Love Letters: Can We Move Out And Keep Dating?

Hi Meredith,

Long time reader hoping to get some insight from you and your community. I am currently in an 8-year relationship with a great man. We are both previously divorced with two teenage children, each from our previous marriages. We're both in our early 40s. The history of our relationship is pretty simple: dated for four years, got engaged, moved in together. Now, four years after the move-in, we are on the verge of a move-out.

In retrospect, we really did not handle the blending of our two families correctly. We had both lived alone with our children for 5-plus years, and we're pretty stuck in our ways. We argued a lot about finances and how to decorate the house, discipline the children, and basically live our lives together.

We have lived the last four years almost functioning as two separate families under one roof, and it is not healthy for anyone. Additionally, he quit his job two years ago without consulting me, and while he is now employed again with great opportunities for advancement, that period of unemployment caused a great deal of strain, and his new salary is much less than before, and I have some resentment about shouldering more of the financial load.

He has started looking at apartments and it has hit us pretty hard. Not so easy to say goodbye and walk away, at least not as easy as we thought. The fact is, we love each other and have a great time together -- we really enjoy being together and the physical relationship is still there. However, it is apparent that we can't live together at this point anymore, particularly with four children involved.

My question is: Is it possible to separate our living spaces and just go back to dating again? Is it naive to think that if we started over and worked through what was done wrong the first time, it could be done right this time around, particularly as the kids will all be out of the house in a few years? We are heartbroken over losing each other, but maybe it is just the inevitable way you feel during a break-up.

– Looking for Clarity, North of Boston

"Is it possible to separate our living spaces and just go back to dating again?"

Sure. It's certainly the road less traveled, but you've got some special circumstances.

Of course, it sounds like your issues are bigger than cohabitation and decor. The job story is very troubling and suggests that he doesn't understand what it means to be a partner. It makes sense that you went into the relationship with different rules for your children, but you should have agreed upon a set of rules for each other.

Let him move out and then reassess. Maybe you'll decide that you want to date him from down the street and learn from your past mistakes. Or maybe, after some time in separate houses, you'll want to move on from the whole experience.

Anything is possible, but you should wait on making big decisions about the future until you’ve had some time in the house alone.

Readers? Is it possible to take a step back? Can they fix past mistakes? Will this be easier without kids in the house?

– Meredith