Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Changing it up: A reprieve from our LAT relationship

As many of you know, Adam and I haven't quite been "living together" in the traditional sense since October 31st - when I was 21 weeks pregnant.
He accepted a new position as a design engineer that would eventually relocate us almost 4 hours away from our home. Our *almost* completed renovation. In short, this decision was made for the long term benefits - the number one reason being that he would now have work benefits. Other reasons included this being a position that he was more interested in and we'd be placed roughly in between both of our families. You can read more about our annoucement here.
In the interim, because I was pregnant, we decided that I would stay back, finish working at my current job, and he would work up north. We'd finish our renovation and sell the house. As the due date got closer, we'd stay at my parents' house and I'd deliver in my hometown and once the house sold we'd get our own place closer to Adam's new work. Meanwhile, Adam would divide his time between staying with us (and absorbing a horrendous daily commute) and staying closer to work with friends and family.

Well, for those of you keeping track, Penny is now almost 4 months old and we've been more or less living apart for about 8 months.
Then, a couple weeks ago we were presented with a wonderful opportunity by Adam's cousin to stay at her apartment while she takes an internship out of state for 6 weeks. This shortens Adam's commute to about 30 minutes and we get to see each other like a normal couple every night! Hallelujah!  We made the move on Monday and I've spent the last few days organizing. The apartment building is really nice, with a beautiful courtyard and a cafe that serves wine, beer, sandwiches and gelato. We are so looking forward to this break, back to 'real life,' as I call it.

Believe it or not, the "married but living apart," or "living apart together / LAT" situation is not uncommon for couples these days. Most of the time it's for financial/career choices, such as they both have high powered careers in different cities, or they can't get jobs in the same commuting radius. Sometimes it's because they go to different colleges. Sometimes their lifestyles are so different that they'd just rather not share a home, but are in a committed relationship. I learned out this idea in my Sociology of Marriage and Family course in college, and never once thought that I'd be a part of this small, yet growing, demographic. In a really interesting study by the National Institute of Health (and yes, this is a real study, not just the reuter's boiled down version of it), young people are more likely than older people to be in LAT relationships, most often living with other adults such as their parents.  They are also more likely to have a college education than their cohabitating (married or not) cohorts.  For others, it's simply a lifestyle choice.  In a lifestyle article, an older couple interviewed preferred it because they were able to keep their independant lives, routines and finances. They likened it to being "on a first date" after a few days apart. For younger couples, they are more likely to live together in the future, which suggests that this is just a step in the process, rather than a lifestyle choice.

If a sociologist were to knock on our door today and ask me why we are choosing not to live together, first off I'd jump for joy that I'm being included in a sociological study (my degree is in Soc), and for reals my answer would be our choice can be categorized as due to work/financial reasons. We want to sell our home before picking up another mortgage or lease. Living apart, but still together, allowed Penelope and I to have a stable environment where I was supported during the end of my pregnancy, post partum and acclimation to becoming a new mama.  Adam toughed it out and divided his time between staying with family (closer to his new job) or commuting the sometimes 2-4 hour drive back to where Penny and I were. Although this has been a blow to our social life together, we've been able to maintain financial stability during this transition and in so many ways our relationship has grown stronger.  I don't recommend it for fun, but I can say that with hard work from both partners it's possible to come out happier in the end.

What are your thoughts? To be clear, I'm talking about couples who are in
long-term relationships where they see a future; versus trial-separations or friends with benefits.
How does it affect family when mom and dad don't live together (not a divorce or separation issue)?
Are you still considered a couple if you share different households (beyond the dating relationship)?
Have you ever been in a period where you are in a LAT relationship? How did it affect you?

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