British Columbia

How living apart — under the same roof — has made this South Okanagan couple closer

Penticton, B.C., couple Shelley Hunt and Peter Verge bought a house together — but they live in separate suites, a setup they say has made them closer.

'It really fosters positive relationships between us and our children,' says Peter Verge of Penticton, B.C.

Penticton, B.C., couple Shelley Hunt, right, and her partner Peter Verge live in two separate suites in the same house, which lets them spend more time with their respective children. (Shelley Lynn/TikTok)

For Shelley Hunt and Peter Verge, a couple from Penticton, B.C., distance has definitely made the heart grow fonder: the two live under the same roof, but in separate suites. 

The South Okanagan pair, both divorced with children from previous marriages, had each been on the market for a house.

But two years ago, they decided to buy one together instead — and now they each live in its two suites. 

Hunt and her two children live on the main floor, while Verge and his three kids are on the upper floor. Each suite has its own kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. The laundry room is the only common area.

The house has been viewed more than five million times in a Nov. 14 TikTok post by Hunt, who says reaction online has been positive. 

"It's been really positive because people understand that tradition doesn't guarantee anything — it doesn't guarantee happiness, it doesn't even guarantee longevity," she told host Sarah Penton on CBC's Radio West

"People are recognizing that family is defined differently for everyone and that there is room for every type of family."

Data from Statistics Canada shows that in 2017, nearly 1.5 million people across the country aged 25 to 64 were in a couple relationship with someone living in a different home. Four out of five individuals in a "living-apart-together" relationship live in the same province, with 64 per cent of those individuals living within 20 kilometres of each other.

Verge says it's important to have dedicated space for him and his children, who have to split time between their divorced parents.

"It really fosters positive relationships between us and our children while also giving space to the other kids," he said on Radio West.

"We only have our kids 50 per cent of the time, so when they are with us, it's just so important that we're able to really focus on them and build strong relationships with them," Hunt said. 

Peter Verge's two daughters play in the living room of his suite, on the upper floor of the house. (Shelley Lynn/TikTok)

Verge says even though he and Hunt live separately, their children have been getting along pretty well.

"We have dinner a couple of nights a week together and the kids hang out — they'll go play in the yard together, they go to the park together," he said. "They're very close and consider each other step-siblings."

Peter Verge and Shelley Hunt with their children. The couple say they have a closer relationship as a result of their living situation. (Shelley Lynn/TikTok)

Hunt says she and Verge are closer as a result.

"We have an entire week without kids," she said. "We probably get more quality time together than most couples do, who have children together 100 per cent of the time."

As for their future plans?

"I think things are going to look the way it looks right now as long the kids are living at home," Hunt said. 

"And then once they're gone, then we'll move in together."

With files from Radio West

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