Would You Be Happier If You Lived Apart From Your Spouse?

by Hollee Actman Becker
Originally Published: 

My husband left for a three-day work trip last night. I hate when he’s gone, not only because I miss him but because I’m a wuss who sleeps with the bathroom light on. But, if I’m honest, I love when he’s gone because it means less laundry, less food shopping and more access to the TV. Which means I can finally sit down and watch The Real Housewives of New York without someone asking me over and over again why I subject myself to this thing—before hypocritically noting, “Hey, Bethenny’s back?”

So yeah, I’m down with a little space every now and again. And p.s., it looks like I’m not the only one: Researchers at Northwestern’s Family Institute found that couples who live apart for a majority of the week—usually due to work-related reasons—were happier and healthier than those who lived together full time. According to the Boston Globe, the long-distance couples also reported lower depression levels, less fatigue, better diet and more frequent exercise.

So what gives? Apparently these couples are getting the best of both worlds, according to Steve Du Bois, co-author of the study and research fellow at Northwestern. Du Bois told the Globe that long-distance couples have “more independence to do things such as work out, socialize with friends and sleep uninterruptedly, which are important to maintaining their mental and physical well-being.”

Hmm. I should probably consider kicking the kids out of my bed tonight, hopping on the treadmill and making some dinner plans, then.

However, while the spouses in long-distance marriages may be flourishing individually, they are apparently more stressed over personal issues and experiencing more conflict with their spouses. The Globe reports that they are also having sex less often (newsflash!), and scored “slightly lower in the area of ‘relationship maintenance’ (which tracks actions like saying ‘I love you,’ discussing feelings, and keeping up with household responsibilities).”

“These factors could play into higher stress levels for long-distance spouses,” Du Bois said, adding that he would like to use future studies to find ways to help them deal with these issues. As long as he waits until my show goes on hiatus, I’m cool with that.

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