One of the primary functions or purposes of marriage is the companionship of spouses, a fact that is supported by biblical position: “It is not good that a man should live alone!” Marriages thrive well and parenting is more productive when couples are physically proximate and cooperative in bringing up their children. Being together and keeping each other’s company has also been recognised as a factor for nurturing love between spouses, especially when such spouses make out time each day, solely for the purpose of “talking together”. Talking together about everything makes for happiness, mutual admiration and agreement and fosters love and success between couples and in their family life. Living together assists couples to easily re-fuel their marriage and love life, once the togetherness is accompanied by quality relationship between couples. Thus, couples must make efforts to stay together physically, and optimize each time of the day that they have to stay together. Not living together has shown to be a predisposing factor for marital breakdown, including divorce in marriages, loneliness and meaninglessness in marriage. “It is not good that a (wo)man should live alone!”

Possible problems when couples live apart…

Reasons often arise – beyond the control of couples – which force them to live apart. These range from work, business, academic or conflict reasons. When couples live apart, the companionship function or purpose of marriage is undermined. Consequently, each spouse experiences or suffers the effects of this undermined companionship especially when the “living apart” is prolonged. If not properly managed, the condition is also fertile for infidelity or adultery, weakened sense of commitment to the marital union, and frequent incidence of conflict between the spouses due to communication problems resulting from frustration from, say, lack of intense love and affectionate touch that “physical togetherness” produces for couples and their family life.

The effect of couples living apart also has serious implications for the quality of parenting and upbringing that their children enjoy.

The spouse that lives with the children is more likely to bear the entire responsibility of parenting, while the complimentary role of the other spouse is not likely to be effectively performed. As a result of this, work-family conflict is more likely to be a regular experience of the over-burdened spouse who lives with the children, while parental involvement in the life of the child would tend to be only minimal.

When couples live apart…

Though it is not good that a (wo)man should live alone, couples who live apart must do so only as a last resort – because there is nothing they can do about it. They need to be aware of these possible problems of living apart, and consciously agree to live above them with discipline and a faithful sense of commitment to family and the dignity of the lives in it. For example, livelihood remains an important factor, except couples have more proximate employment placements for their livelihood.

When couples live apart, they need to determine to make their marriage work, regardless of physical distance. This is very key! It requires that couples condition their mind and decide well to make the marriage work, while they make effort to reunite with each other. However, efforts must be made to physically spend time together, as frequently as possible, to recreate themselves, regenerate their marriage and rekindle the sparks of their love in an uninterrupted ambience. The spouse who is not living with the family must also make it up for the children by according them undiluted attention whenever s/he is around in the home. Again, the role of spending quality time together as a family cannot be over-emphasized. It is not good that a (wo)man should live alone…

Information and communication technology (ICT) also plays important roles in mitigating the effect of physical distance between couples. It does this by providing better relational opportunities through social media, video and audio calls, and mobile communications technologies. Beyond audio communication, couples can also see each other using video technology, and communicate even as they move from one place to another due to the mobile nature of these technologies today. These resources must be optimally deployed to reduce the adverse effect of the physical distance between couples. For ICT to be effective, however, it is good to spend quality time talking to each other, say, on phone. Communications via media of ICT must not be done hurriedly. This helps couples to feel each other’s emotion and pulse; and express themselves well enough to deepen, intensify and enjoy one another.

Effective work-family integration (WLI) can also reduce the impact of physical distance between couples. Strategic use of prioritization, scheduling, time management and other WLI techniques are useful in boosting productivity and appropriating more time for the family. This dimension of WLI is one strategic but least utilised approach to mitigating the effect of physical distance on married couples. This may be due to the limited control that employees have over their work.

Thus, employers and managers need to support employees to be able to play their roles in the family to enjoy more support to fulfill their work expectations. Research has shown that employees who enjoy love and support from their spouses and family are happier and more productive for overall organizational bottom line. Workers are more related to productivity by the social nexus than the cash nexus. There is, therefore, the need for employers to adopt more flexible organizational cultures and policies to accommodate the needs of workers when married couples live apart. It is not good that a (wo)man should live alone!

At the Institute for Work and Family Integration (IWFI), we provide interventions through advocacy, programs and training, to assist groups, individuals and communities harmonize the departments of their lives. We also help corporate organizations to better engage employees for optimum productivity through the “unity of life” principle. Contact us today info@iwfionline.org or follow us on social media: (Instagram.com/iwfionline, Facebook.com/iwfionline and Twitter.com/iwfionline)

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