When Nancy comes home every night she comes home to an empty house. She eats dinner alone and watches TV alone, but Nancy isn't single. She is living what is called a "commuter marriage" with her husband who is 3,000 miles away, "The first time we were apart, it was for about a month, and it was hard. I was so lonely and I know he was lonely."
They are not alone. Experts say, thanks in part to the shaky job market, there is an increase of couples being forced to live apart. Tina Tessina, Author of "The Commuter Marriage" says, "It does affect marriages and it does create more commuter marriages. People drive longer distances to get a job. People are laid off from work and they have to relocate to get a job."
According to the last US Census 3.5 million couples are now living in commuter marriages, up 30% since 1990. And experts, including Dr. Karla Bergan Coordinator of Women's Studies College of Saint Mary, "The real estate market is really depressed, so the other partner ends up staying behind until the house sells."
Dr. Bergen studies commuter couples. She says the tolls can be great, especially if children are involved, "People get married to be together and when you're in a commuter marriage,
you don't see each other as you would normally. There is two times the amount of household chores, two times the amount of repairs."
It can also be expensive. A recent survey found only a quarter of businesses offer assistance to commuting employees, "If it's a job versus no job, you're probably better off commuting, but commuting is expensive." Luckily, says Psychotherapist and Author Tina Tessina, technology is cheap, "Today we can stay in touch minute by minute. We've got Skype and cell
phones and texting."
Tessina says communication is a key, "It's really good for the person far away to feel more connected and it's also good for the person at home to feel like the person who's away understands
what's going on." There can even be surprising benefits to a commuter arrangement, "It can refresh a marriage that's stale because people have been together all the time and there's nothing new happening and suddenly you get that rush of 'Wow I've missed you!"
Nancy agrees, saying absence really has made her heart grow fonder, "It's a honeymoon! We don't focus on the negative because we don't have time to."
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