Like many young women, I often find myself thinking about marriage, complete with the white picket fence and other cliches that you see in chick flicks. However, while dreaming of the perfect life with my husband, I often wonder if it's even in my destiny to be married and enjoy my happily ever after under one roof with someone else.
I've always liked being to myself in my own space, doing my own thing. I'd get irritated when anyone (including my parents) would just come casually into to my room to chit chat if I wasn't in the mood or if my friends would want to hang out in my house after school when I'd much rather go home, eat snacks and watch The Tyra Banks Show.
As a small child, I wouldn't even ask for help with my homework from anyone; I'd much rather figure it out by myself and enjoy the one part of the day that I got to spend alone. I've never even shared a dorm room with someone in college for goodness sakes. For me, personal space has always been a must.
These feelings intensified, as I got older, especially in my last relationship. Though we did not live together, being under the same roof for an extended amount of time (usually just a few days to a few weeks) led to utter disaster, especially when it was my space that we were sharing. Around the third day of our very temporary cohabitation, I'd become irritated by everything he did. His messy habits, loud snoring, bad taste in television programming, and anything else he did was more than enough to take me over the edge.
Years into this relationship, as we began to spend more time together under one roof, I began to question if the big house with the white picket fence and beautiful front yard is something that I realistically wanted and could handle. Or did I truly just like the idea of it? Don't judge me, but there have been times that I've cried, not because of my significant other getting on my nerves (if I even had one left at this point), but because I didn't understand or could even control feeling the way I did. How could I love someone and not stand being around them? If this is what comes along with marriage, it was time for me to reconsider.
Luckily for me, I'm not alone for once. There are millions of people that are in healthy, functioning Living Apart Together (LAT) relationships. A LAT relationship is one in which couples in long-term relationships or married choose to live separately. It's very different from a long-distance relationship for the simple fact that these couples can live miles or blocks away from one another, or sometimes even in the same apartment buildings. They spend time together when they can (usually evenings and weekends), but prefer to never live under one roof. After reading the New York Times article Living Apart Together last week, which was the topic of conversation amongst my colleagues, I began to dip deeper into this concept.
For obvious reasons, this sort of lifestyle is more suitable for couples who don't have young children involved (though it happens), such as younger couples in serious relationships planning to get married one day, and older couples who have older children from past marriages and are pretty much set in their ways. It's now being seen in the U.S. primarily amongst young couples in their 20s and 30s, and couples age 55+, but has been a growing phenomenon in countries such as Britain, Sweden, and Canada for decades now.
I've watched my own mother and her boyfriend live a LAT lifestyle and never once considered it as an option for myself. She has been engaged in the past, but the tension that formed living under one roof was too much to bear and caused a major riff in the relationship. There are many reasons why LAT couples prefer this type of relationship and wouldn't change it unless it was absolutely necessary:
- The dynamics of a LAT relationship keeps the spontaneity in the relationship and the boredom out.
- More effort is usually put into things such as date nights because of the time that couple spend apart.
- Trivial arguments that sometimes may occur living under one roof leading to big blow ups don't occur.
- The passion in the relationship is continuously brewing naturally because of personal space.
Of course for any list of pros, there's a list of cons to accompany it. LAT couples also recognize that their choice of lifestyle lacks some things that would be found in a traditional cohabitation or a one-roof marriage:
- Trust is tested on a whole other level. Even though your significant other can cheat on you living in the same household, that space may give someone with underlying commitment issues even more free range to cheat.
- Living apart doesn't allow for the level of intimacy that typically exists in a traditional relationship. If you're having nightmare or had a bad day at work on a day away from you're partner, you're pretty much out of luck until you guys see each other again.
- If you care about not being the status quo, how others view your relationship may bother you.
Though I hope that with time I'll be able to feel comfortable with the idea of sharing a space with my partner and/or husband, I accept the fact that I may not be about that life. It's refreshing to know that there are alternatives for people much like myself. Of course, I could just suck it up and just go by what society tells us to do, but in all honestly, I feel every situation deserves its own solution; the solution to my desperate need of personal space possibly being a LAT relationship.
What are your personal feelings towards LAT relationships? Are they a recipe for disaster? Or is the traditional idea of marriage and relationships not made for everyone?