Being together, while living apart indefinitely. Each having ones own place of residence, while committed to each other. Whats the deal? Is it possible to do this and still have an awesome relationship?
Many experts, as well as people who live this very scenario, would say yes. I happen to agree.
Our culture follows a pretty one track, linear script for how a romantic relationship is supposed to go. Boy meets girl/girl meets boy (unfortunately, a lot of people are still pretty homophobic and dont include other types of love in this picture). Generally assuming they click/hit it off/feel mutual attraction and have similarities (and, that both people are actually available), they start dating. If the dating goes well, down the road, the topic of moving in together usually arises. Then, they move in and live together, joining their lives to a large degree.
Frequently, this is followed by engagement and marriage (though nowadays, this doesnt come to pass semi often as well. The couple instead just living together indefinitely). And finally, kids are a common end goal to the trajectory.
Then, they should live happily ever after. Monogamously. And even if not the happiest, staying together is a badge of honor because god forbid, the two decide at some point that their relationship has reached its end point or is no longer functioning. This is deemed a dismal failure. Above all else, happy or not, staying together is what's "right." Though the exception being if someone cheats. Then, game over. Otherwise though, this is the trajectory of what a relationship is "supposed" to be in our culture. Queue curtain falling. The end.
Is this the only right way to have a relationship? And further, is it always the happiest way? For some people, it is. For many others, it isnt. Their own needs deviating in one area or more from the script. Yet, very often, people ignore these inner needs and instead, stick to the narrow picture we are given. Because thats "what you do."
Unfortunately, this can result in many negative outcomes, from being internally miserable, to contention in the relationship, to the connection between the two people even crumbling as a result of one or both of them doing things that go against their deepest desires and needs. All because our culture tells us, "thats how its done."
Why? Why, for petes sake, is this the only "correct," "right," or "valid" way to have romantic relationships?
Some common judgments for anything that looks outside this narrow relationship picture...
--If you live together but never marry, youre noncommittal, lazy, rolling with "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free."
--If you dont want children, you are "selfish," "flaky," "bound to regret it," "sure to live a purposeless life," and "going against what it means to be an adult" (though females get this especially hardcore, as its our "natural, maternal instinct" so if they dont want this, something is "wrong" with them).
--If someone isnt monogamous, they are automatically a "player," "promiscuous," "noncommittal," "unfaithful," "untrustworthy," when in reality, studies have shown that people who have an arrangement other than monogamy are not necessarily any less happy, less committed, or less in love than those in monogamous relationships. Sure, some may be. But loads of people in monogamous relationships cheat, and/or are miserable. Therefore, both scenarios have positives and both have pitfalls. Both have strengths, both have risks. You are not any less likely to be left or cheated on in a monogamous relationship than you are in another arrangement. In fact many studies show, as well as people comment on such, that having to be with just one partner forever (forced into such purely by social convention), with their stepping even a toe out of line in any direction being deemed the evil act of the earth, makes it more enticing and more challenging for them not to look in said direction.
--If two women are in love, or two men, often times, they aren't even acknowledged at all. Or, are viewed with judgement, disdain, dislike, or even hatred. Why is love deemed valid only between a man and a woman? Cant two female friends love one another deeply? Cant a person love their pet with all their heart? Cant two brothers or male friends feel strong love for one another? Of course. So why then is romantic love relegated to such a narrow vein? Thats absurd. Love is love.
--If someone cheats, they are the devil of the earth. No matter whether the couple love each other or not, no matter if otherwise the relationship is actually a good one, most people throw the baby out with the bath water and say "goodbye" without much thought, instead making a choice in the heat of emotion. Dont get me wrong, I am NOT condoning cheating. Cheating is wrong, and heartbreaking every time. Cheating can and does ruin lives and ravage hearts. People also fuck up, and it isnt always evidence that the relationship sucks or that the person is an awful partner. Sometimes, it is evidence of just that. Sometimes, the person who cheats does have awful character, is a shitty partner, or it is evidence of the relationship "going down" so to speak. Other times, it isnt. Each situation and nuances are relative to the two people in the relationship.
--And one more, the basis of this whole article: why must two people who are in love, live together? Whether eventually, or ever?
A relatively new book, "Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone" by Eric Klinenberg is one of the first books to touch on or even introduce such a topic. The books main focus discusses the rise of people actively choosing to live alone in general. He touches on health benefits and the shocking personal joys of such. He also includes people who have partners whom they love and to whom they are committed, yet both people prefer having their own living space. And actively maintaining such.
Why are these people assumed to be less committed, less in love, or less good for each other than people who live together? That seems like an unfair, shallow judgement to draw. And in fact, its incorrect.
