National News

Commuter relationships common in bad economy

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Imagine having to jump on an airplane just to see your spouse. It's a reality for millions of Americans living in commuter relationships. Experts say a shaky economy and slow housing market are two factors behind the trend.

Every night, Nancy Fagen comes home to an empty house. She eats dinner alone and watches TV, but she's not single. Fagen is living in 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," said Fagen.

They're not alone. The shaky job market has led to an increase of couples being forced to live apart.

"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," said Tina Tessina, Ph.D., author of "The Commuter Marriage."

According to the last U.S. Census, 3.5 million couples now live in commuter marriages - that's up 30 percent since 1990. The ripple effect from a slow housing market has contributed, too.

"The real estate market is really depressed, so the other partner ends up staying behind until the house sells," said Karla Bergen, Ph.D., assistant professor of communications and program coordinator of women's studies at College of Saint Mary.

Bergen studies commuter couples. She said partners may not always anticipate how much of a toll it can take.

"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," said Bergen.

Luckily, technology is cheap, and it's crucial that couples use it to stay in touch.

"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," said Tessina.

Fagen tries to find the positive, saying absence really has made her heart grow fonder.

"We don't focus on the negative, because we don't have time to," Fagen said.

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economy, housing market, national news, rob hayes
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