Two Homes, One Couple: The Growing Popularity of Living Apart Together
Actress and lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow was in the tabloids recently, but not for any Hollywood-shaking incident. In fact, the GOOP forewoman made headlines simply because, after a year of marriage, she decided it was time to move in with husband Brad Falchuck.
That’s right, y’all — Paltrow kept her own digs to herself even after tying the knot back in 2018. And as it turns out, this dynamic is much more common than you think.
These relationships, in which a couple chooses to live in separate residences, are known as “living apart together” relationships (LAT, for short). And, if recent literature is any indicator, this type of amorous entanglement has become more popular, particularly among the elderly and millennials.
As Sharon Hyman, director of LAT documentary “Apartners” tells AskMen, like same sex relationships, LATs have always existed but are not spoken about as publicly. “Fortunately the tide is turning, and people are more open and accepting about what constitutes a relationship and a family,” she says. “It’s really about finding what’s right for you, regardless of what society dictates.”
To get the low-down on LAT relationships, AskMen spoke with Hyman and a number of LAT couples to figure out if living apart together could be right for you.
Why Do Couples Want to Live Apart?
Generally speaking, the younger you are, the less money you have. Therefore, many young couples remain together but live apart due to financial constraints, work, school or a combination of the three. For Jonathan Barkan, 35 and his girlfriend, 31, the two plan to move in together one day, but only when both have better planned for their future.
“For now, we basically split our time between the U.S. and Canada because that’s what makes the most sense for us,” says Barkan.
When it comes to older couples, the main reason seems to be in order to remain independent. Most have been married and had children that have fled the nest. They don’t want to sacrifice their autonomy, nor do they have the time, interest or energy to start over. The biggest difference between the two? Most young couples wish to move in with their partners some day, whereas older couples, like Deborah, 49 and Mike 59, have no such plans.
“We are often faced with explaining this arrangement to people, especially because of the assumption that it must be temporary, and that we must be seeking ways to establish one residence,” explains Deborah. “We have no immediate plans to minimize the distance and move in together, nor do we have plans to marry, and yet we are fully committed for the long haul. We feel more connected and married in all the best ways.”
According to Hyman, many couples prefer to live apart to keep the family unit intact if they have children from a previous relationship.
“Many experts say this can be healthier for the children than introducing a new adult into the equation,” she says. “Not to mention, sometimes people have very different schedules, lifestyles or even standards for cleanliness. All of which are non-issues when you live in separate residences.”
Are There Advantages of Living Apart Together (LAT) Relationships?
Independence is without a doubt the biggest advantage cited for LAT relationships. People can enjoy their time to themselves while also experiencing the benefits of intimacy, and that warm fuzzy feeling that surges through your body when in love.
They also tend to experience less conflict, as separate living spaces offer time to cool down and retreat from their partner when they’re feeling frustrated. This gives the couple time to better think things out instead of reacting quickly without much thought. In addition, LATs also feel that when they do see each other, they value the time more as they aren’t together every day, all day. Basically, they’re more likely to make the effort to make each moment count.
Barkan, a resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan, loves that he and his partner, who lives in Toronto, get to share their cities with each other. “Part of the fun of being long-distance is that when one of us visits, the other can share what makes their little corner of the world so special,” he says. “It also helps figure out what is going to be best when we decide to make the next step, such as what kind of place we want to live, which country, what is important in the areas where we live, etc.”
As for Deborah, she sees her relationship with Mike as “a Venn diagram” — each have their own individual circle unique to them, but there’s also some overlap going on with things that they share.
“I think we both feel like the solitude refreshes us for the togetherness and the togetherness gives us a fresh start every week to do our own personal best, to be productive and to do meaningful things, and then to come back together again and again.”
LAT relationships are also easier to end. It may not sound romantic, but walking away from a relationship where there are no shared assets – mainly a house and the possessions within them – is a lot easier to do when a split is on the horizon.
Are There Disadvantages of Living Apart Together (LAT) Relationships?
For Jonathan, the biggest disadvantage is the planning. “It’s hard to make plans with friends because we don’t know where one of us will be on a given weekend,” he says. “It also makes little things, like being home for packages, that much harder because I may be gone for a few weeks or she’ll be with me for a long while. We have to plan around these things that many people don’t really think about.”
For others, like Janice, 59, it is the costs associated with living alone that weigh on her most. If she lived with her partner, who currently lives just 14 minutes away, these fees would be halved.
Janice adds that, while she is not one who is prone to ask for a hug if she’s feeling down, “it’s nice to get that when you’re with your partner and can tell they’re not themselves.” She also says living apart can sacrifice spontaneity in a relationship, using a spur-of-the-moment hike at 7 a.m. as an example.
“I would also suspect that people who have trust issues would find living apart a real challenge because you don’t know what’s going on with your partner 24/7,” she says. “Fortunately, that has never been a problem for us.”
As you can imagine, living apart together is truly just about embracing the fact that relationships don’t have to follow a certain formula. Instead, like every couple, they are unique, and different things work for different people. To think every relationship should conform to one singular model is foolish. If living apart is working for you and you’re happy with the way things are, keep them that way. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
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