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04/23/2018 14:01 EDT | Updated 04/23/2018 14:16 EDT

Living Apart Together Could Be The Relationship Style That Brings You Closer

Some people are defying the stereotype and choosing to be in loving, long-term relationships without the benefits of cohabiting.

It's spring and wedding season is just about to begin. Some engaged couples are stressing out about the rising costs of getting married. The average cost of a wedding in Canada today is just over $30,000. Some couples try to save money by choosing to go the city hall route, but there's one group of people that's trying something altogether different.

Whether or not they choose to get married, many couples follow the familiar model of relationships in which they meet, fall in love and then move in together. Lately, though, some people are defying the stereotype and choosing to be in loving, long-term relationships without the benefits of cohabiting. They're doing what's called Living Apart Together, or LAT.

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What is Living Apart Together?

According to 2011 data from Statistics Canada, almost two million Canadians reported they were in a LAT couple. I imagine that there are even more people doing this today.

For younger couples, the choice to be together but live apart is often due to financial circumstances or because of separations brought on by work or school. For couples aged 60 and over, however, the most common reason for choosing this type of arrangement is to remain independent.

In the younger age group, the majority of people plan to eventually move in with their partner, whereas in the older group, most have no such plans. These individuals want to maintain their own homes and their own lifestyles while being in a committed relationship with their partner.

In the older age group, most have been married before and have grown children. These individuals don't want to give up their autonomy, and many aren't interested in starting all over again and doing all the things involved with caring for a spouse. Some don't want to complicate their kids' inheritance. Some just like having the space to do their own thing.

Couples who opt for this type of relationship often can have a greater appreciation for one another.

The benefits of giving each other a little space

When thinking about this type of arrangement, many advantages are immediately obvious. People in a LAT couple can have a strong sense of independence while also enjoying the benefits of intimacy. They can bring more romance, passion and novelty to the relationship when they come together after time spent apart.

For LAT couples, they can experience less conflict in their relationship, because they're able to go home and cool off when they're feeling angry or frustrated with their partner. If they're getting on each other's nerves, they can retreat to their separate corners with no one feeling abandoned or rejected.

Another advantage to the LAT arrangement is that these couples tend to feel less stuck in an unsatisfying relationship. If things aren't working out, it's much easier to walk away. They don't have the stress of splitting up their possessions, cleaning out an apartment or selling a house. If the relationship isn't making them happy, they can choose to end it, no harm, no foul.

Couples who opt for this type of relationship often can have a greater appreciation for one another. Not being together every moment of every day can make the partners value each other more and be more grateful for the time they have together. They're less likely to take each other for granted and they're more likely to expend the effort to make each moment count.

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Sometimes, when a couple moves in together and they aren't actually compatible, the fact of cohabiting makes them believe that they're closer than they are. They've invested emotionally and financially in sharing a space so it's that much harder to imagine splitting up. A couple like this might remain together for longer than they should; tolerating a relationship that ought to have ended a long time ago.

In LAT couples, there's no sense of an artificially increased commitment to the relationship that happens when people choose to live together. How they feel about the relationship is based on how the relationship is actually going for them.

For someone who's raised their children and has had a career, they often have no interest in being a home-maker or physical care-taker at this point in their life. An arrangement such as LAT could suit such a person, as it confers all the benefits of a loving relationship while avoiding many of the drawbacks.

For someone who's been surrounded by children and grandchildren for years, the LAT arrangement could provide them with much-needed alone time to focus on self-care and to do the things that they find most meaningful. It can also give them the space to enjoy the things that their partner isn't into.

In LAT couples, it can be almost too easy to avoid dealing with the difficult issues.

Absence doesn't always make the heart grow fonder

The LAT arrangement only works if both people are fully on board. If one partner is really into it and the other is just going along, things won't end well for either of them.

On the negative side, there's the cost of keeping up two households, and the feeling for certain LAT couples that their relationship is "neither here nor there." For some individuals in LAT couples, it can be easier to stray, as no-one is keeping track of what the other person is doing in their free time. There's also social pressure from friends and family members who expect the couple to live under one roof.

In LAT couples, it can be almost too easy to avoid dealing with the difficult issues that come up between them. One can always just go home if things start getting overly challenging, but over time, these unresolved issues can lead to a rupture in the fabric of the relationship.

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And perhaps because absence doesn't always make the heart grow fonder, living apart could lead to a feeling of being insufficiently connected, which could eventually result in the breakdown of intimacy and the decline of the relationship.

Still, it's an intriguing idea. It's certainly not for everyone, but in this day and age of alternative living arrangements and lifestyles, it's definitely worth considering. In fact, when you think about it, it might be exactly what your relationship could use.

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