Are you a LAT couple enjoying living apart together? | Life and style

A growing number of couples, a new report says, are Living Apart Together – “LAT.” So: this is when you maintain both a romantic relationship and your own private home, and it’s led by older women who (according to Brides magazine) are prioritising a newfound freedom. “After years of taking care of their husbands and children, these women seek a new chapter where their individual needs are at the forefront.” I mean, I love it, obviously. I love that this is the new “When I’m an old woman I shall wear purple”, when I’m an old woman I shall get my own bedroom, these women finding their voices, their sexuality, their freedom in their 50s, but it also highlights how, the world being the way it is, these versions of utopia are only available to the wealthy.

Who wouldn’t want their own house just so, their bathroom untouched by other feet, unlittered with half-empty bottles of Head & Shoulders shampoo? Who would honestly say no, if money were no object, to a room of their own and all the nudity, slobbiness, collecting of curios and war rugs that implies? It’s like when parents break up and the modern advice is for their children to remain in the family house while the parents move into separate flats. Three homes! If they had the luxury of those kinds of choices, I counter, perhaps the parents wouldn’t have broken up in the first place. It reminds me of the best divorce I’ve ever heard about, where the parents simply moved into different wings of their manor house and the children didn’t really notice anything had changed at all.

But the fact that it requires sometimes impossible-seeming levels of privilege to live a beautiful and satisfying life doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. The pitch and quantity of discourse right now around polyamory has reached the stage where someone clever on social media wryly suggested it was the new “wild swimming”. And yes, they had a point! Three or four points perhaps, not limited to our fervid delvings into the sex lives of New Yorkers or the sense that one short sharp shock can cure all ills, or the fear of a filthy death.

Personally, I can’t get enough of these stories, of the reminders, as with LAT, that relationships are not made of stone, that they are plastic and can be moulded or broken into brand new shapes. I admire, from afar, all these people’s unwillingness to compromise on the only life they will ever lead.

The thing all these conversations circle, but rarely land directly on, is how monogamy as we play it is so much harder than most people like to admit. I write this in the garden, the wifi patchy, as I lick out the white core of a Tunnock’s teacake and watch my boyfriend of some decades mow the lawn, the first hot day of the year. Monogamy has its benefits. It does – as well as things like sexual safety, we as individuals are seen as safer prospects socially when in monogamous relationships. But there are drawbacks, too, not least a lack of freedom and light to middling boredom.

We treat monogamy as the barometer of a successful relationship, rather than, say, comfort, or having a laugh, which for some raises the bar so high the relationship is destined to fail. Nothing is natural, not monogamy or nonmonogamy – there are huge variations in how humans form relationships, but the thing that makes the best ones succeed I guess, is trust and mutual integrity.

We should try to be honest, is the thing. Which, of course, is often easier said than done, not just with partners, but with ourselves. Yes, we enjoy the ways marriage provides an established structure within which we can create a family; yes, we like the way his arms look in a white T-shirt or the pitch of her laugh, but – is it not the case that many people choose cohabiting and monogamy at least in part to stop having to choose? You take a person and then you can relax. The story is written for us.

Part of the LAT thing that appeals to me the most, as well as the shampoo and war rug bit, is the clear way it positions its inhabitants as individuals. They are confident in their commitment to each other, but also in their freedom to live, sprawl, eat pasta alone in bed, etc, in ways that are rarely seen in depictions of serious adult relationships. These people can dip in and out of domestic responsibility and care, and sex and conversation, never having to fight over the washing up or the broadband bill, unless maybe they fancy it tonight, as a kink.

Even those of us in relationships that can’t quite afford two whole rents might be inspired or influenced by the ways LAT reframes monogamy, by the way it exposes its pressures. I like how, instead of being defined by their coupledom, these men and women remain individuals, just people in the world.

Email Eva at [email protected] or follow her on X @EvaWiseman

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