Living Apart Together: Decoding The Latest Trend Said To Save Relationships

New-Age Couples | | , Culture & Relationships Writer
Updated On: February 7, 2024
living apart together

When I think about Frida Kahlo, it’s not just her paintings that grip my imagination but also her house that was witness to living apart together relationship with her husband, Diego Rivera. Owned jointly, the two houses were connected by a bridge. The famous artist couple was said to have a complicated, notoriously unconventional relationship. But even when they had their differences, they had a bridge connecting them.

Societal conditioning can make living apart together, meaning living apart while in a relationship, hard to come to grips with for a lot of people. Why would anyone think about living separate lives while married, one may wonder. What’s the point of being married then? We have grown to accept that married couples live together. After all, companionship is the whole point of romantic relationships.

However, as you become aware or accepting of the fact that there is no one right or wrong way to build a relationship, it’s not hard to see why such an arrangement may work well for some couples. And that it’s neither peculiar nor illogical. After all, the invisible labor of keeping a relationship alive has led us all to mull, “Is taking space good for a relationship?” If that question resonates with you, taking a closer look at the nitty-gritty of living apart together relationship may be worth your while.

People who believe it is either too soon or who are not yet ready to live together generally prefer to live separate but together. Even married couples who truly desire to live together but are unable to do so for reasons like work or ailing parents may choose such alternative marriage arrangements. Younger couples often choose this together apart relationship to avoid problems that come with a breakup/divorce, while older couples view it as a lifestyle choice that permits them some alone time.

Why Are Married Couples Choosing The LAT Lifestyle?

Societal conditioning had taught people that couples were supposed to stay together in marriages, even at the cost of their independence. This often resulted in a situation where one had to choose between their marriage or their independence. However, getting married but not living together offers a third option where one has to compromise on neither. 

There may be various reasons why a married couple may choose living separately together:

  • Compatibility issues: They’re beginning to get on each other’s nerves and can’t bear it anymore. For instance, in the book, Her Beautiful Symmetry, Martin and Marijke separate shortly after the book starts. Martin had an extreme case of OCD, which made Marijke decide to live in a separate location. Couples may choose not to cohabit to avoid needless disputes and arguments in the relationship. They might be in love and want their long-term relationships to last but may have trouble keeping the magic alive while living together in the same house
  • Protecting children: Sometimes issues in a marriage can make people grow apart, but for the sake of their children, many couples decide to stay together. A marriage without affection can be hard to sustain, even if the couple never fights in front of the kids. So living apart together with children can be a solution where both parents can be present for the children and not have to traumatize them by lashing out at each other every day
  • Alternative to divorce: Many LAT couples live at separate addresses to gain perspective before the divorce or as an alternative to divorce due to economic reasons such as retirement or insurance benefits
  • Professional commitments: If one or both partners have demanding jobs or are deeply invested in their careers, they may consider living apart from spouse for work. Talking about her LAT situation, Bertha, a nurse from Kansas, told us, “During the pandemic, I got a small apartment near the hospital. I was worried about the risk of infecting my husband and son. Once the public places opened up, I moved back. But I missed not having to wake up at the crack of dawn. At my new apartment, I could have normal hours and I was less exhausted. I kept thinking, “Should I stay with my husband can you be married and live separately?” My husband, who had become accustomed to taking care of himself, welcomed the suggestion. So, I moved out of the house again last year”
  • Need for independence: A married couple living separately may choose this lifestyle to get back the time they lost taking care of their families for years. So once the kids have flown the nest, life partners may choose to live in separate places and enjoy life on their terms

Related Reading: Why Do People Fall Out Of Love And What To Do If It Happens?

What percentage of people are living apart together?

According to research, 35% of individuals who are not married or cohabiting have responded to being in a LAT relationship. This data also includes LGBTQ people. 15% of lesbians and 17% of gay men are suggested to be in LAT relationships to maintain privacy about their relationship, to facilitate an egalitarian partnership, or to foster intimacy while remaining self-sufficient. According to a Canadian study, young adults are more likely to be LAT couples. In age groups 20–24 and 25–29, nearly 31% and 17% were living separately together, respectively. In individuals from the age group 30–59, it was between 3% and 5%, though these numbers have been rising since.

