Sociologists call them Living Apart Together Relationships, or LATs, but filmmaker Sharon Hyman, who’s been cohabiting with her special person for many years, coined the cuter term Apartners—as in “apart”-ners. She’s currently making a documentary subtitled Living Happily Ever Apart about this phenomenon, and she recently guest posted about her personal experience on Bella DePaulo‘s Psychology Today blog.
Hyman’s movie website states that 25 to 40% of North American couples use separate bedrooms, and “almost 10% of North American adults are in committed relationships and living in completely separate abodes.”
A recent article by Sarah Sloat (Inverse.com) offers additional important info:
While motivations among couples may vary a bit, what unites LATs — regardless of age — are liberal values and the desire to have the intimacy of being a couple while still honoring pre-existing commitments. Researchers also credit no less than our globalized society, cultural diversification, and the civil rights movement as forces that have increased people’s desire for the individual autonomy driving LATs. With the explosion of single, adult women choosing to take their time with — or forgo entirely — marriage, LATs are likely to only increase.
And — for the separate bedroom naysayers — psychologists say that sleeping apart has no correlation with having a successful relationship. Differing sleep schedules have actually been found to be a factor that can preserve relationships — good news for any night owl, morning lark relationship, regardless of whether or not they share a bedroom.
Hyman points out that the traditional foundation of marriage—women relying on male partners economically—has decreased significantly over the years. On the other hand, living together isn’t always any more successful than legally marrying.
If apartnership is an idea that appeals to you, what does it take to make it work? Kate Ashford, BBC, lists some requisites, starting with, “You’ll have to be independent and trusting, with good communication skills, a budget for travel and the mental fortitude to be on your own.”
Things potential apartners should do now, she says:
- Have “the talk”. About the type of commitment you have to each other.
- Make a communication plan. How do you each prefer to be in touch?
- See each other regularly. If not in person, use the technology.
- Share the costs.
- Be on top of budgeting.
- Hire tax help. Especially if you’re married, things can get complicated.
- Make sure your retirement is on track. Separate households cost more.
- Understand what it means legally. Especially for unmarried couples.
Finally, a do-later point, Have an end in sight. “For most people, this kind of arrangement isn’t sustainable long-term.” Key word, most. Some, on the other hand, can do this indefinitely.