One in ten British adults are in a relationship but not living with their partner, according to a new study by researchers at Birkbeck University in London, together with colleagues at the University of Bradford and the NatCen Social Research.
Identified by sociologists as LATs (“living apart together”), these are people whom traditional government censuses would normally identify as single — but are far from it. According to the study, published April 23, LATs in a long-term relationship keep separate homes as much by choice as by circumstance — if not more.
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Very few LATs actually chose to live apart because of where their jobs are: only 8% said that was the reason. A third of those surveyed live apart because they feel they are not ready to live together, while another third see living apart as emotionally safer. The majority of LATs are young, aged 35 and under, and the majority are in regular, daily contact with their partner.
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Though divorce rates in the U.K. have decreased in recent years, over a third of marriages are still expected to dissolve before the twentieth wedding anniversary. For those who find commitment a challenge, living apart seems to be a more sustainable means of enjoying a relationship.
The researchers include quotes from some LATs whom they interviewed about their living situation. The reasons to live apart varied; one respondent, identified only as Helen, said it was because she “[wanted] things done my way.” Charlotte ascribed the arrangement to bad experiences in past relationships: “We both ended previous relationships with literally nothing…I lost everything…I don’t want to lose him, so he’s not moving in basically,” she said.
The data reflects similar trends across Western Europe, the U.S. and Australia and New Zealand.