Living in Mumbai often means dealing with long commutes, never-ending traffic jams, erratic working hours, high-pressure jobs and, of course, lots of stress. While most couples find ways to deal with these challenges, it does take a toll on many relationships. To fix this problem, a new means of coping with a busy lifestyle seems to have emerged — maintaining two homes in the same city. As a result, more and more couples, it seems, are choosing to live separately even after marriage.
Saving time and effort
Smita Chandok, 29, is employed with the income tax department. She married Narendra Chandok, 35, two years ago. He works at the airport. Smita used to stay in Marine Lines, which is where her office is also located. After marriage, she relocated to Vile Parle, where her husband stays with his family.
However, a year ago, she moved back to live with her parents in Marine Lines. No, it wasn’t because her marriage was on the rocks, but because the stress of travelling long distances every day was far too much.
She says, “Before marriage, I used to walk to my office. Travelling daily from Vile Parle to Marine Lines in an overcrowded train is something I’d like to forget.” Smita says her husband is okay with the fact that they live apart. “He wants me to be happy. He doesn’t want to shift to my house or rent a flat in my area either. We meet every weekend, and talk for hours daily,” she adds.
Often, living separately isn’t a matter of convenience. It becomes a necessity, especially if your job demands irregular hours. Simon Castro, 29, a call-centre employee, tied the knot with Nicole Castro, 28, a former banker, and now a homemaker, five years ago. Simon has night shifts, and that was one of the reasons his wife moved out.
He says, “When we were living together in Parel, my wife would stay alone at home till I came back from work at 3am. Also, she was working for a bank at that point, and her sleep would get disturbed every night.”
Last year, Nicole delivered a baby. That’s when she decided to stay with her parents in Mahim, at least till they could find a solution to Simon’s erratic work timings. “Now I stay at my wife’s house on my days off. We go out with our baby, and make up for the time lost during the week,” he says.
All is well
Traffic woes and the expense of travelling in a cab, too, tend to compound existing problems. Festivals, construction work and even the annual monsoon can add to the chaos. This is something Sanjana Shah, who works in an advertising agency, would know. The 32-year-old stayed in Marine Lines till she tied the knot with media professional Gaurav Patel, 33. The duo initially stayed with Gaurav’s mother and brother in a rented apartment in Ghatkopar, before purchasing their own home in Nerul.
“The commute from Nerul to Colaba, added with the existing stress of my job, took a toll on my health. I kept falling ill over and over again. Eventually, I began staying in Marine Lines with my parents again,” she says.
The couple also did not want to get a house on rent, as Gaurav was already paying the EMI for his Nerul home. The arrangement continued for over a year till the couple changed jobs and moved to Delhi.
Though an increasing number of couples are opting for this arrangement, relationship counsellor Mary George Varghese says they must also be ready to face the consequences.
She says, “When married couples stay separately, it can lead to emotional, social and even moral issues. The emotional problems include disappointments and frustrations. This may lead to physiological changes resulting in anxiety problems or even depression. Social problems could include constantly explaining to people the reason why you are staying separately. This could lead to withdrawal. Separation for a long time may also lead to extra-marital affairs, and other issues.”
But like they say, to each his own. So long as the system works for the couples involved, it can remain an option worth exploring.
(Names of all individuals have been changed)