The news that Melania Trump will live apart from her husband, President-elect Donald Trump for a few months until their son Barron, 10, finished school, was shocking to many people.
While it may seem odd that a married couple doesn’t live together, the Trumps’ decision to live apart is actually part of a growing trend — living apart together couples, also known as LATs, or apartners.
About one-third of U.S. adults who aren’t married or cohabiting are in LAT relationships. While some are young people in long-
ships because of schooling or careers, or couples who want to live together but can’t for various reasons (such as military families), many include middle-aged empty-nester divorcees who want nothing that resembles the married life we knew. In fact, more older divorced and widowed women are choosing live apart together relationships so they can enjoy their romantic relationships without the complications, caretaking and complacency of living together.
But a good portion are married, like the Trumps — who will be the highest-profile example of this demographic trend. Still, the number of couples who are “married, spouse absent,” according to the United States census, is a lot less than the numbers of couples living together — just a little more than 3 percent of the population.
How will they make it work? Does it help or hinder a relationship? What are the benefits? What about the kids?
In researching LATs/apartners for The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels — which offers a living apart together model as one of many marital options couples can chose from to individualize their marriage — Vicki discovered that LATs/apartners feel more committed and less trapped than live-in couples. When you live apart, each person has to actively work on commitment and trust; it’s not taken for granted. Nor is sex — especially since so many couples are dealing with what they consider sexless marriages.
She also learned that many people who are in LAT relationships, or were in them for a while, say that they learned valuable relationship skills, such as trust, patience and better communication. Many also got better at time management, independence, and discovering intimacy that wasn’t just about sex and touch.
Those are the kind of skills can lead to a more satisfying relationship, and relationship satisfaction can make couples feel more committed to each other. Couples who feel committed to each other are motivated to show it; they act in ways that their partner can clearly experience as loving. And they don’t need to be under the same roof to act loving.
Isn’t that exactly what people want in a romantic relationship?
“It’s of particular interest to women, who often get the short end of the stick in marriage and cohabitation. They still end up doing most of the caretaking and household chores, even if they work full time,” says Montreal filmmaker Sharon Hyman, who is working on a documentary called “Apartners: Living Happily Ever Apart.”
Read more about why living apart together is a marital model that would work for couples besides the Trumps here.