Pros And Cons Of Living Apart Together

Research suggests that people get into a living apart relationship for various reasons, but the most common are:

  1. They have logistical issues, i.e., they have commitments like a job or obligations that require them to be apart
  2. They’re doubtful if it’s too soon to move in together under the same roof and would like to explore the relationship before moving in together
  3. Married couples living apart have often stayed together for a long time and want to take a different route where they can be more independent

Interestingly, while the first reason is not exclusive to a particular group, the second and third reasons are seen mostly in young and older persons, respectively. When we consider the pros and cons of living apart together, we have to consider the age group these are most likely to impact.

There is scope for independence and emotional commitmentThere is also scope for growing apart gradually
Both partners can have a “breathing space”, which can make conflict resolution more effectiveThe relationship can lead to resentment or escapist tendencies, as a distraction is easier than resolution
Couples who live apart find it easier to walk away; there is no stress to split assetsLack of investment in symbolic assets may lead to lack of commitment
Improved quality of timeIt requires active effort to maintain the relationship
You can have time to focus on yourself after years of taking care of othersIt can cause separation anxiety. Additionally, you face societal judgement for being married but living separately
Miles apart keep love alive, as partners are less likely to take each other for grantedThere is a possibility of growing distant from your partner
You can escape unwanted chores – this can be a big benefit for women who are exhausted from invisible laborMaintaining separate households can lead to added financial burden
It’s an easier solution than divorceIt’s difficult living apart together with very young children, it also doesn’t work if both partners aren’t onboard with the idea

Is LAT Right For You?

Some married couples living apart, like actor duo Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy, have had to live in different locations for several years due to their commitments. She said in an interview that it made her appreciate the physical proximity. Research suggests that LATs are going to be a growing trend in the future, and factors like “older age, higher education level, and working status” contribute to its likelihood.

Though many new-age dating coaches are applauding the success of LATs in the context of exercising one’s individuality, research also suggests that a lot of LAT couples are formed because it’s easier to live apart than to leave each other altogether. In either of these cases, we find an interesting causality. Notably,

  1. People want to live apart together intentionally to protect their personal space. This, however, demands a deliberate, unwavering commitment to the relationship
  2. People want to save the relationship or protect their interests in the commitment and choose to live separately. Thus, it becomes a defense mechanism

Now, we’re not saying that only one of these reasons is right, but figuring out the answer to, “Is LAT right for you?”, will depend more on you than on any external factors. So, weigh the pros and cons of living with your significant other and those of living together but not together carefully. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to find your way:

Would you consider living apart from your partner to save your relationship?

1. Why do you want to have your own space?

Intentionality makes a great difference between:

1. Living away from each other to keep the relationship alive

2. Deciding to live separately because you want to keep the magic alive in your relationship. 

It may seem like the same thing, but it’s not. The former is just a way to get rid of your partner without compromising the status quo of being in a relationship, while in the latter, there is no resentment against your partner, and so you will make an effort to get back to them. 

Actor Jamie Chung and her husband, Bryan Greenberg decided to move into separate addresses as both of them found that their space was as important to them as their relationship.

  • Ask yourself what about having a place of your own would make you happy
  • Is this a ploy to gain power over your partner?
  • Would it be harder getting back together after some time?

The answers to these questions will tell you if your relationship is on the rocks. Sometimes LTA does save relationships, but there’s no guarantee that it would improve the relationship quality. Unless you make a conscious effort to fix what’s broken, at the most, it would give you a temporary respite.

2. Have you figured out the logistics?

If you already have assets like a farm or cabin that you can use for this purpose, that’s great. If not, you need to think about who is going to move out, where they’re going to stay, and other financial and logistical elements of this choice.

  • Work out the logistics. Where will you live? How will you pay the rent?
  • Is buying housing apart together a good idea, especially if only one of you is earning?
  • If you’re in high debt, it makes no sense to get into something like this. The financial stress of working off add debt can further deteriorate your relationship
  • If you have minor children, who do they stay with? How are you going to divide the maintenance costs?

Related Reading: 10 Amazing Excuses Your Wife Makes To Not Have Sex

3. What do you feel for your partner?

Identify what you feel for your partner. Do you feel love and longing for them, or are you just married and living separate lives?

  • How often do you go out on dates in a month?
  • Do you call them first thing when something good happens?
  • Would you want to go back to them once you’ve started living apart?

If you and your partner do not have the same connection anymore, then it’s a sign that the relationship will not last. At this point, nothing may work. Likewise, one of the signs you’re not ready to move in together in a new relationship is if you don’t feel excited about spending time with your partner.

