The art of living together, apart
Ramon Lopez, 27, lives in Cranford, N.J., while his girlfriend of more than six years, Kimberly Kaye, 26, lives in Brooklyn. They prefer it to live together, apart. (Photos: Katya Pronin)
Judith Newman shares 15 years of marriage and twin sons with the love of her life.
Sharing a home with him, however, isn’t part of the grand plan.
“We’re too different in ways that involve living together to live together,” said Newman, a writer and self-professed slob living in the Village. Her husband, John, fastidious by contrast, lives on the Upper West Side. “It has nothing to do with faith or trust or loving a person.”
The trend of committed couples living apart has become so notable that sociologists have a name for it — LAT, short for “living apart together.” About 3 percent of married couples in the U.S. are in LAT unions, according to a recent UCLA study.
These pairs are usually well educated with big incomes, said study co-author Charles Strohm, acknowledging that maintaining two residences in New York City is no cheap feat.
An independent streak is also characteristic of such couples. “LAT relationships may be the perfect trick for New Yorkers who want to balance their desire for an intimate relationship with the autonomy to pursue their work or educational goals,” Strohm said in an e-mail interview.
Work is among the reasons newlywed communication consultant Gisela Keller stays in Brooklyn, while her husband lives in Vermont. Both need to be close to their jobs, but flexible schedules and an easy five-hour Amtrak trek help them remain connected.
Of course, these couplings are hardly traditional. They put up with all sorts of questions from friends and family. Among them: Don’t you get lonely? Or jealous? Is your marriage actually in trouble?
Keller acknowledges her situation is not the “regular usual. People find that difficult to understand. They say, ‘Oh yeah, it’s just a transitional period,’” Keller said. “But sometimes just to be by yourself, it’s not that bad.”
That’s the sentiment of celebrities Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton, who have the luxury of owning neighboring London houses connected by a corridor. “If you’ve got some money, and you can afford it, why not have your own space?” Bonham Carter said in London’s The Observer. “You never have to compromise emotionally or feel invaded.”
And it worked — and then famously failed — for Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, who once kept separate homes on either side of Central Park.
Kimberly Kaye and her boyfriend of six years have chosen to put the Hudson River between them.
“It’s hard to do the couples thing is you’re career-orientated,” said Kaye, 26, a Bushwick-based journalist whose boyfriend, Ray, lives in Cranston, N.J. They spend most weekends together but likely will continue to live apart after they’re married, Kaye said.
Surviving in the New York job market has required tenacity and long hours in which Kaye might otherwise feel guilty indulging, she said. “We live independent lives and are part of each other’s independent lives.”
Newman, who joked that her husband keeps little more than a toothbrush at her apartment, said the couple’s 7-year-old twins enjoy having an “uptown home” and “downtown home.”
“I can’t imagine a situation where I would be more in sync with someone than I am with my husband, but our tastes are radically different,” Newman said. “We are very lucky that we have this situation. We have plenty of things to argue about already.”