John Douglas

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Faced with the question of whether to tie the knot, some long-lasting Vermont couples have answered, “Not!”

Bobbie Lanahan and John Douglas, for example, are enjoying their 22nd year of unwedded bliss. Lanahan, a 65-year-old artist and writer whose mother was the only child of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, was married previously and says she feels no compulsion to do that again. Douglas, a 74-year-old filmmaker and photographer, has never heard wedding bells ringing for him. He has two children from earlier relationships with two women — neither of whom he married.

But it isn’t as though Lanahan and Douglas have never felt tempted to certify their union with a marriage license. “We’ve talked about it, even gotten engaged and made a prenuptial agreement, but somehow can’t seem to do it,” Lanahan says.

An unusual living arrangement, which was highlighted in a 2011 New York Timesstory, may help account for the longevity of the couple’s unsanctioned alliance.

They commuted for 18 years between Douglas’ lakeside home in Charlotte and Lanahan’s spacious house in Burlington. But a few years ago, when Douglas was no longer able to pay what he says was nearly $30,000 a year in property taxes, they decided to cohabit at Lanahan’s place. To accommodate the needs of two older adults deeply set in their ways, they built a sizable wing onto the house, where Douglas hangs out much of the time. He crosses an enclosed bridge to his partner’s part of the home, where they eat and sleep.

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