By Rehema Ellis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/28/2007 6:31:12 PM ET 2007-03-28T22:31:12

Weekends are pretty typical for Florida couple Darren and Lucinda Lesser — playing with their 2-year-old son, Bryce. But once Tuesday morning rolls around, Darren goes back to work — a thousand miles away in Philadelphia.

It's an arrangement becoming more common among married couples: the so-called commuter marriage. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 3.6 million married Americans, including military families, live apart. That's a 40 percent increase since 1999.

For many couples, like the Lessers, it's about economics and child care.

"She's a wonderful mother, and so I just can't think of someone else raising our son," Darren Lesser says.

So how do they make it work? Communication is key.

We do a lot of rituals, if you would call it that. You know we speak first thing in the morning, we speak last thing in the evening. Still, the Lessers are planning ahead.

Lucinda has started her own Mary Kay business and is studying for her real estate license, so when the time comes for Darren to stop traveling, they can afford it — leading to the next challenge: living together again full-time.

"The most important thing is to have patience and to realize that you're not just going to be able to come back and everything's going to fall back into place," says Dr. Bill Pinsof, president of the Family Institute at Northwestern University.

"I give it maybe two or three weeks, she'll probably be ready to send me back out on the road," Darren Lesser says.

But they're willing to risk it, because like most couples, the reason they got married in the first place was to be together.

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