August 12, 2007

I've lived on my own for a long time, and occasionally someone will ask if I worry it might be difficult to compromise if I were ever to live with someone again. On the massive list of things I worry about, this concern is at the bottom. Right after worrying about getting too thin or too rich.

Ten years ago I lived with a boyfriend, and when I moved out I decided I would never live with anyone again unless we were married. Since then, I've revised my position. Now, I would only live with someone if I wanted to end the relationship.

If we were ever to get married, I'd insist we have separate residences. Every time I've heard about couples living in separate houses I've loved the idea. The painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera had houses next to each other with a walkway that connected them. Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter live in adjoining flats linked by a corridor. My preference would be to live across the street from one another. That way, I could look into his window to make sure he was home.

Just the other day, a friend told me she is having problems with her husband, who snores. It's got so bad that she's now sleeping in the guest room. I told her she'd be better off if she were to move out entirely. I can see advantages in waking up together, but continuing to share a bathroom? Where's the romance in that?

My friend Audrey is against living apart. She says she likes the domestic stuff that goes with cohabitation. When I asked for specifics, she said: "It's great having someone to share the boring stuff with - doing the dishes, washing up, taking out the rubbish."

I don't see why that should have to be forsaken. That's why God invented speed-dial. "Honey, can you come over and help take out the rubbish?"

But Audrey also believes that figuring out how to live with someone can be really good for other parts of the relationship. I'm not so sure. How is taking out the rubbish together going to improve our sex life?

I'm convinced separate houses are the way to go. After sex we could lie together for a while, but as soon as he started to snore I'd go home - or, even better, he'd go home so I wouldn't have to get up and get dressed.

I would never have to panic if he bought a plasma TV and announced he was so excited to watch Dirty Harry for the 50th time. And think of all the nagging it would eradicate. If he wanted his things lying around, I wouldn't care. He'd have his space, I'd have mine - and it's not as though I couldn't keep an antiseptic handwash at his place.

Then again, I might begin to wonder what he was up to. If we lived across the road, and I saw the lights on, I'd find it odd if he didn't answer the phone. And what if he had friends over and didn't invite me? That would be weird. I would assume I could go over any time. Because I'd have a key.

But would that mean he'd have a key to my place? Here's what I'd like. I'd have a key to his place, but he wouldn't have a key to mine. What are the chances of that working out? Maybe I think the secret to a happy relationship is not living together, because deep down I know we'll eventually break up - and when we do, it means I won't have to find a new place to live.