Yet the LATs still feel a bit taboo. Some LAT couples interviewed worried "coming out" ould harm their work reputation with colleagues and clients. "I don't want my students to look at this the wrong way," Jane says. Meanwhile, Celina fears the her unorthodox lease/relationship status could threaten her rent stabilized apartment.
In the 1950's, married couples on TV shows like I Love Lucy and Leave It to Beaver slept in separate beds to reinforce their sense of their morality and prudence. When the film Terms of Endearment came out in 1983, it was a breakthrough in multiple ways, including Aurora Greenway (Shirley McLaine) choosing to keep separates homes after becoming romantically involved with her neighbor, Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson). Over twenty-three years later, real couples living independently—in an effort to preserve a relationship—remain a minority, but any challenges are worth it for its devotees. "I like to wake up alone," says Jim. "It doesn't mean I don't want love."
And not all LATs find themselves living apart for the same reason. Researchers at Oxford and University of Leeds purport three distinct sub-groups: "undecidedly apart," "regretfully apart," and "happily apart." The LATs who are "undecidedly apart" are monogamous, but have no plans for either marriage or separation. Some are like Jim, who, after two less-than-perfect attempts at happily-ever-after, says, "At this point marriage would be absurd."
For years, Celina felt the same way, but then she had a change of heart—and persuaded Eric to marry. They are "gladly apart," a category of couples who marry but set up separate households. "I wanted to be married for the same reason gay couples do, " says Celina. "I want to visit him in the ICU, be the contact person in case of emergency, and get health insurance."
And then there are the square pegs in the round hole: The LATs who are "regretfully apart" and face separation due to career, economic or family obligations. Stephen says he and Kate "insisted on living together before we were married (despite some parental opposition) because it seemed like a key bellwether for the relationship." As they are now expecting their first child, they say they won't live in separate homes once they can find jobs in the same city. Stephen says that, "Together" is clearly the default setting for us, all the rest is temporary adjustment."
* Names have been altered to protect their identities.