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| By Wellvyl Media Editorial

What makes a couple?  Now, more than ever before, there are many different ways to answer that question.  One response you may be thinking about is that couples live together in the same home.  For many couples, moving in together is one of the key milestones that transitions them from a dating relationship to a long-term committed partnership.  Not to mention the ever increasing, absurd cost of living here in NYC that sometimes contributes to a couple’s decision to move in together in order to save on rent, grocery bills, and other household expenses.  Recently, however, cohabitation is no longer a necessary component to being a couple.

A small but growing minority of individuals in long-term relationships are no longer living together and have no plans to do so in the future. Sociologists refer to this phenomenon as "living apart together," or LAT. LAT couples are fully committed, and in some cases married with children, but they have made the joint decision not to live together.

LAT couples are more common in older generations.  According to a 2005 survey by the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, 7% of individuals between 57 and 85 years old described themselves as living apart together.

The lifestyle of a LAT couple may appeal to younger generations starting out in long-term relationships. The way we perceive intimate relationships is constantly changing, especially now as technology allows us to become more independent as individuals.  A recent study published in Psychological Science suggests that people across the globe are becoming more individualistic over time. Individualism, as opposed to collectivism, relates to how independent and self-reliant (and self-centered) people are. By choosing not to live together, LAT couples can maintain their sense of individuality and independence.  

 Furthermore, living apart may prevent a relationship from becoming boring or monotonous. LAT couples spend less time together, which means they have to make an effort to organize plans to see one another. LAT couples enjoy more “privacy, autonomy, absence making the heart grow fonder/not taking each other for granted, [and] the ability to have opposing preferences without fighting” Moreover, if a couple does make the choice to live together, they risk the possibility of avoiding a breakup in order to not have to deal with the ordeal of moving.  These couples may end up staying together in a relationship that should have ended long ago and would have likely benefited from living apart. 

Nevertheless, there are still many benefits to living with your partner that you may not receive if you were living apart.  When living together, sex and companionship are more accessible. Living together also means shared chores and responsibilities around the home.  You also learn intimate details about one another, like each others’ spending habits. And you get to share in the experience of creating a home with your loved one.      

We all have different ways of experiencing intimacy.  When deciding to be in a LAT relationship, it’s most important that each participant is satisfied and fulfilled with the circumstances.  Communicating your preferences regarding cohabitation with your partner is essential to avoid conflict in the future and create a healthy relationship.