Many of us over 60 are widowed, divorced, or maybe single our whole lives. We’ve gotten used to being independent. We’ve created a life for ourselves, with our own routines, habits, activities, and friends. We’re happy living on our own.
Then we meet someone — and ka boom!
Hearts aflutter, sex drive in high gear, intimacy is ours. We fall in love. Our closeness grows. We feel a strong commitment to each other. Our next step must be…
No, no, no! We don’t want to get married. We don’t even want to live together.
We relish our visits — especially the overnight ones! — and we equally relish the return to our own home afterwards. For many of us, the idea of marriage or even cohabitation may be unattractive, undesirable, or unworkable. Because of our personalities or our circumstances, we don’t want to mingle homes, finances, and legal obligations. Fortunately, there’s a lifestyle choice and relationship modality that describes what we want, and many of us are living that way now.
LAT is shorthand for “living apart together.” LAT is a long-term, committed, romantic connection without an intent to share a home.
LAT presents an attractive long-term relationship alternative to traditional marriage. It is a lifestyle choice—a new emergent family form, especially among older adults.
In a LAT relationship, a couple who’ve developed strong, loving feelings for one another nevertheless choose to reside separately. Usually, they get together on a regular basis, but each retains a separate abode. People in a LAT relationship treasure their times together, and they equally value their autonomy and alone time. LAT offers the separation that complements our need for togetherness. For many, it provides the best of both worlds.
Why might you, as seniors, prefer a LAT relationship over marriage or living together?
- You each maintain your own home and private space.
- You each retain and interact with your own friends and social network.
- You each keep control over your own finances.
- You each pursue activities and hobbies which may not interest the other partner.
- You rely on each other for emotional intimacy and support without being together all the time.
- You celebrate your personal autonomy concurrent with the joy of regular close companionship.
- By not cohabiting 24/7, the time you spend together is ever sweeter.
Does LAT appeal to you? Do you live that way now? Any tips for readers who are considering LAT? We welcome your comments, experiences, and questions.
Mac Marshall, PhD is a retired anthropology professor, researcher, and author who is delighted to explore sexuality studies at this time of his life.
“How are you managing/coping with sex in this seemingly endless pandemic as we close in on a full year?” I asked my newsletter subscribers in March 2021. Several of you sent me your comments. One person – we’ll call her “Cat” – sent a personal story that was so joyful and inspiring that I asked her permission to post it here. – Joan
I am Cat, age 60, a widow for one year. My best friend since elementary school passed away last fall, and I reached out to her husband, B., to check on how he was doing, We started video chatting three months ago. Much to my surprise, our connection has evolved into a deeper relationship.
We now spend most non-working hours together on a virtual app, and we literally go to sleep and wake up together. We go on virtual dates where we plan a menu and a movie or comedy show to watch together. We cook our meal together (they often do not look quite the same!), set our individual tables with lots of candles, and eat together virtually. We buy tickets to online concerts and watch at the same time, talking via messenger while watching.
We use end-to-end encrypted programs such as WhatsApp or Signal App. The Internet isn’t perfect – it has frozen or dropped at the most inopportune times! – but this relationship wouldn’t exist at this time without it.
We share virtual bath nights using Signal App. He gets to see all of me and vice versa! And yes, we have virtual sex. While it is not the same as in person, it can be explosive. It is almost like we are in the same room at the same time. He satisfies me sexually more than I ever experienced before.
We discussed the possibility of a visit, and as I knew what I hoped would happen, I requested and we agreed to have STI testing done as a prerequisite. We agreed to self-isolate to the best of our ability for two weeks, limiting contact to anyone else, wearing a mask and social distancing when errands could not be avoided.
He came for a two-week visit and oh, what an amazing time! He awoke something in me that I thought was dead. For the first time in years, I felt sexually satisfied. I loved waking up in his arms and was comfortable talking with him about anything. I wish it could have gone on forever, but he had to go back home to work.
We want to be together, but it is complicated as we are both five years away from retirement and live 16 driving hours from each other. His adult children are not happy that he is already seeing someone when their Mom just passed away last fall, and they are making it hard for him. Fortunately, my children just want me to be happy.
He is coming back for another visit, this time for a month. Who knows where this relationship will go, but I know where I would like it to go!
If you’re dating (or trying to date), I’d like your input:
Let’s say you met someone, either through online dating or some other way. It seemed to have potential as you started to spend time together and get to know each other, but soon you realized it wasn’t going to work out.
Which of these do you do?
- Say something like “I’m sorry, but I don’t see us as a match,” with a kind explanation.
- Say something like “I’m sorry, but I don’t see us as a match,”, but with no explanation.
- Give an explanation that you know will hurt, but will definitely end things.
- Give the true reason you want to end it.
- Make up an excuse, e.g. decided to get back with an ex, or not ready to date again, or …?
- “Ghost” or “fade away”: you say nothing but don’t get in touch or respond when the other person contacts you.
- Other? (Please explain.)
Now switch roles. If you’ve been on the receiving end of any of the above, which one(s) left you feeling okay? Awful? If rejection has to happen, how do you want to be rejected?
Do your answers change in any way if you and this new person have been sexual?
Please comment, and although you don’t need to give your real name (please choose something other than “Anonymous”), please include your real age. I’d like to contrast the views of our over-50 age group with those younger.
I look forward to your comments!
I’m talking about a relationship that is sexual but also a solid friendship — we like each other in and out of bed — yet it’s not a committed relationship and will not become one.
We’re not partners and we’re not dating exactly — we just get together when we both want to, and sex is usually part of the package. We stay in touch in between times together. We’re both free to pursue and explore other relationships. We don’t have goals of our FWB becoming more (or different) than the way we’re enjoying each other right now. It is what it is, and we like that.
It’s not the same as a “hookup” or “bootie call” because we share an emotional closeness — yet without any expectations or restrictions about what we do when we’re not together.
What do you think? Is “friends with benefits” a good enough term? Or does that sound too casual or non-caring? One person suggested “limited relationship” as opposed to “committed” or “primary” relationship, but that seems to emphasize what it isn’t rather than what it is. I suggested “lover-friends.” I hope you’ll add your point of view.
I hope you’ll post a comment using a first name of your choice (choose something other than “anonymous”), plus your age, please, so we can see how our generation thinks.
Notes about comments:
Thank you in advance for commenting!
Some people have reported problems commenting. If this happens to you, please email me your comment (with the name under which you want it posted and your real age) and I’ll post it for you. I delete comments that attempt to spam my blog or hijack my readers to a commercial site that I do not endorse.