Isabel and her husband Michiel have what Isabel calls a LAFT relationship: Living Apart Family Together. She and her husband both have their own house, in a courtyard, a few meters from each other.
“At a certain point, Michiel and I concluded: We have grown apart, there is too much friction, it is better not to continue living in the same house. We had three children in quick succession. The first period was survival, with work and parents. We lost each other along the way. It felt lonely but we didn’t want to break up, the thought made us both very sad. But it was clear that something had to change.
“We didn’t want a divorce, the idea made us both very sad”
We came up with a structure where we gave each other more space, but didn’t have to let go of each other completely. We found the ideal housing option: with a group of people we bought a lot on which we all built our own house. It felt adventurous and was financially possible.
Our children are teenagers aged 11, 13 and 14. I thought it was important that they all get their own room on each floor, which they can decorate as they like. I gave them a budget and said: ‘Here you can decide for yourself what you want in your room, what color, what furniture. Make something fun out of it.’ It helped them get enthusiastic about this project.
Also, the group with whom we built the houses is very nice: they are young people, creative, easy, different. We lived in a nice neighborhood where everyone lives up to a certain standard, sometimes quite tiring. Now we live among all sorts of different creative types, we all enjoy that.
I live with the children in our house, Michiel in his apartment. He has designed a beautiful house, it is very peaceful and well thought out. Two nights a week the children have dinner with me, two with him, two together. It is intended that the children will be with him more often in the future. It’s one more work in progress.
Also read – Open relationship: ‘The children also prefer that, rather than us getting divorced’ >
From the first moment I lived here, a few months now, I feel so much more freedom. For example, I noticed that I’m suddenly calling my friends a lot again, I haven’t done that in fifteen years. So bizarre. I couldn’t seem to find privacy, but now I can do whatever I want, I don’t have to worry about someone sitting next to me. I also do a lot of fun things. I have my own company, started as a volunteer in an event organization, take sailing lessons and at the weekend I take lessons at the art academy.
In this house I have a room all to myself: a study, a work area, just a room without a clear function. I notice that I especially like it about my own house: everything is mine, I can go my own way. That’s how I started cooking a lot again. I’ve always liked to do that, but for a long time I didn’t have the energy for it. Now I have more energy and I grab my cookbooks and invite friends over for a nice meal. We can then have conversations in complete freedom, it’s so nice.
Ideal family form
I am happy about the freedom, but a lot of things still need to happen before we have found the ideal family form, such as a private room for the children at Michiel’s house. It remains to be seen how our relationship develops.
“What I’ve learned from this adventure so far: that anything can be done.”
What I’ve learned from this adventure so far: that anything can be done. Everything you want is possible. For that you have to be honest with yourself and your partner. And occasionally test yourself: is this still what I want? Is it still fun? What did we like? Is it still like this or do we want to change something?
I know change can be scary, but change can also make life more fun. Change is part of it, everything is in constant motion. Fortunately, I would say.”
This article appears in Kek Mama 11-2022.
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