There comes a point in every live-in relationship or marriage, where you love each other, but the logistics of living together just gets HARD. Maybe one of you needs more alone time, or both of you have significantly different sleep timings and lifestyles… or you just hate having someone roll around on the bed next to you. This is a problem for many couples, one that they try to remedy through endless therapy, adjustment and compromise. All of this can be GREAT. But some couples seem to have found another solution. Being together, married even, and still living… apart? Of course, this has been done for centuries, if one partner needed to travel for work, go to war, or earn a livelihood in a different city. But today, more and more couples seem to be doing this out of choice and to actually benefit their relationship. Sociologists now call this model of a relationship Living Apart Together.
More and more people are choosing this relationship model, especially younger couples, who want to be together, but still have autonomy in living exactly how they want to in their own space. Some couples may find that they are incredibly compatible, but the daily difficulties of living together can build resentment. And imagine if this resentment could be avoided all together! Can you think of a past relationship that you have had, where it may have lasted longer had it not been for the nitty gritties of life, chores, cooking, cleaning and finding a way to adapt around each others’ lifestyles? Now imagine if you could have stayed together, by living in the same city, but in different houses. You would’ve been able to keep your relationship, as well as your pace of life. This could sound odd and radical for some: isn’t the point of a relationship to eventually live together? But relationship models change over time! And living apart together is something that seems to be increasingly successful for many couples.
With LAT, it becomes easier for a couple to focus on the strengths of their relationship, instead of caving into the weaknesses. When you aren’t seeing each other all day, everyday, then time spent with each other actually becomes special and not mundane. Very often, people find that they become codependent in a relationship: that their identities merge over the years and that it becomes difficult to feel any sense of individuality. LAT can become a breath of fresh air for such couples. The other reason why living together could sometimes become is complicated is because couples might find themselves in a situation where they don’t necessarily enjoy living together, but live together out of fear. They may fear that if they live separately, their partner might cheat on them, or that the affection between them may diminish. Fear or shame are not conducive emotions for a relationship. LAT may actually help couples confront some of these fears and overcome them, and discover that it is possible to be affectionate and faithful even while living apart.
But at the same time, LAT isn’t all fun and games. It requires some self-awareness too. If you find yourself sad and alone in the middle of the week, it could be hard to suddenly find arrangements to spend time with your partner. Or some couples may use LAT as a temporary solution: maybe one partner needs to focus entirely on themselves for a while, and would prefer to exclusively spend time with their partners on the weekend. Or it could be a job arrangement that comes with night shifts and crazy hours, that would make having one’s own space for a couple of years. Other couples may live in the same city, but have to travel to opposite ends of the city to work, and may prefer to live separately till they can find more conveniently located workplaces. Such couples may follow LAT for a while and then decide to move back in together, especially if things get more convenient, or having and raising children appears on the cards.
For many people, proximity and support are simply not the same thing. And for such people, LAT can be a game-changer. This is not to say that this will work for every single couple, or solve every problem for couples who have managed to master LAT. Communication, support, boundaries, care and empathy remain as important as ever in this model of a relationship. Another unexpected hurdle for many couples doing this is the judgement. Especially when a couple is married, or has kids, many people cannot fathom the husband and wife living separately unless they are going through marital issues. But at the end of the day, your relationship does not belong to society, it belongs to you. Like with every relationship model, LAT is about being mindful of your partner’s life choices and boundaries, and customizing it to make it work for you.