I live in a rather small place, at least by American standards. But it’s a lovely place, and I am pleased that I managed to be able to purchase it.
One thing feels clear to me though: I don’t feel like I would want to share it with anyone else. Is that so strange?
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I’m not alone (as it were). There’s a growing movement of people who are known as “living apart together” (or LAT), which is exactly what it sounds like. These are people who are clearly and securely partnered, even married, and yet choose to not reside in the same residence.
I first heard about someone doing LAT when I was working in my first post-college, vaguely grown-up job. One of the women in the office mentioned that her husband lived in New York. (This was in Philadelphia.) When asked why she was down here and he up there, she responded, in the typical flippant way of hers: “Oh, I love him, but we’d kill each other if we lived together.”
It never struck me as a particularly momentous conversation, but it’s never left me either.
I am an introvert. I love being social, and I am not shy, but being around other people is draining for me. After years of exploring what works for me, I’ve learned that after a few days, I usually require an evening of alone time. (This is true whether I’m partnered or single.) The alone time allows me to recharge my emotional batteries and become more present and open as a person and partner.
I can occasionally go for a week or two with no alone time (say, when traveling), but I’m usually looking forward to some serious alone time afterward.
The alone time is very important to me, and I guard it carefully. When I don’t get it, I can become not as empathetic, not as compassionate, and sometimes, kind of a jerk.
So for me, the idea of living with someone, especially in an intimate setting, hasn’t interested me. How would I get my alone time? Moreover, do I really want to let the excitement of being with someone descend into squabbles about bills and cleaning? Can’t we just spend lots (most?) of our time together and have that be good?
I admit that there is part of me that questions my own attachment to living solo. Here are some of my own devil’s advocate ideas that have come up over the years:
- Maybe it’s never been the right person. Maybe I will eventually grow to know someone who make me feel just as recharged when I’m by myself as when I’m around them? This is what happily cohabitating people often tell me: “I need alone time from everyone but my partner.“
- Maybe I never will grow to feel that level of comfort with someone until or unless I move in with them. Maybe the comfort happens after, not before.
- Perhaps this is my own way of stifling true intimacy, keeping a wall between myself and a partner.
Interestingly, I met someone recently who had a creative solution to the approach of cohabitation and introversion. She and her long-term partner had a two-bedroom apartment. She had one of the bedrooms, and he had the other. That way, when they wanted to sleep together, they could make the decision to do so.
And that, to me, leads to the biggest benefit to not living together: it means that there is little scope for taking the other person for granted. When you want to see your partner, it is an active decision, not a passive one. It is, perhaps a little unexpectedly, a way of showing a commitment to a partner, that I am invested in them as a person and partner, and not just someone who helps out with the bills. I don’t need to be there, but I am anyway.
There are famous couples who live alone together (the Wikipedia page mentions a few), but a growing number of people appear to me making this choice. The reasons vary, from financial reasons to compatibility reasons. One thing is clear though: people who are in these types of relationships can be just as serious as those who live together. Even if they are not on the relationship escalator.
I’m not saying I’ll always live alone. One day it may feel like the perfect move. There’s part of me that even looks forward to the challenges and their creative solutions. But it doesn’t seem necessary in order to show that I’m serious. I can show that in other ways.
But enough about me. How do you feel about living apart from someone you’re partnered with?