January 17, 2019

The Rise of Commuter Marriage or, Alternatively, How to Get Away From Your Annoying Spouse

A friend recently announced that she and her spouse are entering into a “commuter marriage” because her husband landed a job in Kentucky. He would be moving to the land of horse racing and finely-aged bourbon, and she would be staying in Detroit to “focus on her accounting career.”

“We’re starting a commuter marriage and are excited for this next adventure! We can meet halfway in Indianapolis on the weekends and stuff,” she told us.

Um. The fuck? Commuter marriage — how is this even a thing? At first I thought my friend made it up, but according to Psychology Today, nearly 3.5 million U.S. couples — 7 million people for the mathematically challenged — are commuter spouses for reasons other than legal separation.1 Funny, I always thought you commuted to work, not home to your wife.

How did that conversation even happen? “Honey, I got a job in Kentucky. I’m going — you’re not.”

My Detroit friend is not the only commuter spouse I know. I knew a partner who worked in New York City during the week and traveled home to Michigan on the weekends. Yes, I said Michigan, not Philadelphia. He accepted the partnership in NYC and didn’t want to uproot his family, so he saw them on weekends and major holidays, while living in an apartment in NYC during the week. For as flexible as the accounting profession touts itself to be, he probably could have accepted a partnership in Detroit, but he made the choice to work in NYC. He made the choice not to move his family. I know that everyone and their mother is looking for a way the fuck OUT of Detroit, but a commuter marriage seems a little extreme, no? After all, he was still slumming it around here on weekends.

Some people don’t see a commuter marriage as entirely negative. Psychology Today claims that commuter marriage can enhance some relationships because the distance allows for more personal space and self-fulfillment2. I guess the NYC partner has plenty of personal space, given his wife and children live thousands of miles away. Then again, he probably lives in a one bedroom with three roommates and a set of twin bunk beds because it’s Manhattan. Maybe the commuter marriage works for people who find marital cohabitation suffocating, but then why not just stick to casual dating?

Why even marry in the first place if you’re going to permanently put your career before your spouse? I understand that some people don’t have a choice. Some people may be temporarily locked into a contract, or one person’s job may be in a hard-to-enter field, but most anecdotal evidence I’ve found suggests that this commuter spouse thing is a choice –- a permanent lifestyle choice without an expiration date. Why?
Is commuter marriage an example of two career-focused people trying to have it all? Are our careers so important that we need to sacrifice our marriage in order to succeed? Are commuter marriages still as prevalent among accounting-types as they are among other professions? Are you or anyone you know involved in a commuter marriage? Why did you do it, and how do you make it work?

1 Ben-Zeev, Aaron. (2013, January 22). Are Commuter Marriages Good Marriages? Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com.

2 This is possibly code for jerking off

 

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