Living apart together

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Living Apart Together (abbreviation: LAT) is a term to describe couples who have an intimate relationship but live at separate addresses. LAT couples account for around 10% of adults in Britain, a figure which equates to over a quarter of all those not married or cohabiting. Similar figures are recorded for other countries in northern Europe, including Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.[1][2] Research suggests similar or even higher rates in southern Europe, although here LAT couples often remain in parental households.[3] In Australia, Canada and the US representative surveys indicate that between 6% and 9% of the adult population has a partner who lives elsewhere.[4][5][6] LAT is also increasingly understood and accepted publicly, is seen by most as good enough for partnering, and subject to the same expectations about commitment and fidelity as marriage or cohabitation.[7]

Research[edit]

Some researchers have seen living apart together as a historically new family form. From this perspective LAT couples can pursue both the intimacy of being in a couple and at the same time preserve autonomy.[8] Some LAT couples may even de-prioritize couple relationships and place more importance on friendship.[9] Alternatively, others see LAT as just a ‘stage’ on the way to possible cohabitation and marriage. In this view LATs are not radical pioneers moving beyond the family, rather they are cautious and conservative, and simply show a lack of commitment.[10] In addition many may simply be modern versions of ‘steady’ or long term boy/girlfriends.[11] Research using more comprehensive data suggests LAT couples are a heterogeneous social category with varying motivations for living apart.[12] About a third see their relationship as too early for cohabitation, while others are prevented from living together, although they wish to do so, because of constraints like housing costs or (more rarely) job location. Many, however, prefer not to live together even though they have a long term relationship and could do so if they wanted. In practice motivations are often complex, for example one partner might wish to preserve the family home for existing children while the other might welcome autonomous time and space. Sometimes ‘preference’ can have a defensive motivation, for example the emotional desire to avoid the recurrence of a failed or unpleasant cohabiting relationship. Overall, LAT couples may be ‘gladly apart; ‘regretfully apart’ or, for many, undecided and ambivalent where they experience both advantages and disadvantages.[13]

Demographics[edit]

People living apart from their partner can be found in all age groups, although they are on average younger than cohabiting and married couples.[14] In Britain almost 50% of LAT couples are in the youngest age group (18-24) although significant proportions are found in the 25-55 age group. Non-parents (those without current dependent children) are significantly more likely than parents to live apart from their partner. LAT couples are also found in all socio-economic groups, and in Britain show little difference to the class profile of the population as a whole.

Attitudes[edit]

Living apart as a couple is increasingly understood and accepted. By 2006, in Britain, a majority (54 per cent) agreed that “a couple do not need to live together to have a strong relationship”, with only 25 per cent disagreeing.[15] By 2000 about one fifth of people aged 16–44 in Britain described ‘living together apart’ as their ‘ideal relationship’, compared to over 40 per cent for exclusive marriage and just under 20 per cent for unmarried cohabitation.[16]

Attitudinally, LATs couples themselves resemble cohabitants in a ‘young partners’ group, as opposed to a more conservative ‘older married’ majority.[17] Controlling for age LATs appear to be somewhat more liberal than other relationship categories for issues that directly affect them, for example about the effect of independence in relationships. However, for other controversial ‘family’ issues (like acceptance of same-sex partnership or of single motherhood) being a LAT in itself makes little difference, rather it is the relative traditionality of older married people that stands out compared to generally younger, and more liberal, unmarried cohabitants and LAT couples.

Examples of couples who LAT[edit]

Famous and celebrity couples are often named in the media when discussing LAT. For example, a 2007 Times article [18] names Woody Allen and Mia Farrow (then living either side of Central Park, New York), Margaret Drabble and Michael Holroyd (married 24 years as of 2007, separate homes), Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton and their two children (two houses next door to each other in Hampstead, London), and Booker prizewinner Arundhati Roy and husband Pradip Krishen (with separate homes in Delhi, India).