9 Tips To Make LAT Relationship Work

Living apart while still being in a relationship is said to provide the benefits of individuality, including the ability to do as you want in your own space and preserve existing relationships and connections, as well as increased intimacy in the relationship. However, many people look only at the shallow end and believe that people are taking this route to escape responsibility in the relationship. This isn’t entirely untrue, but if we look at the research, people who are financially dependent on the relationship do get the short end of the stick. Keeping these factors in mind, here’s how you can make a LAT relationship work:

1. Embrace it for the right reasons

Though right and wrong are subjective terms, identifying the reason for deciding to live together apart is important. If you’re doing it just because it’s becoming unbearable to live together in a toxic relationship, it may not be a good idea. You deserve to have a fulfilling relationship. Putting some distance between you and your partner may not entirely solve your problems. To figure out why you want to make this choice,

  • Think about and list why living together apart will be better than a breakup. You may want to save the relationship, but is it salvageable? Can it get better? Can you make changes in yourselves for the betterment of the relationship? 
  • Talk about how you would live separate but together before you embark on this journey. It’s important that both of you consent to it to make it work. Discuss all the nitty-gritty beforehand, so there’s little room for issues later. If you can afford it, try it for the short term and see if it works
  • You can also contact a counselor or relationship coach to help you figure out how to go about setting the ground rules for your LAT relationship, and how to make it work. We are often blindsided when it comes to relationships, and an objective third party can help us see the bigger picture. At Bonobology, we have an excellent panel of counselors and relationship coaches to guide you through this

2. Make an effort to communicate regularly

This seems to be a no-brainer. After all, communication is the backbone of any relationship. But sometimes, even the most obvious things can get ignored. Couples express feelings through their behavior instead of working out their serious communication issues. While this is not a healthy practice in any relationship, it becomes even more vital to keep the communication channels open in a separate marriage.

  • Try to talk daily. Do not limit it to talking about chores or work; talk about anything and everything on your mind, and how you feel. Listen to what your partner has to say; do not just be there nodding your head. Participate. This can be difficult in the beginning, but with time, you will crave the phone time
  • Try to have this conversation either early in the morning, after dinner or whenever you’re completely free from distractions.
  • Most importantly, try to talk about your conflicts. Especially if you’re taking the step to save your relationship, then you must talk about uncomfortable things. Living apart together gives you time to ponder things and to cool off when harsh things are said. But do not use it to escape from your problems
Failing Marriages

3. How to survive living apart from your spouse? Spend quality time together

If you’re trying to avoid your partner when living away together or feel a sense of doom whenever you have to talk to them, something is not right with your relationship. The secret to a successful marriage living apart is that you need to have intentionality to want to be with them. To make it work, have weekly or fortnightly dates, or whatever your calendar permits.

  • Ensure no distractions during your quality time. Keep your phone on silent, do not check it every other minute. Go somewhere you’re less likely to bump into other people or try at-home date night ideas. You don’t always need to have sex, but you need to connect mentally and emotionally
  • Try to focus on each other — how your partner looks and how they are keeping up. Do not make it a confrontation zone

4. Set boundaries in your separate marriage

To make sure that your conversations are fulfilling and the time you spend with them is indeed quality, you need to set up some boundaries. Healthy boundaries are the engine that keeps a relationship running.

  • Identify the deal-breakers in your relationship if you’re unsure where to start. Keep evolving the boundaries as you learn what you can and cannot deal with
  • If your relationship is suffering because of a lack of boundaries, then it may be difficult at first. Because neither of you is used to being held back, it can feel as if you’re being pushed back. This can make you defensive and insecure. Take some time to learn to deal with it
  • Learn to say no. Give your partner time, but learn to exert your independence. Do not compromise with it

5. Do the things you love

Even though you’re taking this step to exert your independence, societal conditioning may manifest feelings of being incomplete or guilt for leaving your partner. To resist feelings of loneliness or guilt, indulge in the things you love. 

  • Living separate lives while married gives you opportunities to explore the world around you. Go on walks, get close to nature, learn a new skill — the world is your oyster
  • Keep in touch with your friends and family. Use this as an opportunity to carve out more time for them and strengthen your inner circle
  • Focus on things that you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t get around to. Finish that book, take up ballet classes, and get started on your dream project. Katya, a writer from Nevada, told us, “My husband and I live separate lives. I am a dreamer; he’s firmly on the ground. We love each other, but back in New York, we were living separate lives in a relationship, and that made me feel like an imposter. LAT marriage has been a game-changer for us and has brought us closer than we were living under the same roof. I can concentrate on my writing, while he can travel the world for his business.”

