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NICKY MARR: Rewriting the rules for cordial cohabitation

By Nicky Marr

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NIcky and Colin Marr..Belladrum 2016 Saturday ..Picture: Alison White. Image No.034558.
NIcky and Colin Marr..Belladrum 2016 Saturday ..Picture: Alison White. Image No.034558.

Nearly six years ago, Mr Marr and I embarked upon a new adventure in our marriage when he accepted a job in Edinburgh.

We grandly called it ‘Twin City Living’ but more prosaically, it meant forking out to live in two homes. Reader, that arrangement is about to come to an end. He’s moving back home. And don’t tell him, but I am torn.

When the news of his Inverness job offer came through, I was meeting my friend James – a coach – for lunch. It was exciting – this was the news I’d been hoping to hear. But over lunch, the realisation dawned.

“We’re going to have to find a whole new way to live together again,” I told James.

And James gently corrected me, in that irritating, look-for-the-positive way that coaches have: “Nicky, you get to find a whole new way to live together.”

And he’s right, of course. This is a new opportunity. Mr Marr and I have a rare opportunity to rewrite the rules for cordial cohabitation, beyond who gets custody of the remote control. But if I’m honest with myself, there is some trepidation.

On one hand, we get rid of seven hours a week of tedious A9-corridor travel, the crippling expense of running two places, and the frustration of half-baked conversations because one of you calls when the other is busy. And of course, we get to be full-time married again – the aim of the whole new-job exercise.

But on the other hand, gradually, in the years since we last lived together full-time, our lives have each expanded to fill the space the other used to occupy. How do we make space again? Both literally and metaphorically?

At the start, Twin City Living took a lot of getting used to. Up to the age of 50, I’d never actually lived alone, and found our initial separation difficult. I was lonely. It was also inconvenient.

Over and above missing Mr Marr’s physical presence and easy company, I discovered there were things I couldn’t do and things I didn’t like doing. I can’t reach the ceilings to change the smoke alarm batteries, and don’t like dealing with mice or cooking for one.

But over time, we got used to it, or at least I did. I began to find some delightful fringe benefits to living alone, and found a new rhythm for myself, which included seeing more of my friends, working out more, eating better, drinking less, and listening to more music, (quite loudly). In short, I could – and did – please myself.

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Furthermore, mid-week separation made the time we could spend together special. Weekends were for catching up on ‘togethery’ stuff. We planned adventures, exploring hidden corners of Edinburgh, or discovering new parts of Scotland in our van. There was something inherently romantic about setting off from our respective cities on a Friday afternoon to meet somewhere in the middle. I’m going to miss that a lot.

But I’ll also miss the freedom to read in bed at 4am, having the entire wardrobe for myself, and eating an occasional fish finger and gherkin sandwich for dinner, just because I fancy one. But these are all minor things. When it comes down to it, it’s the big stuff that matters.

Life is too short not to be with your other half. We’ve lost too many friends to cancer and other ghastly stuff in the past few years to take our future for granted. What have we been playing at, wasting this time apart? Instead of meeting in the middle, we can start our weekends together from the same co-ordinates. Home.

I’m looking forward to more time together, really I am. Just as long as he meets me halfway. That includes rejoining the tennis and hockey clubs and allowing me space for impromptu nights with my friends, solo runs, and my vinyl. Some things are non-negotiable. As his return date approaches, my list is growing.

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