For some, long-term romance includes milestones like leaving a toothbrush at each other’s place, giving each other keys, and eventually, moving in together. For a growing number of couples, though, living apart together (LAT) is way more romantic than sharing a bedroom, a bathroom, and a permanent address. Having separate addresses, for some, is the secret to a long and happy (and healthy) marriage.
What Does Living Apart Together Mean?
Living apart together (LAT) refers to couples who are in an intimate relationship, but choose to live separately for various reasons. Those reasons can be financial, personal, or both.
To learn more about this growing trend, we consulted experts Bella DePaolo and Sherrie Sims Allen. Because hey, if it works for Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Brad Falchuk, maybe it’ll work for you, too.
Meet the Expert
- Bella DePaolo is an academic, researcher, and author of How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century.
- Sherrie Sims Allen, Ph.D. is a psychologist and relationship expert based in Los Angeles.
“We are in a whole new era of couples living apart,” explains DePaolo. Couples used to live apart mainly because they had no choice. For example, one or both had good jobs in different cities or countries that they couldn’t give up. That’s still the case for some, but the trend of choosing to live apart, regardless of your job situation, is on the rise. She adds, “What is relatively new, or newly getting recognized, are the couples living apart because they want to—or at least one person in the couple wants to."
Just like people are choosing to marry or have children later on, some are choosing to go a different route when it comes to their marriage. Especially for people who have spent their twenties and thirties single and living alone, independence can be tough to give up. “I see it as a possible growing trend as singles look at ways to connect that won’t cost them their preferred lifestyle or way of life,” offers Sims Allen.
Here are some things to think about if you’re curious about maintaining a LAT romance.
Why Live Apart?
Couples decide to live separately for different reasons, whether it’s because they love their solitude and space, they have to be in different locations for work or financial reasons, or because they feel like not being together constantly actually strengthens their bond. “Living apart might offer some relief to couples who value their individual space as well as each other,” Sims Allen says. If you each have established careers across the country from each other, but you meet on a cross-country flight and fall in love, you might decide it’s best for both of you and your relationship to keep your jobs, at least for a few years. Or maybe one person loves the mountains and the other needs the ocean, but you make it work anyway.
“The couple loves each other, but don’t feel they need to live in the same house to express their togetherness,” Sims Allen says of people who choose to live apart because of personal preferences. “They have an arrangement that is outside the box of traditional marriage,” she adds. Maybe having your own dedicated space is crucial for your well-being, and your partner understands that. It’s a conversation that should happen early on and both partners should be on board, or at least willing to try it and see if it’s right for your relationship.
Pros and Cons
Living apart means decorating however you want, making your own schedule, or seeing friends and relatives without feeling guilty about splitting time with your spouse. It also means seeing much less of your partner, depending on your schedules and distance and ability to come together. Sims Allen says that married couples who choose to live apart can have a “rich and intimate life that focuses on the heart of the relationship and not the daily details of existing together and running a household.” Meaning, your relationship won’t be defined by the daily stresses of whose turn it is to take out the trash or who didn’t close the kitchen cabinets. Having breaks allows your time together to be about bonding and spending quality time, instead of just time. DePaolo says that when LAT couples are together, “they focus on what they enjoy about each other and don’t spend a lot of time fretting about the small stuff.”
There are disadvantages to the arrangement, too. If there are any insecurities in the relationship, jealousy can come into play if one or both partners feels like they’re being ignored or if they worry about where their spouse is and what they’re doing.
It’s important to check in frequently and listen to how your partner is feeling about living apart.
There’s also the possibility that you’ll grow apart and seek out a new love who lives closer to home. The key to combating these challenges, according to Sims Allen, is that both partners need to remain flexible. Communicate about the fact that things aren’t working, and stay open to going the more traditional route if it’s worth it to you both. Like any relationship, it’s a process and what works well for a few months or years might not feel so ideal later on down the road.
Is It Right For You?
Having some alone time sounds amazing to most couples at some point, but make sure you’re fully committed to separate addresses and daily lives before jumping into the LAT lifestyle. Be clear about why you want to live apart and make sure one partner isn’t agreeing just to please the other. “The question becomes whether you are strong enough in your commitment to your relationship to withstand living in separate households,” Sims Allen says.
Make no firm plans about living together or apart. Do what works for the preservation of your marriage. Sims Allen says she knows of a couple where the husband lived in South Africa and the wife was in New York. They loved where they each lived, loved their jobs, and they loved each other, so they, like a growing number of couples, made it work.
“Having a place of your own just isn’t that unusual anymore” DePaulo says. “Sometimes it is living with someone else that takes some getting used to.”