When I divorced in my 50s, leaving a 30-year marriage, I spent a lot of time reflecting on how to redefine my life in these new circumstances. I was thrown into a soup of indecision about how to move forward to create a life of meaning and substance outside the framework of a traditional marriage.
Much of our identity, security, daily routines and lifestyle practices are defined by the structure of this primary relationship. Marriage is often referred to as an “institution”, revealing the degree to which it dominates the fabric and beliefs of our society.
When I ran across a couple articles on LAT relationships, I was intrigued.
LAT is the acronym for “Living Apart Together,” a relationship between two people who live at different addresses but consider themselves connected to the same emotional degree as partners that are married. Independence in the relationship along with psychological and physical space are among the attractive elements.
The LAT concept has long been a common and accepted relationship model in some Scandinavian countries, but it is less prevalent in North America where the traditional path to a committed relationship tends to be: Fall in love and move in together (marriage is common but considered optional).
Inherent in traditional marital relationships is the sharing of space and resources and a mutual agreement about which friends one should or shouldn’t associate with and/or become close to. It contains a commitment to inform each other of where you are and what you’re going to do next and why. There’s the necessary sorting and blending of personal interests, personalities, backgrounds, beliefs and various idiosyncrasies. When couples say they have to “work” at their relationship, these are some of the issues that need to be addressed in order to create compatibility between the parties.
In reading about people who adopt the LAT practice with success and satisfaction, I found two authors, Linda Breault and co-editor Dianne Gillespie who, in their book “Living Apart Together – A New Possibility for Loving Couples,” offer a collection of stories of couples across North America who are thriving in LAT relationships.
Those who have embraced LAT relationships do it for a variety of reasons.
Some find it removes the complication of a blended family. “Step” relationships can present challenges if kids and parents don’t see eye to eye on the inclusion of a new partner in the equation.
It removes the need to worry about splitting financial resources (as happens in marital breakups) should the relationship end. Legal rights over another’s property or wealth become easier to define when bank accounts aren’t merged and parties aren’t living at the same residence.
Some enjoy where they live and don’t want to uproot themselves to be with the person they love. They may have other significant friendships or community networks that would be lost or diminished by moving.
Others, especially women of advancing age, fear a situation where they may have to fill the role of resident caregiver to an ailing partner or be tasked with the ongoing drudgery of household chores. Men have come a long way in the role they play in the home, yet women still often feel an inequity in what is assumed to be ‘their’ work.
More often than not, though, the most significant factor appears to be that of preserving the spark in the relationship. LATs say the separation of residences allows them to connect for ‘dates’ which creates more excitement and anticipation. There’s nothing more deadening in a relationship, they feel, than being taken for granted. Not being in each other’s presence all the time makes their together time that much sweeter.
And finally, there are those who simply enjoy their “space” and privacy. They luxuriate in having a bed to themselves – the ability to turn on the light and read and eat cookies in the middle of the night. They are able to keep their home the way they like it.
Living apart allows introverted personalities to naturally withdraw to recharge their batteries without feeling like they are pulling away from their partner.
In todays complex world, one-size-fits-all just doesn’t resonate anymore. And that appears to be the case for relationships as well. Living Apart Together relationships appear to work for many people, for different reasons.
Those who want to combine intimacy with independence may possibly find the solution in a LAT relationship.
If you’d like to read more about this topic, check out the book mentioned above or the related website which has multiple resources listed. Or just Google “LAT relationships.” You can also read an article published in INSPIRED Senior Living’s March 2016 issue. CLICK HERE.
Barbara Risto is the publisher of INSPIRED Senior Living, a magazine geared for the 55+ demographic; the Canadian best-selling author of “To Move Or Not to Move?” a helpful guide for seniors considering their residential options; the producer of two annual 55+ Lifestyle Shows; and a champion of the 55+ lifestyle, which she is now embracing.
For more information, check out “Who Is Barbara Risto”