Loving Apart

Love in Victoria, Part 3: Couples choose to live apart together, as evolving structure gives new definition to the term 'committed'

Linda Breault, co-editor of a national anthology project called 'Living Apart Together: A New Paradigm for Loving Couples' believes that couples can just as easily find happiness staying apart, together.

Linda Breault, co-editor of a national anthology project called 'Living Apart Together: A New Paradigm for Loving Couples' believes that couples can just as easily find happiness staying apart, together.

Love in Victoria, Part 3: Couples choose to live apart together, as evolving structure gives new definition to the term ‘committed’

In 1963, my grandmother found the love of her life. Both she and he were in their 40s, and had been separated from their spouses and families when they met and fell madly in love. They never married, never lived together, but talked every day, had regular date nights, vacationed together and kept their hearts fastened for the next 33 years until he passed away in 1996. Now, at age 91, my grandma still keeps his picture by her nightstand.

It’s not a structure that’s talked about openly, but Living Apart Together (LAT) relationships are becoming a bigger-than-ever trend in today’s dating scene. This isn’t your typical long-distance love affair — while some of these couples are forced apart due to circumstance, a growing majority of Canadian adults are choosing to stay in committed, monogamous relationships with an individual twist: they opt to live alone.

“The defining factor we see in LAT relationships is that while some people choose to live apart until marriage, these couples have no intention of co-habiting,” says Victorian Linda Breault, co-editor of a national LAT anthology project. “These people are committed and in love, but they want their independence as well.”

For the last two years, Breault and co-editor Dianne Gillespie have dedicated their lives to tracking down the stories of couples creating this shift. After putting out a request for submissions, the two were overwhelmed by the response and will publish over 30 first-person LAT accounts in their upcoming anthology Living Apart Together: A New Paradigm for Loving Couples. While there is currently no literature published on the topic, University of Victoria and University of Manitoba researchers partnered in 2011 to examine their own study of couples who wanted to be together and apart.

“The majority of our age group for this study is over 35, and we’re seeing women who want their independence, men who want their space, and people who have experienced divorce and separation who want to be much more careful with their relationships this time around,” Dr. Karen Kobayashi, assistant professor and research affiliate with UVic’s Centre on Aging, told Monday in 2011. “What we’ve found so far is that a lot of the couples are coming to us and saying, ‘Thank you, this will finally validate our lifestyle — we’re so tired of explaining our choices to our families.’”

An estimated one-in-twelve Canadians live apart together. A study in 2003 showed that nearly 57 per cent of couples in the 20 to 29 age group lived in an LAT setup, which may have explained “commuter” or long-distance relationships with both partners pursuing a career. Back then, only 11 per cent of couples over the age of 50 chose the monogamous live-apart structure. Yet, Kobayashi and Breault have now separately discovered findings that have tipped the scales dramatically. More couples — and not just the young ones — are choosing to live apart in committed, monogamous relationships than ever before.

“In our submissions, we found about 15 per cent chose to marry and maintain their separate dwellings, though many more had been married in the past but wanted the comfort and security of a relationship that also gave them space,” says Breault.

Breault experienced her own taste of LAT while doing social work overseas, where she met Gillespie. Both women were introduced to many others who had happy, committed relationships but had left their partners at home — some with no long-term plans of returning.

“So many of the women I met were living their own completely independent lives while maintaining partners and families, and other women who didn’t know about this who I told would say, ‘Wow, I would love to do that,’” Breault says. “It’s something that has been around for a long time but it hasn’t really been talked about — until now.”

Breault and Gillespie discovered four main categories in the submissions. First, voluntary LAT: those who select, wholeheartedly, to maintain both a relationship and privacy. Some examples include couples that had to “separate” to stay together, often renting apartments next to each other. Second, involuntary LAT: those separated by distance, unable to live together due to immigration or work restrictions. Third, trial LAT: couples who are met with conflicting dreams or ideals and choose to pursue them for a trial period. Fourth, miscellanea: just as love comes in many forms, Breault and Gillespie found there were some cases where LAT worked inexplicably, like the senior man who opted to move into an assisted-care facility just to be near his wife who was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“I’m a hopeless romantic who doesn’t believe in unconditional love. I haven’t found any convincing reason why I have to live in the same house … as long as we keep dancing,” says Nanci, one of the anthology contributors, who classes herself in the volunteer LAT category.

For those who choose it, the two ladies learned there were a few main reasons that older adults, especially, weren’t so quick to shack up — fear of an unequal division of domestic labour and care giving; a desire to keep private homes for social activities with friends, adult children and grandchildren; concerns over the infringement on financial autonomy and lifestyle; stress about decisions of where to live and what possessions to keep or share. But most important of all: keeping the love alive.

“One thing was true with all the couples who spoke with us for the anthology — they didn’t take each other for granted,” says Breault. “They worked hard to keep their connection strong, and they treasured every minute they had to spend together.” M

To learn more, or to make a submission to their project before publication, contact Linda Breault at breault.gillespietba@gmail.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Blue Bridge Theatre
Stratford star teams up with Blue Bridge Theatre

A New Take on a Perennial Favourite

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

The Chemainus Theatre Festival’s Playbill Dining Room reopened to host small musical performances. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Chemainus Theatre receives Island Coastal Economic Trust funding

Project will involve recording and live-streaming Playbill Presents series content

Nanaimo ballerina Jillian Vanstone is giving a hometown performance at the Port Theatre on Dec. 12. (Photo courtesy Karolina Kuras)
National Ballet of Canada principal dancer’s hometown return postponed

Nanaimo’s Jillian Vanstone will celebrate favourite choreographer at the Port Theatre at a later date

Stephen Laidlaw, prepator with Nanaimo Art Gallery, hangs a photograph of Anna Wong, a B.C. print maker whose works are on display at the gallery. The exhibit opens Friday, Dec. 4, and runs until Feb. 7. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores life work of overlooked B.C. printmaker

‘Anna Wong: Traveller on Two Roads’ features more than 70 art works and personal belongings

Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus released their first joint album, <em>The Invasion</em>. (Photo courtesy Raymond Knight)
Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus release first joint album

Duo plan elaborate live-streamed CD release for ‘The Invasion’

Next month Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases his solo debut album, ‘Wildlife.’ (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases solo debut album

New record ‘Wildlife’ about taking chances and going through changes

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

Most Read