“Well, you have been with him a long time to not be living together.”
Heard this before, right?
It’s the societal template for a good relationship—a proper relationship, you know?
The “right” sort of relationships often go as follows:
You meet, date (for a year or so), then you get a place together, or one moves into the other’s home. At some stage, a ring is presented. Marriage then kids, or kids then marriage (society accepts that this is now reversible). Then it’s all good and proper; it gets the universal nod of approval.
What a crock of sh*t.
Let’s talk about Living Apart Together (LAT) relationships. They are happening all around us; they’re not just for the Gwyneth Paltrows of the world, and they’re certainly not a Hollywood fad or a new world normal. This is a thing, and I kinda like it.
There is no blueprint for a “good” relationship. Living together is not the measure of someone’s love for you or the template for a promised future. In fact, some of the strongest relationships that I know are between two people who are in long-term committed relationships but do not cohabitate.
So why do we hold so much value in living with someone? Is it that we see this as a mark of commitment? Is it that we believe it means that someone who is up for sharing their personal space with us 24/7 somehow loves or values us more? Or is it because society has sold us this lie which has been perpetuated through a cycle of generational hand-me-downs that have defined the laws of how it must be?
I am no psychologist, but here are my observations:
When we are in loving relationships and live with our partners, sometimes (not always, please don’t bite me) we can become lazy. The old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt,” is not far off the mark.
Where familiarity does not breed contempt, it sometimes breeds resentment, habitual annoyances, neglect, and indifference, and things that were not before suddenly seem to be taken for granted.
My one friend who does not live with her partner sees him a few times a week and once on the weekend. They still love each other, share loads of experiences, host friends, holiday together, and do all the “normal” couple things, but they have their own houses.
Now, they do not share a child, and as a co-parent, I know this is often where the issues can arise, but they do have their own kids and combine their families in a chill fashion. Society gasps.
The one thing they have, which I have noted as a marked difference between my own experiences when living with a partner, is the time to miss each other. They are 10 years in and still excited about date night; sleepovers are a thing! The distance between them, instead of pulling them apart, has pulled them closer. They are not following anyone’s rules, but their own.
And they are in great shape for it.
But then she wobbled. She hears the cries of her immediate circle when they question his motives, her motives. They say not living together is a “lack of commitment.” Nothing is stopping them; she should move on.
Or, they question, maybe he doesn’t care?
This doubt is not hers, and it’s not even planted by him or his behavior. It’s delivered by people that have no bearing on their relationship. Sure, these people are doing and saying what they believe is best for her—they’re doing it from a good place (of love and concern). Of that, I am sure.
But it is unfair to project our version of events onto somebody else’s completely independent situation.
They are happy. That is all that matters.
Living with someone is not the only path. There are people who will say that they could not be a day without their spouse and that is fine and right for them. But let us not expect everyone to have the same needs and wishes. Because some people can be deeply in love and choose not to live in the same property as their significant other and that is perfectly okay too.
Many people who love their partners, also love their independence. They enjoy living solo because it suits them. Does this make them any less of a couple? Or does this give them the best of both worlds? Is this selfish or selfless?
Is it wrong to want both?
Maybe we should be more focused on being in a healthy relationship, than being in a typical one.
Living Apart Together (LAT) relationships are not uncommon in married couples, either. A 2017 United States Census Bureau showed that roughly four million married couples at the time were living apart. Admittedly, this data will have many variations: some may be forced to live apart due to work or other factors, others may be married but separated. But for some, this is due to a lifestyle choice. And that is okay.
We put far too much onus on the picture our elders and society paints. A relationship should never have to fit into somebody else’s perfect mold.
At the heart of any relationship are two people that are individuals. These individuals combined do not make them any less individual, and their needs remain intact. And frankly, its nobody else’s business.
Live and let live, I say. And do that under whichever roof you want.