Living Apart, Together: How Do Married Couples Make It Work?

No two marriages are exactly alike. Some couples share a bed while others sleep in separate rooms. And there's another, less-common way of living for married couples: living apart, together (LAT). By choice. 


No, it isn't the same as legally separating as a result of marital strife. A typical married LAT couple is still intimate and happily married, but while living under different roofs. In fact, in some cases, living apart can strengthen a marriage. It's basically no different than a dating couple that still lives in their separate homes. 

So what does this type of relationship look like for a married couple? It could mean the spouses see each other every day and take turns visiting each other. They may also take turns spending the night at each other's homes. Other couples might spend much less time together and opt to see each other only a few days a week.

It may sound wild to think of a married couple choosing to live apart, happily, but many duos have made this choice and are thriving. The question is, how do they make it work? By focusing on the reasons and benefits, being open to making financial sacrifices, still spending quality time together, and choosing to trust each other.


Embracing the benefits

According to The New York Times, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that approximately 4 million Americans are married but don't live with their spouses. The reasons vary, but the most common involve independence, identity, and personal space preferences. Regardless of the reason, it's important for each couple to remember the goal of the decision throughout their time apart in order for the arrangement and marriage to succeed.


Some married couples, like Sana and Adnan Akhand, made the decision to live apart because they felt pressured to fall into certain gender roles and started losing the spark in their marriage. Adnan suggested that they try dating again, while living apart, to bring back the pre-marital passion and romance.

They shared their story on the Tamron Hall show, almost six months after beginning to live apart — including the benefits. They both said the experience strengthened their marriage and caused them to look forward to date nights. Both also confessed to making a point to dress up more for each other. Adnan mentioned having pre-marriage butterflies again.

Another benefit that couples can enjoy while living apart is their individual freedom within their homes. That could mean one partner opts for black curtains and walls at their place while their partner keeps bikes and helmets in the sitting room of their place. Neither person has to consider the other's decor preferences.


Being willing and able to make financial sacrifices

Living apart from your spouse can have its advantages, but one obvious disadvantage involves finances. Whether one spouse moves in with the other after marriage, or they buy a new place, both parties usually end up saving a nice chunk of change on living expenses. But if one spouse decides to move out later down the road, those financial benefits disappear.


The Akhands initially lived in an apartment together when they first got married, so they had to downgrade their separate apartments so they could afford the switch. Other couples may have to sacrifice certain luxuries, like a gym membership, visits to the hair salon, or eating out, to afford living apart.

In addition to the rent/mortgage bill, utilities, cable, and internet are other expenses that can no longer be shared. So for a LAT situation to be successful, both spouses need to ensure that they can each afford the decision and be willing to make the financial sacrifice.

Making a conscious effort to spend quality time together

Many married couples who live together see each other every day. Some wake up together, brush their teeth together, have dinner together, and share a bed together at night. Routines can form easily and quickly, but just because a couple spends time in the same room simultaneously doesn't mean that time is quality time.


Dating couples who don't live together have to make a conscious effort to spend time together, since they don't see each other as much as the average married couple. If a married LAT couple isn't around each other daily, they would have to have the same goal to keep the relationship alive, and to just see each other. This could mean making weekly reservations at a fancy restaurant, buying tickets to a movie once a month, and/or simply stopping by the other person's place to watch their favorite TV show once or twice a week.

Jeff and Connie Ordway can attest to this. They chose to live apart after 18 years of living together. They make a point to spend time together a couple of times a week and speak at least twice a day. "It feels like we're dating again," Connie told The New York Times. And they enjoy their time apart.


Choosing to trust each other

Trust is important in any romantic relationship, whether it involves living together or not. In many cases, it's easier for someone to trust their spouse when they're sharing a home than when they're living apart. So when a married couple transitions from living together to living apart, the change can raise some concerns and insecurities. That's why both spouses need to choose to trust each other if they choose to live apart.


Marisol and Rob Simon are another married couple who chose to live apart. Rob acknowledged the importance of trust in a LAT arrangement. "We always know where the other one is," he told The Oprah Magazine. CNN shared the story in 2010. "If she's out with friends, I check to make sure she got home okay, and vice versa. And there's always been a lot of trust that we wouldn't be Tiger Woods-ing each other."

The couple has to not only commit to trusting each other but to being trustworthy as well — just as they would if they were still living together. In some cases, living apart might help strengthen the trust in a marriage because it forces both parties to believe what they can't see.