren’t the problem, it was our living arrangement. I now live with a pal and I have to admit that I enjoy having my own space again.
I’d prefer to still be living with Roberta – I loved waking up with her each morning – but for now this arrangement is better for us.
I hope in the future we can try again in a new home, and I’ve promised I’ll have a proper declutter before we do.”