Related Reading: 15 Warning Signs Your Partner Is Losing Interest In The Relationship

6. Plan well for living apart together with child

If you have children, you need to consider their situation. Since children are conditioned to see a family as an inseparable unit, this may confuse them. Appropriate conversations or counseling are important to offer them clarity and get them on board.

  • There can be deep-seated impacts of separation on children. This is why it’s crucial to explain to them what you’re doing and why. Reassure them that it doesn’t mean you’re separating unless that is what you’re doing. The point is, be honest with them
  • Plan the living situation. If your places are near each other, children can choose to circulate periodically. If not, maybe the children can live with one parent and spend weekends and holidays with the other, or spend time with the other parent whenever they visit. Ask their opinions as frequent moves can disturb their daily lives and schedules
  • Ask for help from your partner when you need it. Even though you’re trying to be independent, you do not have to go it alone, especially in the realm of parenting

7. Remember living apart together relationship is not a universal solution

Keep in mind that a together apart relationship is a solution to a very specific problem: lack of independence in a relationship. Using it either as a way to punish your cheating partner or to try to avoid conflicts in the relationship is not healthy.

  • Talk to each other about the need for this step. LAT couples choose this because they like both their personal space and the intimate relationship with their partners, and cohabiting may lead them to compromise on one aspect. Are your reasons any different than this?
  • As Helena Bonham Carter put it about her LAT relationship with Tim Burton, “It’s not enforced intimacy. It’s chosen, which is quite flattering — if you can afford it.” The actor-director couple stayed in a thirteen-year relationship where they lived in different parts of a house to maintain their privacy. Try renting housing apart together for a month and think about your feelings about your relationship when they’re not fueled by proximity. Would you choose intimacy if it were not enforced?
  • Having two houses, even when both of you are working, can be expensive. It may seem like a good idea to have your own place where you can retreat, but if you’re moving out just to justify that expense, it’s not going to do anything good

8. Work on your insecurities

If you struggle with insecurities, living apart together can amplify the self-doubt and aspersions about your partner’s intentions manifold. You need to think about whether you’re cut out to handle this unconventional relationship arrangement

  • If your response to the suggestion of living apart is a vehement “I’m not living without you”, you are more likely to struggle with becoming independent. Codependency in the relationship can limit your personality. Instead of avoiding your emotions, face them. Set measurable goals and have a development mentality. Be ready for failure, but don’t let it define you
  • Critically evaluate your negative ideas and challenge them. Negative self-talk can impair your mental growth, so focus on yourself. Maintain a routine. Eat healthy, sleep well, meditate, and maintain a journal. Focus on mindfulness 
  • Be in the company of inspiring, upbeat individuals. Seek help from friends and family when it gets difficult going

9. Don’t let the third parties get a say

Instagram user Sana Akahand was married but living separately from her husband after she realized that they were becoming codependent. She wanted to try being married and living separate lives at the same time but had to struggle with religious pressure from her community against her ‘lifestyle relationships’. The LAT couple decided to go through with their decision despite the pressure, and she says they have “come back together stronger than ever” (sic).

  • In certain cultures, familial pressure against doing things differently can be excruciating. Learn to set emotional boundaries to protect your mental health and preserve your relationship
  • If you think those around you may not understand the choice you’re making, keep it within your relationship. Using excuses such as work commitments is not a bad idea to keep nosy relatives out of your business
  • Know what you want. As long as you and your partner have the same expectations of each other, it won’t matter what everyone else thinks

Key Pointers

  • LAT is a relationship style where couples live in different locations
  • In recent years, LAT marriages have become a growing trend, and more couples are adopting this lifestyle
  • A married couple living separately may come closer to each other as they’re able to focus more on the relationship and not take it for granted
  • It can also be difficult to maintain, as it takes more effort to keep in touch with each other

Essentially, you shouldn’t choose LAT relationships just because it might appear as an easy way to avoid your partner’s snoring or messy habits. You should choose to live your life as you dreamed it to be while maintaining the relationships you want. To many, it seems like a bizarre take on normal relationships, but to others successfully living in LATs, it’s like having their cake and eating it too. All it takes is a little more effort, but the results can be worth it.

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