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

Ravi Jain, Why Not Theatre’s founding artistic director, will present a Zoom lecture as part of the University of Victoria’s Orion fine art series on March 8. (Photo: University of Victoria).
Award-winning directors highlight coming University of Victoria lecture series

The March 8 and 18 Zoom events are part of the Orion fine arts lecture series

A shot from the rehearsal of Being Here: The Refugee Project, the Belfry Theatre’s filmed play that’s set to open on March 16. (Photo: Belfry Theatre)
Victoria’s Belfry Theatre shows filmed play on refugee, sponsor experience

Being Here: The Refugee Project is based off the first-hand accounts of refugees and their sponsors

(Black Press Media file photo)
Get the word on art on Sunday afternoons in Victoria

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria presents Sunday lecture series in March

GVPA authors
Write On! Greater Victoria Public Library releases 2021 local authors collection

Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) is celebrating local authors with the unveiling… Continue reading

Hermann's Jazz Club
Hermann’s celebrates International Women’s Day and St. Paddy’s Day

International Women’s Day will be celebrated at Hermann’s Jazz Club with an… Continue reading

Gabriel Swift, 23, is one of three Victoria filmmakers chosen to receive $20,000 Telus Storyhive grants to produce Local Heroes documentaries. (Courtesy of Gabriel Swift)
Three Victoria filmmakers producing ‘local heroes’ documentaries with $20,000 grants

Telus Storyhive providing $20,000 to 40 Western Canada productions

The shadow cast of the Satyr Players production of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’: Linda Dohmeier as Dr. Scott, Olivia Erickson as Columbia, Brandon Caul as Rocky, Christopher Carter as Brad, Charlie Prince as Eddie, Branden Martell as Riff Raff, Jenna Morgan as Magenta, Megan Rhode as Janet and Adrien Kennedy as Dr. Frank-N-Furter (clockwise from left). (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
VIU student actors go online for 25th-annual ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’

Satyr Players theatre company to broadcast pre-recorded shadow production

Donna Hales next to one of her paintings of Sooke. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville artist Donna Hales still displaying her work at age 94

Current exhibit at the McMillan Arts Centre through April 1

Nanaimo painter Shawnda Wilson hangs her exhibit Tropical Wallpaper at Jonny the Barber. The show runs until the end of March. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Nanaimo painter battles pandemic blues with tropical exhibition

Shawnda Wilson presents ‘Tropical Wallpaper’ at Old City Quarter barbershop

It’s been almost a year since the last public performance inside the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Donors pledge $60,000 in matching campaign at Chemainus Theatre

Perrys, Hiltons and Duncan Iron Works help to Bridge the Gap during COVID shutdown

Artist Sandra Meigs will be the next speaker in NIC’s online 2021 Artist Talk series, appearing virtually on Friday, March 5 at 1 pm. For the full schedule and link to attend the Artist Talk Online Series, visit https://nicart.tickit.ca/. (Photo: The Glass Ticker (2017) — 15’ X 9’ X 5’, wood, enamel, lights, aluminum, glass, automata. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.)
Celebrated artist and mentor Meigs joins North Island College Artist Talk series

Vivid, immersive, and enigmatic style combines the complex with comic elements

Arts Laureate Barbara Adams joins artist Luke Ramsey and Mayor Kevin Murdoch in front of the Parade of Play mural at the Oak Bay High track. (Black Press Media file photo)
Curtain draws to a close on Oak Bay arts laureate’s term

Barbara Adams has been a champion for arts in the community

The students in the Timberline Musical Theatre program are rehearsing this year’s production, Once Upon a Mattress, three days per week after school in preparation for their upcoming virtual performances. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Island high school’s musical theatre program hoping for last-minute ticket surge

Popular annual run of Timberline shows costs $7,000-$8,000 to stage, sold $750 in tickets

Most Read