Commuter Marriage; Living Together, Apart
“Whither Thou Goest . . . Thou Goest”
The New Lifestyle
Strictly speaking, commuter marriage is illegal. As of 1983 only five states had laws saying a married person could establish his or her own domicile. Lenore Weitzman in her book The Marriage Contract (1981) looks at marriage as a social legal entity and states what has been suspected for a long time. It is indeed the husband’s right to say where the couple shall live. This began with common law that made the husband head-of-household and gave him the authority to choose the marital abode. The wife was obliged to follow him wherever he went and to live under whatever circumstances he chose. Three outmoded assumptions underlie the domicile law. (1) the husband’s work determines the family residence because the woman is solely responsible for domestic services; (2) husbands alone are responsible for family support; and (3) all families are single-career.
As outmoded as these assumptions may be, they are ingrained in the cultural system because they have been derived from laws and legal constraints that influence our most intimate relationships. The common law heritage of legal marriage established the rights and responsibilities of husbands and wives and provided sanctions against those who did not comply. "The reality of law is to be found not in legal tomes alone but in the social definitions of ordinary people," says Weitzman.