Synopsis: How and why Georgia and Harrison do togetherness better apart; LAT– the new coupleness category; Far apart and next door apart closeness examples; Challenges; 10 ways to do LAT well; Plus the ‘not single and not married’ lifestyle look; The big, new question or solution for troubled couples.
After several unsuccessful attempts at weaving their lives together under the same roof they came to couples counseling. They both were positively shocked when the idea came up that they could live apart and still be a successful couple. It took some getting used to, a fair amount of counseling work, coordination, and tolerating their family and friends thinking they were really odd. But now they live about a mile apart and call their way of relating a “very compatible, romantic arrangement” which Georgia says “is kind of like being perpetually engaged and married at the same time”.
More couples for all sorts of different reasons are working at their adult love relationships while living apart. So many in fact that demographers with the US Census Bureau have invented the new category called “LAT” which stands for “Living Apart Together”. Consider Marvin, who lives in Vancouver B.C. on the Pacific, who loves Marion, who lives in Charleston near the Atlantic, with almost a whole continent between them. They have a home in Dallas where their pet iguana gets taken care of by a housekeeper, except when they get together for a weekend about once a month.
Then there is Sergei who gets home to Terri about once every three months from his ocean liner job. Ella and Frank won’t even consider living together until they get their children, by former relationships, raised separately because it works better that way, although they are very much a committed couple who love each other. And then there’s Deb and Don who occupy different sides of a duplex. They say they find that their duplex living provides just the right degree of closeness and apartness for their relationship to succeed.
Living apart together, sometimes at great distances apart and sometimes closer, presents a fair number of the special challenges. However, remember all love relationships have challenges but if the relationship does not work out it’s usually not so much because of the challenges. It’s more often because the love in the relationship wasn’t strong enough or being done well enough. LAT love relationships though sometimes do present very different and puzzling challenges needing close study and creative solutions.
LAT relating frequently is quite difficult even to think about for those raised on the standard ‘under the same roof’ couples lifestyle programmed into so many of us. Yet, a fair number of people are doing LAT and learning to succeed at it, and some like it even better than living together. Others do LAT out of necessity and plan to live together eventually, but in the meantime they still need to learn LAT skills. So, here are some of the actions a number of LAT couples are taking to ensure their LAT love is successful.
1. Calendarize everything. LAT lovers often discover they have to write just about everything on the calendar or in their PDA pertaining to their relationship – way more than do most couples. They have to work at putting the exact times they will be contacting and connecting with each other, and exactly how that connection will be made, and what they exactly will be doing for how long during that time of connecting. Ending times for various activities are often as important as start times.
2. Make contact daily. LAT couples, especially those who live a great distance from one another, make great frequent use of all methods of electronically relating. Skype connecting so they can see as well as hear each other is especially useful, but e-mail, texting, phoning each other and even being surprised with snail mail cards, packages and love letters are also to be considered.
3. Make psychologically intimate contact. LAT couples, especially those living long distances from one another, can have many romantic and erotic encounters with one another electronically. A Skype facilitated, candle light dinner shared over the Internet, phone sex, when talking on the phone using pet names and terms of endearment, ‘sexting’, romantic and even poetic e-mails and e-cards, shared Skype sex experiences, etc. can be common with LAT couples. Some LAT couples even are having their “avatars” make love with each other in Second Life and other cyber locations.
4. Use pictures. LAT couples are thought to keep more pictures of each other around, send each other more pictures including sexy ones (properly secured), and create or acquire more things that pictorially symbolized their love relationship.
5. Read together. LAT couples often are reading the same books and articles, and then call each other up and talk about what they think and feel about what they’ve been reading. Knowing that your beloved is reading the same thing you are can have its own special good feelings.
6. Mini vacation together. LAT couples can add to their success by planning more vacation-like, short experiences together. Of course, longer times also count. A weekend at a Bed and Breakfast, meeting together in a different location, an overnight or a day long car trip together, even at one home or the other disconnecting electronics – ordering dinner delivered – putting on special music – and enjoying each other like you’re on vacation, and things like that can work wonders.
7. Take a course together. Take an online course together or actually meet somewhere for a conference or seminar is another thing some LAT couples do together and sort of cover two bases with the same action.
8. Engage in “I.T.” counseling. LAT couples who are having relationship troubles can by phone conference call, Skype, etc. engage in couples counseling together and the counselor or therapist can join you in cyberspace. This doesn’t seem to work as well as face-to-face counseling but it will do tolerably well if mutual face-to-face work is too difficult to arrange.
9. Prioritize dating. LAT couples living close, or at a distance from one another, do best if they give the highest priority to their dating times and other joint activity times together.
10. Send lots of love messages. All couples, but especially LAT couples, can benefit from lots of different kinds of love messages frequently sent. Naturally, it’s very important to respond with love to love messages which creates “love cycling”.
One of the big questions some troubled couples are learning to ask each other is “would we be better living as an LAT couple?”. Along with that goes questions like: “would we do our love more healthfully, constructively and enjoyably if we didn’t live under the same roof”? For troubled couples it’s helpful to know there’s another option to the age-old dilemma of either to get divorced or to stay married. A surprising number of couples have gotten a divorce and then slowly gotten back together, followed by successfully becoming LAT couples, but not living as ‘under the same roof’ standard lifestyle, married couples.
It comes as something of a surprise for some people to learn there are whole societies in which couples don’t live together, though they are regarded as married and quite committed to their relationship. In the Western world culture it seems that a number of people are choosing to be ongoing, committed to the relationship, but not living together couples. Some are sort of forced into this arrangement such as military couples or those who have jobs in different locations. But sometimes even after being discharged or finding jobs in the same city, a few decide to continue in a more LAT style. A great many couples where one of them has a job with a lot of traveling live at least partially as LAT couples. Health problems, old age infirmities, and sundry legal problems sometimes force loving couples into LAT living. Whatever the reason, it is important to know people can succeed at a LAT lifestyle.
The biggest issue for LAT couples actually is the same one that exists for all couples, though for LAT lovers it may be bigger. That issue is ‘how well will you actually do your love’ as a couple. Love must be demonstrated, received and enacted, not just felt or thought about for it to succeed. Insufficiently done love results in unsuccessful love and that is ruinous to love relationships.
Corollary questions are: ‘how well and how often will you show your love in each of the eight major groups of behavior by which love can be demonstrated’ (see the entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love” and the other related entries); ‘how well will you receive the love shown to you and be nurtured by that love’; ‘how well will you learn and practice the ways of love and how much work will you put into doing love well’? For all those questions and more, let me suggest checking out all the entries at this site – especially ones about communicating love.
Now, I have a request. If you know of anyone who is in or may be facing the issue of being in a LAT lifestyle, please refer them to this site and especially this entry so they have at least a little help in dealing with all this.
As always, Go and Grow in Love