Miss Me? How a Little Distance Keeps You Close

These couples have turned the traditional idea of togetherness upside down—and their marriages are stronger than ever.

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Admit it—when you spend a weekend with your girlfriends, part of the fun is getting a break from your husband for a few nights. It's not that you don't adore the guy, but stretching out across the entire bed or talking about Scandal for hours—uninterrupted!—is a very special kind of bliss. Of course, the best thing about time apart is that when you get back together, you realize just how much you missed him. "When you have experiences on your own that are exciting and meaningful to you, you come back more radiant and attractive to your partner," says psychotherapist Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity. It can even give a boost to your sex life.

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For the three couples below, reunions are a major part of marriage—they spend nights, vacations, and entire workweeks apart. Even if you're thinking, That's crazy! Snuggling up to another warm body is the best part of being married!, you can still pick up some love-life pointers from their unusual arrangements.

Monica & Serge: Separate Bedrooms

Monica and Serge Bielanko—both writers who work from home—spend almost every waking moment together. But when they kiss goodnight, they head to separate bedrooms, which they say gives their nearly 10-year marriage breathing space. "Having a place to crash at the end of the day provides us with a bit of sanctuary," says Serge, 42. "Not having to worry about the other person tossing and turning while one of us watches TV is an awesome gift we've given each other." For those who wonder how their three kids (baby Charlie, not pictured, is 4 months old) were created when the parents sleep in separate beds, Monica, 37, laughs and says, "Serge is usually five feet away from me during the day, so we can have sex anytime and anywhere we want!"

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Their Secret: Keep the conversation going all day long. "We could sleep in separate houses or countries and still make things work," says Serge. "From the moment we meet up in the kitchen for breakfast, we don't stop talking about everything going on in the world."

Gwen & Darrell: Separate Vacations

Gwen and Darrell take off in different directions.

Gwen Wunderlich-Smith, 38, and her husband, Darrell Smith, 43, love chatting over the newspaper in a coffee shop or walking on the beach together. But the secret to their happy six-year marriage may be leaving each other behind once in a while. "I prefer adventure trips, but Darrell is happiest hanging out with the guys," explains Gwen. After a few vacations that left them more stressed than relaxed, they decided that instead of compromising on an itinerary that neither would enjoy, they should try traveling with friends instead of each other. "We get to have a little honeymoon when we see each other again," says Gwen.

Their Secret: Be supportive as you negotiate your arrangement: "We discussed this really calmly and made a deal that makes us both happy: When I'm away, Darrell stays home to take care of the dogs, and I do the same for him," says Gwen.

Virginia & David: Separate Homes

Virginia and David celebrate together after spending the week apart.

What could have been a deal breaker for many couples instead added a fresh infusion of romance to Virginia and David Sullivan's marriage, now that their kids are grown. Five years ago, Virginia realized her 90-minute commute from her home in Sonoma Valley to a bank in San Francisco was draining her health and spirit. With her husband's support, she found an apartment in the city, where she lives during the week. "Now that we only have weekends together, we work extra hard to make that time special," says David, 54, who owns motorcycle safety schools. He romances his wife of 21 years by taking her on visits to wineries and zooming around with her on his bike. "We value the time we have together more, because there's less of it," Virginia, 58, says. "I remain constantly aware of how much I love him—just like when our relationship was new."

Their Secret: No matter how busy they are, they speak to each other—on the phone, not by email or text—every single day.

How Do You Get Your Alone Time?

Escape by Yourself: "A couple of weekends a year, I go to a soap opera fanfest while my husband stays home. It's amazing to have the hotel room and bathroom all to myself!" —Randi, 47

Escape with Friends: "I go away every year with a group of moms I met when we all had babies. It started out as a way to get a good night's sleep, but even now that the kids are older, we wouldn't miss it." —Rebecca, 46

Send Him Away: "My husband has season tickets to his favorite football team, in another state. We both look forward to game days: While he's with his friends, I stay home and curl up with a book." —Gina, 38

This story originally appeared in the August/September 2014 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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