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Unconventional relationships that work

Most of us grow up believing that love stories go something like this: Boy meets girl, boy and girl make a nicely matched pair so they fall in love, get married and live happily ever after in a cute home. Well, so much for fairy tales. More and more, today’s couples are making all kinds of off-the-beaten-path relationships work. So you and your sweetie are several decades apart age-wise? Got married but live on opposite coasts? Bring it on — this is the new face of love. And here we have three couples to tell you just how fun and fulfilling an unconventional kind of romance can be!

The age-gap relationship

“I met Tom when I was 18 and he was 43. The ink on his divorce papers was still wet, and he was the father of two young kids. I wasn’t at all intimidated by his lifestyle and was instantly attracted to him — especially his sexy goatee. But I’d be lying if I said everyone in my life was in agreement with my decision to date a much older man — with kids. My father and mother caught us together, and they both thought we were insane. But our connection was there in a really deep way. A couple months later I started college, and Tom visited me on weekends and stayed over — in my dorm. At first I was really self-conscious about our age difference, so I lied to my roommates and told them he was in his 30s. We ended up getting an apartment together my sophomore year of college. Soon, my friends and family realized Tom and I were the real deal, and although it took time for the people in my life to adjust, they did. After three years of blissful dating, I got the ring! Now Tom and I are set to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary in October. As for my parents (Tom’s in-laws) — they love him; everyone gets along famously. In fact, we double-date often. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world! I have an adoring husband and two wonderful stepchildren. Even though I’m not their mom, I do help raise them. Our couplehood isn’t so conventional, for sure, when it comes to our age difference, but it’s a wonderful thing.”
- Jennifer Leckstrom, 27, Tannersville, PA

The coast-to-coast relationship

“I’m a high school math teacher in Jersey with tenure. My wife, Ellen, teaches special education kindergarten. We initially taught in the same school system… until Ellen got a call from a colleague out in California. She asked Ellen to move out to the West Coast and partner with her in her brand new early education school for disabled kids. Ellen wanted to go — I didn’t. The opportunity was huge for her career, and the money was just as substantial for our family. She moved — with our seven-year-old daughter. Our love is real, sustainable and we see each other twice a month on weekends and everyday via a handy webcam — I help my daughter with her math every single night. Sometimes I think I might bite the bullet, quit my job and move out there. I’ve realized they won’t be moving back, since our daughter, now 14, is settled in her new life and my wife’s business is well-established and profitable. To be honest, I’ve never been hotter for my wife — I literally count the days until I am going to see her again. So while I probably will move there sooner or later, our thinking is: Why fix what isn’t broken? We are 150 percent committed to our marriage and child. We have no, er, ‘agreements’ — we’re faithful. We’re a happily married couple that lives a continent apart!”
- Roger Wade*, 41, Mountainside, NJ

The separate-quarters relationship

“We’ve been married for 15 years, but we’d never still be together if we lived under one roof. My husband and I are very Oscar and Felix. I’m a slob, and he’s incredibly neat and anal. In addition, our tastes are very different. His place has a gloomy, scary Norman Bates thing going on; my place is very light, airy, don’t-worry-be-happy-ish. And then there’s also the matter of lifestyle. He is extremely noise-sensitive. My husband is a former opera singer and lives in what was once a music studio. So, his digs are soundproof. He sleeps well there but cannot sleep at my place. So we never moved in together. We do have two noisy six-year-old twin sons. It may seem odd, but we see each other every single day — he tucks the boys in at night, and we have the occasional sleepover for the obvious reasons. My belief is this: Marriage is hard enough, even if you do have the same taste in slipcovers. But when you have different tastes, why compromise it if you don’t have to? The common thing between us is love, and isn’t that the most important thing?”
- Judith Newman, 40, New York City, author of You Make Me Feel Like An Unnatural Woman

*name and location changed to protect privacy

Christine M. Coppa is a working single mom — it works for her!

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