Book co-authored by Creston’s Linda Breault examines couples living apart

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  • Apr. 24, 2014 7:00 a.m.
Living Apart Together co-author Linda Breault.

Living Apart Together co-author Linda Breault.

The idea of writing Living Apart Together came to Linda Breault when she was working in China with co-editor Dianne Gillespie.

“We started noticing the number of our colleagues who had left their partners at home,” she said. “Then I went to Egypt and found even more — partners coming back and forth, but not actually living together in the traditional sense.”

Living Apart Together tells the story of about two dozen such couples, most of them written by one of the partners, who have made lives together while living in separate residences. The reasons are many, but the common ground is that they are committed to making their relationships, and often marriages, work.

“There is no other book on this topic, just research papers,” she said, adding that the fact came as a surprise because such partnerships are increasingly common in a shrinking world where people often work far from their residence.

Breault, who describes herself as having “lived and loved as a single, married, divorced and single again woman,” is well qualified to comment on lifestyle choices. She has degrees from the B.C., Victoria and Simon Fraser universities and her professional background is in education, social work and community development. Since retiring “much too early” she has traveled the world to continue with her passion of supporting marginalized people in self-development and self-reliance.

Breault attended high school in Creston, where she later returned to live so she could be closer to her elderly parents. She partnered to write Living Apart Together with her friend, who taught secondary English in B.C. for 30 years.

“Dianne always wanted to write a book,” Breault said. “We naively thought we could just interview a bunch of people and it would be done.”

They put out feelers to friends and even advertised in publications across North America to find a selection of contributors for the proposed book. Many of the submissions came from writers, probably because they were comfortable about putting their own experiences down on paper.

“Others that we knew wanted nothing to do with having their stories told in public, even when they were promised anonymity,” she said.

The result, though, is a fascinating and invariably insightful collection of stories. They range from the expected — couples separated by the demands of work — to the heart-breaking — an elderly resident of a seniors residence who visits his Alzheimer’s-afflicted wife in another wing of the facility several times a day.

Kootenay Lake author and editor Luanne Armstrong encouraged Breault to take on the project.

“Being in a relationship is never easy and it has never been easy but having more choices and having those choices be validated and understood gives us all just a bit more room for what we need or want to do for the relationships in our lives in all their glorious and wonderful complexity,” she wrote in a review of Living Apart Together.

In their collaboration, Breault and Gillespie have created something of a minor miracle. A book that has already been selected by universities as a reference in social work and other studies is also a very readable collection of personal stories, each providing fascinating insight into just how much work committed couples are willing to put into making their relationships fulfilling.

A book launch for Living Apart Together is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 1 at Black Bear Books. It will feature an introduction by Armstrong and a song from Shirley Cameron and Bob Gollan, who will perform K.T. Oslin’s Live Close By, Visit Often, which includes the lyrics, “Live close by, visit often. That’ll work, that’ll work for me. Live close by, visit often. Save us both a lot of misery.”