Telegraph UK recently reported on the growth of a nontraditional relationship form in Britain: the LAT (living-apart-together) relationship.
Gillian Sheffer and Daniel Fisher have been in a relationship for three years. They are fully committed to one another – and are extremely happy to be together – but they have absolutely no desire to live together. Instead, they choose to reside in separate homes.
“Living apart offers the best bits of marriage without the boring parts,” says Gillian, a 49 year-old self-employed osteopath who lives in Golder’s Green, north London. Daniel, a 52-year-old teacher, lives at his own home in nearby Bounds Green. Both have children from previous relationships sharing their homes.
How common are LAT relationships?
According to a report in last month’s issue of the Sociological Review, an estimated one in 10 adults are now in committed, non-cohabiting relationships.
What do these relationships look like and who tends to be a LAT-er?
“LATs can have both an intimate couples relationship and retain their own autonomy,” says Simon Duncan, professor of social policy at the University of Bradford, who co-authored the Sociological Review paper with Miranda Phillips, research director at the National Centre for Social Research. “There isn’t an average LAT, though they tend to be better educated than the majority and somewhat more liberal. Different interpretations in the past have suggested they are either radicals or, alternatively, uncommitted, cautious people. The answer, in my view, is probably both.”
LATs can be young or old and, according to Duncan and Phillips, fall into three main categories. One group don’t see themselves as couples in the long-term sense; the second are in commuter marriages, separated by work; the third group, whose members tend to be older, choose this type of relationship because it suits their emotional and practical needs. “Often this group will have other commitments, like children or elderly parents, and value their own space, or have a cherished home they don’t want to leave,” Duncan explains.
And to quench your thirst for additional sociological commentary:
Sasha Roseneil, professor of sociology and social theory at Birkbeck University, believes that with rates of marriage at an all-time low, more of us are exploring non-traditional ways of being together.
“They desire an autonomous life,” she says. “People in LAT relationships may wish to invest more in friendships and feel that their sexual relationship is not the most important relationship in their life.”
Avoiding the entrapment of domestic drudgery is another reason for not wanting to share a roof. “Many women have said to me that the only way they could be together with their partner is if they didn’t have to deal with his mess,” she says.