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Commuter Marriages Grow As Economy Slows

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Nancy Fagen talks to her husband online because they are in a so-called 'Commuter Marriage'. (Source: CBS4)

Nancy Fagen talks to her husband online because they are in a so-called ‘Commuter Marriage’. (Source: CBS4)

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MIAMI — (CBS4) – Every night, Nancy Fagen comes home to an empty house and it’s not because she’s single. Her husband is three thousand miles away, at work.

It’s yet another side effect of the economy forcing some committed couples into “commuter marriages.”

“The first time we were apart, it was for about a month, and it was hard,” Fagen said. “It’s so lonely and I know he was lonely.”

Many people are being kept apart because of the shaky job market. Some are relocating to retain a job and the numbers are showing that it’s an upward trend. About 3 ½ million couples are living in commuter marriages, which is up 30 percent since 1990. Those numbers continue to rise.

“The real estate market is really depressed, so the other partner ends up staying behind until the house sells,” said Karla Bergen, a Ph.D. and assistant professor and communications program coordinator of Women’s Studies at the College of Saint Mary. “People get married to be together and when you’re in a commuter marriage, you don’t see each other as you would normally.”

It can also be an expensive proposition. A recent survey found that only a quarter of businesses offer assistance to commuting employees. But the author of “The Commuter Marriage” says cheap technology via Skype, cell phones and texting helps bridge the long distance.

“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 Tina Tessina, PhD., psychotherapist, and author of The Commuter Marriage.

She said there can even be surprising benefits to a commuter arrangement.

“It can refresh a marriage that’s stale because people have been together all the time and there’s nothing new happening and suddenly you get that rush of ‘Wow I’ve missed you!’” Tessina said.

Nancy Fagen agrees saying absence has really made her heart grow fonder.

“It’s a honeymoon! We don’t focus on the negative because we don’t have time to,” she said.

The economy isn’t the only thing to blame for an increase in commuter marriages. Experts say an increase of people meeting online and a more global economy are also factoring into such arrangements.

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