Living apart together

Living apart together

Can two households be better than one? In a trend called “living apart together” (LAT), a growing number of older adults are experimenting with committed relationships that also allow for autonomy.

These are people who prefer intimacy and companionship in their lives. At the same time, marriage—or even living together—brings more entanglements than they want to take on. For instance, some have already nursed a spouse through dementia or cancer and done the “in sickness and in health” role; they don’t care to do it again, especially when the window for good health may be limited.

Instead, they agree to be romantically exclusive but keep their own homes.

They may eat most dinners together but sleep over only a few nights a week, alternating houses.

Here are some of the benefits such couples describe:

  • Companionship, intimacy, and emotional support
  • Freedom and “space” to maintain existing friendships and interests
  • Absence of conflict about domestic chores, finances, and other logistics
  • Greater focus on the joy of the relationship (“keeping the romance alive”)
  • Protection from the responsibilities of caregiving

Experience suggests interested couples should discuss these issues first:

  • Finances. How will you pay for expenses relating to your shared activities (groceries, restaurants, concert tickets, travel expenses)?
  • Family obligations. How do you spend holidays? Birthdays? Do you expect to interact with each other’s kids, grandkids, etc.?
  • Caregiving. What happens when your partner’s health starts to decline? How much are you willing to do or not do? (What sounds good in theory can be difficult to implement, given the emotional bond that develops.) Who will handle the bulk of the caregiving? Adult children? Paid caregivers? (Does your partner realistically have a budget for that?)
  • Long-term care. What about decisions regarding assisted living, memory care, or nursing homes? Will you participate in the discussion of your partner’s living arrangements, or will that be up to their family members only?

Looking to age on your own terms?
Consult with the experts in aging well: .