|Living apart is surprisingly common, and many couples see being away from one another as a better way to be together. Some of these "living apart together" (LAT) couples are young, who believe it's too early to be in the same home / Photo by: Aleksandr Davydov via 123RF|
Starting a life together is usually the next step for many couples. Whether it's marrying or living together, living under the same roof marks significant progress into people's relationships. But other couples prefer a third option: living separately.
Living apart is surprisingly common, and many couples see being away from one another as a better way to be together. Some of these "living apart together" (LAT) couples are young, who believe it's too early to be in the same home.
However, a new study found an increasing number of older couples opting to live apart from their partners to sustain love or retain their independence.
Marriage Vs. Living Together
Cohabiting was once seen as a societal taboo, but modern society doesn't get upset with unwed couples living together anymore as more people in the US today have lived with a romantic partner than those who are married.
According to a new study from Pew Research, 59% of Americans today have cohabited with their partner while merely half have married—a shift marked by changes in attitudes regarding the different household arrangements.
Out of 10 people, seven believe there is nothing wrong with couples living together even if they don't have plans of marrying. The remaining percentage is polarized, with one half saying it's okay if lovers intend to tie the knot and the other saying it's unacceptable regardless of the circumstance.
While people believe getting married is at the bottom of the list of things that make life necessary, a slight majority (53%) still thinks "society will be better off" if cohabiting couples eventually get married.
"Even among young people, a substantial share still says it’s desirable for society if people get married," Juliana Horowitz, associate director of research at Pew and one of the authors of the report, told Time.
One possible explanation for their want to tie the knot is that marriage provides security. The survey shows that married and cohabiting couples have notably different levels of trust in their partners. For instance, 2/3 of married respondents said they trusted their partners to tell the truth while the same was only half in the unmarried.
The Choice of Living Apart
There are different levels to relationships, with marriage as supposedly the end game for all. But changing perceptions alter this idea, providing people with different options to progress their relationship—and living apart together is the new addition to those options.
Based on a nationwide survey supplemented by 50 in-depth interviews, The Telegraph reports that 25% of couples who are LATs account for 9% of all adults in the UK. Adults aged 25 to 54 make up 45% of all LATs, followed by those aged 16 to 24 (43%), and 55 or over (11%).
Some 19% of those couples said they have been in their relationship for less than six months, while 24% have been with a partner for 17 months. Couples who live for up to five years and six years hold similar percentages (22% and 19%, respectively).
There is a variety of reasons why they refuse to cohabit. Some 31% of LAT couples said it's too early for them, they are not ready, or the idea of living together hasn't struck them yet.
But for 30%, the choice was made to keep their own homes, prioritize their responsibilities or children, and “just did not want to live together," The Telegraph reports.
While a significant number of people had never lived with their LAT partner (82%), nearly a fifth of the people surveyed had done so. Those who married and separated were more likely to have lived with their partner in the past.
The main advantage of living apart is that people have complete independence from their partners. They can do whatever they wish in their own space, within the boundaries of their relationship, as well as maintain existing local arrangements, friendships with other people, and pleasures of intimacy with their partner.
Some respondents of the study see living apart as a solution, especially if the problem is their current partner. A female respondent wanted to escape her partner's abusive behavior when he was drunk, while another was repelled by her partner's "hardcore" green lifestyle and feeling of inferiority.
For men, the idea of living with their female partners is threatening. One respondent said being a LAT couple was at least "safe" for someone like him, who's "not a big commitment merchant."
Another respondent wanted a more "compliant" partner abroad after his "whole universe was blown apart" with his divorce.
"Females in England … seem to want everything straight off in my opinion – I just didn’t want to communicate with English women at all," said the respondent, whose current partner lived in Romania.
With these fears, why do people stay in the relationship? Duncan said it's because of their desire for love and intimacy.
"For some people, then, choosing to live apart is not about finding a new or better form of intimacy," the researcher said, as per his article on The Conversation, a publication of news written by academics. "Rather living apart is a reaction to vulnerability, anxiety, even fear – it offers protection."