One of the biggest milestones in a relationship is the day when you finally combine households. We generally think of doing that after getting married, although many couples these days move in together ahead of that step. Unless, of course, they decide to be a LAT couple.
LAT (Living Apart Together) has become a relationship configuration that’s been growing in popularity in recent years.
Although there are always exceptions, couples who define themselves as LAT couples are generally committed and monogamous, and many times are married. They have just decided that sharing a home isn’t the way they want to share their lives.
But does that really work in the long run?
What Living Apart While Maintaining Your Committed Relationship Can Offer
LAT couples can be found in all age groups, but the motivation for living apart between younger couples and older couples may differ.
For many older couples who have divorced or whose spouses have died, maintaining independence and autonomy can be important for many reasons. Things like financial considerations, family, or just the desire to have space they don’t have to share all can play a role in wanting to have a relationship, but not one that requires living together.
For these couples there is no pressure to start a family or build a life together from the ground up. So, instead they fall in love, experience companionship, and become committed, but choose to live apart.
Younger couples who enjoy this lifestyle have slightly different reasons. For them living apart while in a relationship can mean,
• Avoiding boredom. When you see each other everyday and run a household together it can be easy to fall into a routine and then a rut. By living apart couples say they can avoid this and keep things interesting.
• Being able to recharge and refocus – alone. We can probably all relate to occasionally needing some alone time. When you live with someone this can be hard to achieve. LAT couples have that option always, whereas with couples in traditional living arrangements it can be much more challenging.
• Maintaining appreciation for one another. When you share a home and life’s duties with someone else it can be easy to begin to take them for granted. LAT couples claim that their arrangement prevents this.
• Less arguing. If you spend less time with someone and don’t have to fight about who left hair in the sink, you probably avoid many of the frustrating, silly arguments that can occur when you’re living with someone. You also have the ability to more easily retreat to separate corners if necessary to cool off.
• More romance. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and apparently it also makes the libido stronger. Those who have chosen the LAT lifestyle will tell you they keep some of the mystery and intensity of attraction alive by not seeing each other all the time. It probably also helps that you can wear your flannel pjs or ratty boxers without witness complaint.
These are just some of the reasons LAT couples cite for choosing not to cohabitate. For some it’s a choice out of necessity. Military or other career opportunities, family obligations, even school may force a couple who loves each other and is committed to one another to live apart. And once they’re given the chance to live together again (or for the first time), many find it difficult and prefer the LAT arrangement.
Sounds reasonable, right? So, if this works so well (appreciation, romance, some alone time sound great) why isn’t it the solution to marital distress?
Making A Marriage (or any committed relationship) Work While Living Apart
Living apart while maintaining a committed and serious relationship may work well for some, it’s not a perfect path to a happy marriage and doesn’t work well for all. In fact, there are some big obstacles that have to be overcome if you chose this lifestyle.
• Too much autonomy is hard. Being in charge of your life is good, but never needing to compromise and consult someone else can take away from the growth if intimacy and feeling of commitment to one another. If you’re not careful you can unintentionally find yourself completely divested from your partner.
• It’s easy to become lonely. A little alone time sounds great, but there’s something to be said for knowing the person you love is in the next room. Living apart can mean becoming lonely because your partner doesn’t feel the need to be with you when you may need them there.
• We all hope that being in a committed relationship means fidelity, but sadly it’s not always the case. Cheating happens even with couples who live together. But living apart can offer too easy of an opportunity for one partner to break the commitment without first working out the problems that have left your relationship open to cheating. Living apart can also mean that even if a partner isn’t cheating, suspicion and jealousy can arise and become a big problem.
• It’s expensive. No matter your location or how you arrange things, two households are far more expensive than one.
• There are LAT couples who have managed to structure their family lives happily, but it certainly can make things much more difficult. When it comes to children living in this situation there are numerous considerations regarding their well-being and happiness, many of which can make a more traditional living situation a better choice.
Living apart together isn’t the right choice for everyone. In fact, it’s probably not the right choice for most of us. But if you go into things with your eyes wide open, have strong communication, set the ground rules up front, and will make the needed adjustments along the way, it can work for certain couples.