Have you heard about couples who are committed to each other but live in separate places? These are people who want a place of their own. They are not just living apart because a job or the pursuit of an education or some other external factor has kept them apart. They are called LAT (living apart together) or, less often, dual-dwelling duos.
What are these couples like? One of the most comprehensive studies of LAT couples and how they differ from married and cohabiting people as well as single people (divorced or always single) was based on a representative national sample of the British adult population from 2006. It included a sub-sample of 320 people who lived apart from their partner. In the article about the study, “People who live apart together (LATs) – how different are they?”, Simon Duncan and Miranda Phillips looked at a variety of attitudes, characteristics, and motivation. What interested me most was the place of friends in the lives of LAT couples.
We already know that single people have more friends and do more to maintain their relationships with their friends, than married people do. What about LAT couples? Are they more like single people, with friends having a bigger role in their lives, or more like married couples? Is it possible that they think of the time they spend with friends not as a threat to their relationship with their romantic partner but as a reason why their romantic relationship stays strong?
The British survey included a number of relevant questions, and participants included cohabiting couples as well as married couples, LAT couples, and single people. Importantly, Duncan and Phillips removed from the LAT couples those who were living apart because they thought it was too early to live together or they just weren’t ready yet. The remaining LAT couples were at the point where they could have moved in together, but they didn’t want to.
Survey participants were asked whether they had any particularly close friends with whom they could share private feelings and concerns. As shown below, more than 80% of LAT couples, cohabiting couples, and single people said that they had at least one friend like that. The married people were the outliers – only 69% said they had at least one such friend.
The researchers also looked at the percent of people in each category who had more than one friend with whom they could share private feelings and concerns. Again, LAT people were much more similar to single people than to married people. Half of the single people, 54% of the LAT, but only 36% of the married people had more than one friend who was a confidant.
Percent who have at least one “particularly close friend you can share your private feelings and concerns with”
88 LAT (living apart together)
Percent who have more than one “particularly close friend you can share your private feelings and concerns with”
54 LAT (living apart together)
What happens when people are facing a difficult problem and need help? Do they get it from a friend? Again, LAT couples were most likely to say that they have a friend who has been there for them in this way; an impressive 95% did. Again, married people were least likely to say that they had gotten help from a friend when facing a difficult problem, though even in that group, 4 out of 5 had friends who came through for them.
Percent who have received help from a friend when “facing a difficult problem in your life”
95 LAT (living apart together)
The flip side of confiding in friends and getting help from them at difficult times in your life is a dismissive attitude toward friends, seeing them as just people to have fun with. Cohabiting couples (4 out of 5), LAT couples (79%), and single people (73%) were most likely to disagree with that attitude. Even among married couples, two-thirds of them disagreed with that attitude.
Percent who disagree that “friends are for fun, not for discussing personal problems with”
79 LAT (living apart together)
When LAT couples are confiding in their friends and getting help from them, are they concerned that they may be putting their romantic relationship at risk? The survey included a question about that. LAT couples were the most likely (3 out of 4) and married people the least likely (6 of 10) to believe that relationships are much stronger when both partners have the independence to follow their own careers and friendships.
Percent who agree that “relationships are much stronger when both partners have the independence to follow their own careers and friendships”
75 LAT (living apart together)
LAT couples are more like single people than like married couples in the way they value their friends. They don’t think they are putting their romantic relationship at risk. Instead, they think the freedom they have to pay attention to their friends is likely to strengthen their romantic relationship.
On another topic, this is Unmarried and Single Americans Week, or Singles Week for short. It is celebrated during the third full week of September, so September 15-21 in 2019. Happy Singles Week!