That apparently, is the question.
When I first watched the movie Frida, one thing about Frida Kahlo's relationship with Diego Rivera really struck me. (Okay, well, a few things struck me, but I am only going to write about one thing here.) Kahlo and Rivera were married, but they did not cohabitate. In other words, they maintained separate residences. Often times they lived adjacent to each other. To be honest, the first time I heard about this, I was intrigued, but we are talking years ago so I quickly forgot about this. I recently (as in within the last four months) discovered that another famous couple also chose to maintain separate domiciles, Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton. I am a huge fan of their work, and when I heard they did not live together, I was again intrigued.
I proceeded to do a little research, and I discovered that not only are there millions of couples out there who do this, but there is also a term for it. It is called "Living Apart Together" (LAT), and it is a concept that is said to have originated in the Netherlands. Couples cite numerous different reason for choosing to live apart. Some LAT couples do so because of their jobs. Some do so because they have children from a previous marriage and combining households would be disruptive. Some LAT couples, like Kahlo and Rivera, live apart in order to pursue extra-marital affairs. And some couples just do it because they do not like the thought of living with someone else.
These two were not about to give up their
whoring ways for anyone.
Let me explain why this whole LAT thing has me so intrigued. I lived with someone, off and on, for six years out of our nine year relationship. During those six years I learned more about the other person than I ever wanted to know, I gave up more of my personal space and time than I ever wanted to give up, and I had to compromise more than I was comfortable with in regards to decor, routine, and lifestyle. Of course, at the time, I was not aware of any of this. It was not until moving out that I had such a revelation.
I have never considered myself to be a selfish person, however, I have always known that I am a very private, introverted individual. I enjoy my alone time and I require a lot of it. I like the freedom of being alone. I like the freedom of being able to pick up my art supplies at 2 o'clock in the morning and drawing for three hours while in bed. I like the freedom of being able to hop in the car and run to the grocery store or the bookstore on a whim. I like the freedom of being able to eat a quickly thrown together dinner at 9 pm while reading a book, watching TV, and listening to the latest album I downloaded. Living with someone else makes this very difficult to do. Plus, I'm an insomniac, and being an insomniac and living with someone else do not work well together.
I am also a very visual person, and having things around me that I find to be visually pleasing makes me happy. It is very difficult for me to live with someone whose own style contrasts greatly with my own. As an artistic person, aesthetics is very important to me. To cohabitate with someone(s) who has little regard for colors, shapes, patterns and style, is highly aggravating. And to sacrifice my visual pleasure because of someone else's lack of taste is something I am not necessarily willing to do.*
Some people argue that when you marry or just commit to another, you should then gather up your two separate lives and create a new, joint life together... as a couple. And you will then live happily ever after, together, forever. But of course, not without a lot of work. And not without some arguing and disagreeing and compromising. Once upon a time, I believed this as well, but as I venture through my journey of self-discovery, I am beginning to believe this less and less.
See what these two have to say about their living
arrangements: Mr. and Mrs. Mad Hatter.
I have always maintained the philosophy that the most important thing in life is to be happy, regardless of what that entails. In my opinion, if you are happy, then your life is fulfilled. Call me naive, or just plain stupid, but I would rather be happy in life than living to just "make things work". I don't necessarily believe that one needs to make numerous compromises and give up parts of themselves in order to commit to another person. In fact, I think life would be better for everyone if people didn't feel forced to compromise and reluctantly sacrifice the things about them that make them unique individuals.
When people first meet, they meet as individuals. Throughout the dating process, people are more than willing to make some sacrifices in order to get to know each other. They go to dinner, they go to shows, they rent movies and cuddle on the couch. As time goes by, their lives become more and more entwined with each other. In a perfect world, the two individuals will mesh perfectly together with very little disturbance to their lifestyles. In reality, many couples give up a lot of who they were as individuals for the sake of the relationship. In my opinion, this is one of the most damaging things that can happen to a relationship.
When you give up your hobbies, your lifestyle, the things that make you happy, you become an entirely different person. You are no longer the individual that your partner met and fell in love with. Over time the magic, the excitement, the novelty disappears. There are numerous tips and guides out there that advise couples on how to recapture the magic and excitement in their relationships. Instead of trying to recapture something lost, how can couples prevent the loss in the first place? What is it about committing to someone for the long-haul that creates mundane relationships and complacency?
I know what did it for me. For me it was getting to know the other person too well. It was getting to know all the little details, bad habits and annoyances of the other person. It was about hearing all the same stories over and over and over again. It was experiencing the same things as the other person, living the same life and then having nothing new and exciting to talk about. It was about giving up the things that make me me. It was about feeling obligated, through no fault of the other person, but just by being in a relationship, to do everyday things together. All the time. It was the obligation of eating meals together. The obligation of finding things to do on the weekends together. It was the suffocating, confining, panicky feelings an introverted loner feels whenever they have to spend a majority of their time with other people, regardless of who they might be.**
Things didn't work out quite as well for this famous
I admire the LAT couples of the world. I am envious that they can afford to maintain separate living quarters, but more importantly, I envy their ability to recognize the importance of preserving their relationship by preserving their individual lives and happiness. And if by doing so they have to live apart, I applaud them for their strength, confidence and trust in each other to make it work. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera being the exception, of course. Their relationship was so destructive and toxic, I do not believe anything could have really helped their relationship to succeed. But maybe that worked for them. Different strokes and what have you.
Husband and wife find joy in living apart by Judith Newman
Single but Married: When Couples Choose to Live Apart by Allison Ford
Couples that live apart... stay together by Rosemary Bennett
Living Apart: The Key To Wedded Bliss? by Catie Lazarus
Living Apart Together by Carrie Sloan
Just What Modern Romance Needs: "Living Apart Together" by Gary Picariello
* This came off as sounding extremely pretentious. I apologize for that as I am very much not a pretentious person. Although at times I have my moments. It's just that I know what I like and I love what I like. And having personal preferences is not something I will apologize for.
** Or maybe I just wasn't ready. Maybe twenty-two was too young to move in with someone and make that kind of commitment. Maybe I didn't get the chance to live enough life as me before attempting to create a life with someone else. We may never know.