In the 1840s, the famous composer Frédéric Chopin and the female novelist George Sand had an "unusual" relation that would be called LAT nowadays. The LAT relationship between philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) and the feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) is often cited (although was exceptional in that Sartre apparently made other contemporaneous, if temporary, liaisons). It is important to remember, however, that it is not just the rich and famous who live apart together, LAT is common amongst ordinary people in all social groups.

The documentary Two's a Crowd documents a New York couple that was forced to give up a LAT relationship because of the economic downturn of the late 2000s. The film depicts how the couple tries to set up two separate "apartments" within one, after they are forced to move in with each other.[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Levin, I. (2004) Living Apart Together: A New Family Form. Current Sociology, 52(2), 223-240.
  2. ^ Haskey, J. (2005) Living arrangements in contemporary Britain: Having a partner who usually lives elsewhere and Living Apart Together (LAT). Population Trends, 122, 35-45.
  3. ^ Duncan, S. & Phillips, M. (2010) People who live apart together (LATs) – how different are they? The Sociological Review, 58(1), 112-134.
  4. ^ Reimondos, A., Evans, A. and Gray, E. (2011) Living-apart-together (LAT) Relationships in Australia, Family Matters, Vol. 87: 43-55
  5. ^ Strohm, C., Selzer, J. A., Cochran, S. D., & Mays, V. (2010). “Living apart together” relationships in the United States. Demographic Research, 21(7), 177–214.
  6. ^ Milan, A., & Peters, A. (2003). Couples living apart. Canadian Social Trends, Summer, 2–6.
  7. ^ Duncan, S. & Phillips, M. (2010) People who live apart together (LATs) – how different are they? The Sociological Review, 58(1), 112-134.
  8. ^ Levin, I. (2004) Living Apart Together: A New Family Form. Current Sociology, 52(2), 223-240.
  9. ^ Roseneil, S. (2006) On Not Living with a Partner: Unpicking Coupledom and Cohabitation. Sociological Research Online, 11 (3).
  10. ^ Haskey, J. & Lewis, J. (2006) Living-apart-together in Britain: context and meaning. International Journal of Law in Context, 2(1), 37-48.
  11. ^ Ermisch, J. & Siedler, T. (2009) Living Apart Together. IN Brynin, M. & Ermisch, J. (Eds.) Changing Relationships. New York and London, Routledge.
  12. ^ Duncan, S. & Phillips, M. (2010) People who live apart together (LATs) – how different are they? The Sociological Review, 58(1), 112-134.
  13. ^ Roseneil, S. (2006) On Not Living with a Partner: Unpicking Coupledom and Cohabitation. Sociological Research Online, 11 (3).
  14. ^ Haskey, J. and Lewis, J. (2006) Living-apart-together in Britain: context and meaning. International Journal of Law in Context, 2(1), 37-48; Roseneil, S. (2006) On Not Living with a Partner: Unpicking Coupledom and Cohabitation. Sociological Research Online, 11 (3); Duncan, S. and Phillips, M. (2008) ´New families? Tradition and change in partnering and relationships´ in British Social Attitudes 2007/8, London, NatCen, Sage
  15. ^ Duncan, S. and Phillips, M. (2008) ´New families? Tradition and change in partnering and relationships´ in British Social Attitudes 2007/8, London, NatCen, Sage
  16. ^ Erens, B., McManus, S., Prescott, A., Field, J. with Johnson, A.M., Wellings, K., Fenton, K.A., Mercer, C., Macdowall, W., Copas, A.J. and Nanchahal, K., (2003), National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles II: Reference tables and summary report, London: NatCen/UCL/ LSHTM.
  17. ^ Duncan, S. and Phillips, M. (2010) 'People Who Live Apart Together (LATs) - How Different Are They?' The Sociological Review 58 (1): 112-134.
  18. ^ Bennett, R. (2007) Couples that live apart . . . stay together, The Times, Sat 12 May 2007
  19. ^ http://www.gloamingpictures.com/crowd.htm