Many couples experience periods of their life together when, due to one circumstance or another, they must live separately. These reasons could be for work, for aged relatives to be accommodated (maybe even overseas), to support children who live a long distance away, for financial gain, or due to incompatibility in living arrangements.

It is quite common for couples who have been married, or in a long term relationship before, to choose to live apart. Some older people do not want to share living arrangements if they have just achieved independence on the death of a partner, for example. In many cases these arrangements work quite well.

It may, though, have a negative impact on intimacy between the partners because it can become an inbuilt escape clause. Also, some may feel that they are not loved or valued enough for the other to live with them. Intimacy is grown over time, with focus and attention, and with the ability to hang in there when the going gets rough. Being able to choose to leave at any time has disadvantages. We might compare it to when a couple separate. Children, shared between parents, sometimes choose to leave and live with the other parent whenever they are unhappy with boundaries or discipline.

In younger couples, living together is an important growing experience. Learning to live in the same house can be challenging, and having made an arrangement to live together provides opportunities for growth in capacity and intimacy.

Many people have attachment issues. This refers to early parenting experiences that may be re-experienced when the comings and goings of relationships trigger the old conflict. Attachment issues can be healed to a certain extent by constant, loving commitment and understanding. But the comings and goings of living apart will aggravate attachment issues. When a couple have been living apart, often the coming together is fraught with expectations about the intimacy, which then puts extra pressure on the need to succeed in it.

The reasons younger couples with families often choose to live apart in the current work climate is usually financial dependence on the main income earner who cannot get work close to home. As time goes on, this arrangement can lead to ‘golden handcuffs’ – an inability to give up what is often a much larger income, for the sake of couple and family concerns.

Living apart requires great trust and loyalty in order to succeed.

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