Heather Lloyd-Martin lives in a two-bedroom hillside apartment in West Linn, Ore. Her husband, Ron Blanchette, also lives in a two-bedroom apartment in West Linn -- but a different one, perched atop the same hill, five minutes away.
Lloyd-Martin and Blanchette (pictured at left), both in their mid-40s, have been married for almost five years and have been living in separate residences the entire time. Though it's not the "traditional" living arrangement that most married couples adhere to, both Lloyd-Martin and Blanchette attest that they lead a highly fulfilling and happy married life. In fact, according to Lloyd-Martin, the distance only enhances and deepens their relationship.
"Our living arrangement gives us the best of both worlds: togetherness when we want it, alone time when we don't," Lloyd-Martin told AOL Real Estate. "We love being married, we just do things a little bit differently."
The couple's decision to live apart, what is widely known as an LAT relationship -- or "Living Apart Together" -- was a mutual one rooted in practicality. Lloyd-Martin, the owner and CEO of a successful SEO copywriting company, works from her home office and prefers to wake up and go to bed early. Blanchette, a construction project manager for Starbucks, works later hours and often participates in recreational hockey games starting at 11 p.m. According to Lloyd-Martin, the couple would barely see each other even if they did live under the same roof.
During the week, Lloyd-Martin and Blanchette keep in constant contact through phone, text and email. The couple comes together religiously on the weekends and one night a week -- interactions that Lloyd-Martin say are meaningful and special. "When we're together, we're together," said Lloyd-Martin. According to Blanchette, successful marriages aren't based on the time spent together, but the quality of time.
"Does it work? Yes. Are we happy? Yes. Are we swingers or bordering on divorce like some people believe? Nope," said Lloyd-Martin. "A major misconception is: People think that living apart means that you're not emotionally connected or you live an alternative lifestyle. I've been asked if we have an 'open' relationship and we date other people. This can't be further from the truth for us."
Living Apart Together
Lloyd-Martin and Blanchette certainly aren't alone: They join the millions of married couples in the United States who choose to live in separate residences (also known as "nonresidential partnerships"). According to a UCLA study, 3 percent of married couples currently live apart from their spouse, and this number is bound to grow if husbands and wives have more individualistic attitudes and increased income equality. Fifty years ago, a wife would most likely have moved if her breadwinner husband was transferred. But now, many women are making just as much money as their husbands, if not more, and might choose to stay put.
According to The New York Times, the steady drift away from the nuclear, traditional marriage model almost makes sense, given the dynamics of many modern married couples. Couples were less likely to eat meals together in 2000 than they were in 1980, and they were less likely to collaborate on projects with their spouses, studies revealed. A growing sense of independence within relationships, spurred largely by separate work and social lives, experts say, could lead more and more modern couples to live apart together -- or in some cases, live together but apart.
This is the case for Mike Mongo and Leonie Gordon (pictured at right), a married couple who live in the same beautiful house in Key West, Fla. -- but who have separate bedrooms.
Like Lloyd-Martin and Blanchette, the reason for Mongo and Gordon's separate living quarters is largely practical: Mongo, 47, a teacher, writer, blogger and public speaker, requires "creative space" and is accustomed to working alone by his own non-traditional work schedule. Gordon, 46, is a registered nurse who works 12-hour shifts and requires adequate, uninterrupted sleep each day. Additionally, Mongo said, she likes her soft mattress while he prefers his hard mattress, so the separate bedrooms simply "made sense."
"It might not work that way for everybody, but for two very-much-in-love people who are both active professionals, it keeps us both sane, healthy and supportive," Mongo told AOL Real Estate. "We love one another and share everything, but she has her space and I have mine. But we grow even closer."
Mongo adds: "Whenever we do sleep in the same bed together, it's like a secret vacation in paradise!"
Though Sharon Gilchrest, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage, thinks that LAT relationships are becoming more commonplace, she said that a lack of normal, intimate daily connections between partners could be detrimental to a marriage.
"By its nature, living more separately causes a couple to lose myriad connections that are essential for a healthy and happy marriage that lasts through all the ups and downs, that any couple will have over the long haul," Gilchrest told AOL Real Estate. "I have worked with a variety of couples that ended up divorcing after some form of 'separate living.' " But she concedes that she's also worked with married couples who have the luxury of two homes and are able to co-exist harmoniously in those separate spaces -- couples, she said, who would have most likely divorced had they lived under one roof.
Mongo and Gordon said that, for them, living under the same roof in separate spaces couldn't be a better way to live.
"I still smile inwardly at my friends who share the same bedroom, yet one partner inevitably falls asleep on the chaise lounge or sofa," Mongo said. "But whatever works for you and your partner and makes you happy together is the key."
See also: Make Your Home Romantic for Valentine's Day
Buying a Home -- Why Single Women Do It More Than Men
Prince Charles to Open Dumfries House to Couples for Valentine's Day
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