Living apart together, or LAT has, for some years, been the territory of older couples, yet it is now filtering down through the age groups, as more and more people discover its benefits.
What Is Living Apart Together?
LAT is when a couple conduct an intimate relationship while living apart. Some couples even marry and continue living apart. Currently it is more prevalent in Europe than the US.
Why Is LAT Trending?
There are several reasons why living apart is beginning to be a viable option for many couples:
- The trend for marriage at a young age is decreasing.
- The big white wedding is becoming less popular as it becomes more expensive, so couples are considering other options.
- The number of older singletons, divorcees and widow/ers is increasing. The divorce rate among over over 50s has trebled since 1990.
- A good number of people are actively choosing to remain single for life.
- More people are financially independent.
- More single people rent or own their own homes.
- Changing public attitudes to marriage.
- Childlessness is a growing lifestyle choice.
- People are beginning to question the traditional structure of relationships and are looking at alternatives.
- Individuals are becoming increasingly autonomous, i.e. they depend less on family, siblings, and partners when making life decisions.
- People are ready to embrace the concept that ‘one-size’ certainly doesn’t suit all. They enjoy being part of a couple, but they don't want to be joined at the hip.
- Slowly we are beginning to recognize that personal growth and change means that we are unlikely to stay with the same person for 60 or 70 years.
Research shows how Americans are less likely to choose marriage, and this choice is spreading. Back in 1960, only one in ten of adults over the age of 25 remained unmarried. In 2012, that figure rose to one in five (around 42,000 American adults). http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/09/24/record-share-of-americans-have-never-married/ In fact, the number of married couples is the lowest it’s ever been since 1920.
It appears that the popularity of the nuclear family is decreasing rapidly, as individuals find it impossible to remain committed to one person for life. Pressures of work and finances, together with the stresses of raising a family may also figure. One other factor which may have an unrecognized influence over the way adults conduct their lives, is the internet and social media. The internet is constantly changing our life aspirations, and expectations of relationships.
The Benefits of Living Apart Together
- It’s a way to keep the relationship fresh. Looking forward to seeing your partner after a period of time apart starves off boredom and monotony.
- There is a sense of freedom. One half of a couple reported that ‘she has room to breathe’.
- Couples put more effort into the time they spend together. They see it as an opportunity to create memories.
- They talk more. Couples that live apart ‘save up’ snippets of their days to share with the other. They are also more likely to engage in lively conversation.
- There is less conflict, and when disagreements happen, each has their own home to retreat to.
- Couples living apart, but nearby, still have each other to call on in an emergency.
- Those who have children report that there is no lack of stability in the family; in fact the opposite is true.
- Each partner is free to follow their own interests during their time apart.
- Neither partner is responsible for the practical aspects of taking care of the other, though they will usually share cooking duties.
- Should the couple choose to split up, the trauma and disruption is minimal.
Disadvantages of LAT
- One partner may miss out on childcare and the all-important early milestones, like the first step. Though in regular relationships that could also be the case.
- It costs more to maintain two homes.
- Trust may be an issue.
Couples Who Live the LAT Life
New Yorkers, Judith and John have been married for 25 years, raised twins and have never lived together. Judith says “I want the same love and commitment as anyone else; but why do I have to live in the same place to achieve it?”
She says that she and John have such different ways of living: he likes Scottish baronial, she likes pale and modern – that they could never quite envisage a compromise. Other than their love for each other they don’t have anything in common, so LAT works perfectly for them. It has probably also contributed to the longevity of their marriage.
They have fallen into a comfortable routine these days: John arrives at Judith’s home at around 4pm. They have dinner, spend the evening together until it’s time for John to go home.
Siana and Dav have been in a relationship together for five years and have no plans for moving in together. They say they are not merely dating; there is more to their relationship. They share everything, including a bed… but not every night. Dav visits every day unless he is working away, and stays over on weekends.
Siana says sometimes they see each other for only 30 minutes, while other days, they’ll spend the whole evening together. Weekends are viewed as their special times, when they plan treats, time away together and eating out. Siana says she wouldn’t change a thing about their lives.
Martyn and Annette were married conventionally for 11 years, had two children and then got divorced. Martyn ended up buying a house in the same street as Annette. At first Annette was uncomfortable with the idea that her ex was so close, but it worked out well, sharing the responsibilities of their two children equally between them.
At first they dated other people, but both soon came to the conclusion that they preferred each other, yet also preferred the independence of living apart.
Now they have been together 17 years in total, 11 of them in a conventional marriage, six of them divorced, but happily LAT.