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Why are more married couples living apart?

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Posted at 5:40 PM, Jan 26, 2023

From Gwyneth Paltrow to Julia Roberts — some say the key to strengthening a marriage might be separate addresses. And it’s now becoming a growing trend called "living apart together."

Ev’Yan Whitney and husband of 15 years Jonathan Mead experienced it firsthand.

"I wanted to see who I was, when being somebody's partner, being somebody’s wife wasn't at the center of my universe," Whitney said. 

Before pandemic lockdowns forced Americans inside, the couple decided to stay together from afar in February 2020. Mead stayed at their home in Oregon. Whitney moved to Los Angeles — a thousand miles away — where a planned few weeks apart turned into 11 months living apart together. 

"I really felt such a spaciousness to be able to accommodate my needs, my wants, my desires," Whitney said. 

It’s important to note, living apart together, known as LAT relationships, don’t always mean long distance. 

The LAT lifestyle is about choice and can range from a few miles to thousands of miles physically separating a married couple. 

Long distance typically is a result of changing circumstances. Between 2000 and 2022, the percentage of married people living separately grew by more than 40%.  

The latest U.S. Census shows the figure spiked in 2022, to roughly 3.89 million American married adults — living apart. 

Author and lifestyle journalist Vicki Larson says absence can make the heart grow fonder.    

"The people who are actually choosing it as a lifestyle are often people who have children from a former relationship," Larson said. "As Esther Perel says, desire needs some space. Ask any person who's in their LAT relationship one of the best things about it. And they will without a doubt say sex."

For Whitney and Mead, space made way for both partners to focus on emotional and mental healing.  

"If I take this time for myself, that means I can better show up to my relationship with my partner; and be really clear about what I want what I need and build something stronger than what we had before," Whitney said.  

The idea of living apart together was highlighted in The New York Times in December. 

The article cited women’s well-being as a driver for the decision, allowing them to reap the benefits of marriage while avoiding traditional at-home burdens. 

"It alleviates the gendered roles that people have for women, you know that we will be the cookers and the cleaners," Larson said. 

"Having that space in that time really allowed me to get clear about how i want my gender to be expressed, celebrated, honored, and acknowledged within the relationship," Whitney said. 

The lifestyle, however, comes at a cost — two homes means two rent or mortgage payments. 

Government data shows the average person living alone spends about 36% more in housing annually — compared to a married couple living together.  

"It takes a lot of planning; it takes a lot of financial security to do this long term," Whitney said. 

And married while living apart may not be for everyone — insecurities and jealousy could force couples to grow apart. The secret?  

"Communicate, communicate, communicate. You have to have a lot of trust and you have to set up ways to grow that trust together because you're not around," Larson said. 

Today Whitney and Mead live together under one roof. They said it was spearheaded by political uncertainty during the last presidential inauguration. 

"And also, I think we both just got to a point within this experience where we're like, OK, I think we're I think we're good," Whitney said. "We don't have to be together. But we're choosing actively every single day to be together. And I think that that is just one piece that I learned, and I got from living apart."