I dont know about you but I have several friends, many of whom I would even call very close friends, who I love. These are people with whom I revel in spending time, and often do so for hours at a time. I look forward to seeing them every time we meet. I miss them when its been a while since we have met. I feel joy, anticipation, and just love being within their company. Yet, for most, I wouldn't want to live with them. Both because after spending several hours with a friend, I like being able to retreat back to my own space (this is nothing personal, I feel it with everyone. As an introvert, love my own space), and because I imagine with some of said friends quirks and particular traits in combination with mine, we would clash in living together. That it might even eventually ruin our friendship in some cases.
Sometimes, I think space in relationships, both emotional and even sometimes literal space and breaks in time together, is the very thing that keeps it alive.
This circles back to my point of couples living together or not. For many individuals as well as couples, they very much want to live with their partner. If this is the case, its the right thing for them, is fantastic, and I am not rallying against or disputing such.
For a not small number of people though, while they might enjoy living with a romantic partner, they might also be just as happy living on their own.
In which case, why does this indicate something wrong with a relationship if someone prefers living alone? The answer: it doesnt.
Some potential benefits of maintaining separate living arrangements can include:
--Personal space easily accessible when needed
--Varying sleep needs or schedules dont have to be disrupted or disturbed
--Differing social desires and needs can be more easily maintained and/or not infringed upon
--Keeping the relationship exciting, novel, absence continues making the heart stay fond.
--Not taking one another for granted
--Self expression not an issue, as one can decorate their own place to their own whims
--Being able to maintain ones own preferences, such as the temperature, décor, sound (music or not), you choose when people come over to visit or not, you decide whether to leave the dinner dishes in the sink for a night or clean the up right then, to have a pet or not (and which type), etc.
Some drawbacks can include:
--Social stigma or disapproval. Though ultimately this doesnt matter one iota, it can be hard to not let yourself care about it.
--Might potentially result in paying more money, as opposed to if the two of you split one rent.
--Potentially less close knit, day to day, minute moments shared history.
--Sometimes missing your partner and wishing they were there, when maybe they aren't or cant be.
--In growing older, it might be nice, and even necessary (both physically and emotionally), to have a live in companion and partner as you move into elderly years.
Any and all life situations, relationship styles, career choices, and experiences all have positives and drawbacks. Therefore, regardless of what "society says," there is no "right" choice or way to be here with regards to living with a partner or not. Both options have great aspects, as well as bummer ones.
The ultimate takeaway here though is this:
You do not need to live with someone in order to love, or be closely connected with them.
You certainly can. But you dont need to.
Eli J. Finkel, Professor of Social Psychology at Northwestern University and the author of "The All or Northing Marriage," agrees. "For some couples, living apart while being together is a way to play to and maintain the strengths of the relationship without succumbing to its weaknesses. It makes time together special, rather than mundane and habitual."
Proximity and support are not the same thing.
Loving someone and living together are not synonymous with each other.
Ultimately, the choice to live together or not shouldn't be decided on because thats "just what you do." (Which sadly, is why a lot of people do it). One should do so only if it feels truly right for them, and is something they deeply desire. If not, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a romantic couple while choosing to live apart, nor does it mean that because you would rather not live with your partner, that the relationship is "wrong."
Instead, its important to have the courage to live a life that feels right and best for you, not in an attempt to mirror what society approves of. But to live in such a way that feels authentic, right, true, and great for you. If this means living apart, together? Go for it!
Here is an interesting article about couples who live in such arrangements, which has been dubbed "Living Apart Together."
And an article, "Could you live apart, together?" Talking about how some couples are forgoing living together entirely, and loving it.
Finally, one article completely on the other side of the argument: "Want to stay in love? Then dont live together." (Personally, I dont necessarily agree with this. That living with a romantic partner is a kiss of death on romance and remaining in love. I have lived with two romantic partners and loved both experiences. I felt just as in love with both of them for the duration of our living together as well. So I dont think this is necessarily a given, that being in love with someone diminishes in living with them. I think it depends on the couple, and on how they navigate living together as well as discussing each of their individual needs).
I like this. I actually shared this even on my wall.ReplyDelete
My take on this is simple:
for as long as both parties are clear in what they are getting into - whether that's being married, living in together, living separate but still maintain the status, I guess thats fine. Different set-ups have their own sets of pros and cons.
But if the decision was influenced, forced, or was just a result of proving love for the other, then be prepared. Why? Because someone will be benefitting from it while the other one is on the losing end. And that will also cause a lot of heartaches and resentments eventually.
Thank you so much Lhea, both for taking the time to comment and for sharing this with others. You make such a great point. People should not take any step in a relationship (aka living together, or other) because of cultural expectations or outside pressure. This is likely to lead to heartache down the road. Its better to be authentic to oneself, even if that means doing something outside the cultural norm. Just because our culture tells us its the "right" and "only" good way does not mean thats true.Delete
Thank you again for your thoughts!