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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

BONUS BLOG: New Book Explores Living Apart Together

Love longs for closeness, but desire thrives on distance.

—    Esther Perel, Belgian psychotherapist and author of “Mating in Captivity”

“My divorce was best thing that ever happened to me,” my friend and colleague Vicki Larson is telling me over the phone. “If I didn’t get divorced, I would never have thought critically about marriage and been able to write my books.”


Funny, provocative and always unexpected, Larson is once again dishing out alternative relationship advice in her newest book LATitude: How You Can Make a Live Apart Together Relationship Work, out this week (July 9, Cleis Press).


If you’re scratching your head over this topic, as I was, that’s because most people really want to live with the person they love. But Larson, who also co-authored The New I Do, correctly notes that many struggle to make living together work. Her book explores an alternative that more are embracing.


“The LAT lifestyle is not for most,” she concedes. “But those couples who would prefer to live apart shouldn’t rule it out.”


Now, for the record, I love my husband and happily live with him. But when we were merging households nine years ago, I wondered whether we could work out our lifestyle differences. I like clear counters; he makes piles. We had furniture quarrels and went several rounds over whose dining room table. I chronicled that rocky road in this book.


I also have a friend in her 60s who has been in a committed relationship for over 20 years. She and her partner live apart in New York. “He snores. I have insomnia, so it works,” she told me. Even when they travel, they get separate hotel rooms. In a big step forward, however, last year he bought an apartment in her building, cutting down on commute time. LAT works for them.


So, I get where Larson is coming from, but I still had some questions:


Marni: What prompted you to write this book?

Vicki: I wanted to normalize LAT, not that it’s a new concept. Kings and queens had separate chambers centuries ago. The reality is people forge romantic relationships in many different ways. I wanted to change the question of “What is a relationship supposed to look like?” to “What do I want my relationship to look like?” LATitude offers couples another script.


My goal is not to say this is better or worse, but to offer a way that might really work for some. And for those people, I want them to know others are choosing this option.


What groups are finding that the LAT lifestyle works for them?

* Those over 50 who love their homes, are established in their communities, live close to their kids, and don’t want to uproot, and who have partners who feels the same way.

* Slightly younger couples with kids from prior relationships who don’t want to force the kids into a Brady Bunch situation.

* Gay and lesbian couples who don’t want to be entirely out. They don’t want to live with their romantic partner out of a desire for privacy.

* Women in their 60s and older, especially those who are divorced or widowed, who are done with caregiving and housekeeping. They have put themselves last for years, and have decided this is their time, but they still want companionship and love.


What are the other upsides?

This may sound harsh, but too much togetherness is not always a great thing. When you LAT:

·      You miss your partner more and idealize them. When you miss your partner, you think of all the things you love about them when they’re not there. When you live with them, you focus more on ways they annoy you.

·      You don’t have to accommodate lifestyle choices that aren’t yours. Her dirty dishes and his sweaty workout clothes are what couples fight about.

·      You don’t argue about whose turn it is to clean what, or whose fault it is that you’re out of mayonnaise.


Are décor clashes ever an issue?

Yes. I know it sounds shallow, but I talked to one woman who chose to live apart from her partner because she didn’t like his heavy oak furniture. (I totally get that.) It may seem ridiculous, but if each partner feels attached to his or her home and furniture, LAT offers a way to honor both parties.


What is one of the biggest LAT myths?

That it is for the well to do. That’s largely false. Most of us, when we meet someone, already have a place to live. We just maintain that. We don’t move in with someone just to save money, though that can happen. Of course, sadly, many couples stay together for financial reasons. Ideally, finances shouldn’t drive relationships.


What if one partner wants to live together but the other doesn’t?

Then it’s probably not going to work. Both partners need to be on the same page, or at least be open to exploring the lifestyle.

CAPTION: LATitude, a new book out from Cleis Press, explores the growing trend of committed couples choosing to live separately. Photo above courtesy Dreamstime.

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