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Copyright 2006 by PartnersInLife.org
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This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to Linda@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.
I just learned my partner and I are a LAT (Living Apart Together) couple. I saw it on television. We live apart, together. I didn't realize there was a term for it or that it was becoming a common form of partnering.
My partner and I are not interested in getting married or living together full-time. We each maintain our own residence. We spend at least 5 days a week together, usually at my place. We have children from previous marriages and this way we don't need to worry about blending our families. Each set of children can maintain their own routines, in their own surroundings. My partner has his children every other weekend and spends most weekends at his place. Sometimes we all get together for a recreational outing, but we don't have to deal with all the challenges of living together.
We are very committed to each other and this works well for our children and us. Our challenge is dealing with friends and relatives who think we’re crazy. I must admit that seeing a TV show that validated our lifestyle was a relief. I was wondering if you have any suggestions as to how we can respond to others who have negative perceptions of our arrangement.
My parents are especially concerned and my mother bugs me a lot about getting married. She doesn't believe my partner is really committed to me because if he were, he'd marry me and want to live with me. She's worried about who will take care of me when I grow old.
I try to reassure her we are very committed and we like the arrangement – then I change the subject. However, she brings the topic up often. Do you have any ideas as to how I can reassure her more effectively, and also how I can respond to friends who are, at times, quite judgmental?
Jean from Ohio
Louise responds …
Why you are so concerned with what others think? What matters the most is whether you are feeling happy and fulfilled. Perhaps you’re feeling a degree of uncertainty about the situation, which is triggered by how others perceive what you’re doing. Are you feeling uncertain at some level? When you are certain that you love and want your relationship just the way it is, then others will be certain, too.
Louise Rouse, RCI Coach | firstname.lastname@example.org
Marcia responds …
With a 50%+ divorce rate and the possibility you’ll become a widow, even marriage doesn’t guarantee loving care in your later years.
Because your mother “bugs you a lot” and your friends are harping on you, you’ll have to set firm boundaries each time they raise the subject. Stop what you’re doing, look them in the eye and say something along the lines of, “As I have said before, my relationship is fine. My retirement plans are fine. Please don’t bring this up anymore.” Then change the subject. If they continue, repeat, word for word, exactly what you said.
Defending yourself in a conversational style only opens the floor to those tired discussions about your personal life. Repeating your boundary-setting language can put a stop to it.
Randy responds …
You are finding yourself up against cultural stereotypes and social programming. It’s impossible for most people to shed this programming, so don't try too hard to change their minds. The main thing is for you to be happy with yourself and your relationship. If it satisfies your requirements and needs, then that is all that counts and you don't need to apologize or explain to anyone.
Your mother most likely has good intentions and valid concerns worth listening to, but no doubt is strongly programmed with conventional wisdom. My view is that marriage is more than just a document. Children will grow up and move out, and your relationship will gradually transform. If you have high chemistry and a commitment to growth individually and as a couple, then there is a bright future ahead. Who knows, maybe you will get married someday.
You can tell your mother you’re happy with the current status of the relationship, you’re working together to insure a successful ongoing future, and you’re solving the problems of life in the best way you know how. Actually, many relationships deteriorate after marriage, so you can tell her that you are working on the more important "marriage of the soul." I hope these suggestions give you a good place to start.
By Linda A. Marshall, M. Div.
Researchers in Europe have found that LAT (Living Apart Together) relationships are a growing trend in England, France, Norway, Sweden, and Holland. It appears also to be on the rise in Canada.
Since the census bureau doesn’t measure LAT relationships, it is hard to determine just how many couples in the United States are choosing this arrangement. However, since other significant trends in Europe have eventually made their way to the United States, we can safely assume that LAT relationships are on the rise here as well. They are now the subject of television programs.
Advantages of Living Apart Together
According to the US Census Bureau, at least fifty percent of first time marriages end in divorce, whereas sixty percent of second time marriages end this way. Additionally, only one out of three stepfamilies survives.
This trend of living apart together may be a creative solution to the pitfalls found in long-term relationships, especially for those who have already experienced the pain of divorce. With so many marriages not surviving, is it possible that we have had too narrow a perspective on how to be in a committed relationship?
Would growing acceptance of the LAT arrangement lead the way in establishing more diversity, solving what is not working in our stereotypically-approved structure for couples and families? Is the LAT arrangement pointing to the importance for all of us to have solitary, alone time?
We live in a time when we’re confronted with the need to embrace diversity if we are to live together peaceably. Is the LAT arrangement an expression that we need to consider as we grow in our ability to recognize the strengths in what is unfamiliar to us -- be that in our family structures or in the traditions of people from other cultures and religions?
Disadvantages of Living Apart Together
Most relationship experts are aware that one of the major challenges couples face when they marry is learning to manage and appreciate each other’s differences. In the midst of this challenge, you’re learning how to continue to be your own person and how to connect with your spouse.
If a couple is willing to understand and work with this process, they’ll grow in emotional maturity and will actualize their essential wholeness in a way that is not possible in separation. This is a spiritual process that leads to an experience of connection much deeper and richer than that experienced in the early romantic stage when the focus is on the hope of having found just the right person who will fulfill all of our needs.
Questions to Ponder
These are just some of the questions couples might think about as they explore the concept of a “living apart, together” arrangement.
By Linda A. Marshall, M. Div.
M. Scott Peck’s definition of love in The Road Less Traveled has always inspired me-
Hedy Schleifer, a relationship coach and trainer, who understands the art of connection at a profoundly deep level, reminds us-
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Linda Marshall, M.Div. | Director of Couples Programs Linda@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com
Tara Kachaturoff | Editor, PartnersInLife.org Couples News Tara@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com
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