Surveys have previously suggested that around 10% of adults in Western Europe, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia live apart, while up to a quarter of people in Britain statistically defined as “single” actually have an intimate partner – they just live somewhere else.
Living apart together supposedly gives people all the advantages of autonomy – doing what you want in your own space, maintaining preexisting local arrangements and friendships – as well as the pleasures of intimacy with a partner.
1. Staying separate
First are those who feel it is “too early”, or who are “not ready” to live together yet –- mostly young people who see cohabitation as the next stage in their lives.
Then there are the couples who do actually want to live together but are prevented from doing so.
They can’t afford a joint house, or a partner has a job somewhere else, or can’t get a visa, or is in prison or a care home.
2. Fears and threats
Rather than seeking a new and better form of relationship through living apart together, the ideal remained a “proper” family -– cohabitation, marriage and a family home.
But respondents often feared this ideal in practice, and so “chose” to live apart as the best way to deal with these fears while still keeping a relationship.
Often they had been deeply hurt in previous cohabiting relationships, financially as well as emotionally.
3. A house of one’s own.
For some people, choosing to live apart is not about finding a new or better form of intimacy.
Rather living apart is a reaction to vulnerability, anxiety, even fear – it offers protection.