AT many weddings, the officiant talks about how a husband and wife should be like two pillars on a porch: separate but together. In their marriage, Jennifer Belle, a novelist, and Andrew Krents, an entertainment lawyer, take the separation part to the extreme. It is almost as if they are afraid of spending too much time together.Read more. Now, they have two children and you would think that this would draw them closer together. But what's their reaction?
“Familiarity breeds contempt,” Mr. Krents said.
When Ms. Belle was single, her career always came before everything else, including spending time with a boyfriend. In her mind, love and marriage had about as much chance of lasting as snow on a Manhattan sidewalk.
“My parents were divorced big time,” said Ms. Belle, who grew up on West End Avenue. “For me, marriage came with divorce.”
Then she met Mr. Krents. Both are brutally honest and darkly hilarious, relate to Woody Allen movies and Bob Dylan lyrics, and could subsist for years on Chinese takeout. And Mr. Krents was almost as short (she’s 5-foot-1, he’s 5-4) as she. They danced to Randy Newman’s song, “Short People,” at their wedding reception on Aug. 25, 2002.
After they started dating — and even after marrying — she still put her writing before everything else. Mr. Krents, also a workaholic, barely noticed. They have never been the kind of couple to stare into each other’s eyes. They’re too busy staring into their BlackBerrys.
After their wedding, the two often and happily went their separate ways. In fact, they even started married life separately. She began their honeymoon alone (he couldn’t find his passport), checking into their suite in Venice and thoroughly enjoying herself without him.
“I learned, ‘O.K., you like Italy more than you like me — good to know,’ ” said Mr. Krents, now 38.
He found the passport, showed up four days later, and the honeymoon (what was left of it anyway) turned out to be blissful. “It was the first time in weeks we weren’t practicing the box step,” he said.
During their first year of marriage, they were perfectly in sync. They would wake at about 10 and he would serve her takeout coffee from the Korean deli on the corner. After that, he would climb the stairs to his office on the top floor of their Greenwich Village duplex while she would leave for the neighborhood cafe where she has written all her novels: “Going Down,” “High Maintenance” and “Little Stalker.”
He describes her as an unconventional, sometimes unreachable, wife. “Dinner isn’t on the table at a certain time every night,” he said. “She’s out, she’s writing, she’s teaching workshops. Who can ever find her?”
She also has trouble tracking him down. “When we first started dating, he just wanted to make me happy and make my life better,” she said. “We would talk about my career and my books. Now, I feel like I have to make an appointment to call him on his BlackBerry to talk about myself for one second.”
Now that they have two children, and she is working on another novel, the marriage has become “one big competition for time alone,” Ms. Belle said.So much for cleaving together and becoming one.
“Andy’s desperate to work all the time, and I want to work,” she said. “I spend a lot of time saying things like, ‘My work is important, too!’ I must say that 25 times a day.”
They do have help — Suzy’s Chinese restaurant does most of the cooking, and they have a nanny 50 hours a week. “If I had the money, it would be more, frankly,” she said.
For a couple that craves and fights for time alone and apart, how do they stay together? One way, they said, is by pretty much ignoring their relationship in the same way a writer ignores a blank page.
“I try not to think about marriage,” Ms. Belle said. “It just seems impossible to me. It’s wondrous. It’s like trying to understand the meaning of the universe.”