By Liz Alterman
Gwyneth Paltrow, goddess of Goop and purveyor of strange terms such as “conscious uncoupling” to describe her 2014 divorce, has just confessed to yet another head-scratcher: She and her current husband, Brad Falchuk, may be consciously coupled, but they nonetheless live in separate homes.
Paltrow and Falchuk (co-creator of “Glee”) wed in September 2018, but in a recent interview with the Sunday Times, Paltrow admitted that they haven’t moved in together—and have no plans to ever shack up under one roof.
Granted, Paltrow added they do end up cohabitating around four nights per week. But the other three nights they retire to their separate abodes—a decision that makes some sort of sense given they’re both caring for kids from their previous marriages, and don’t think it’s right to force them into some modern-day “Brady Bunch”–style family.
“With teenage kids, you’ve got to tread lightly,” Paltrow has explained to WSJ Magazine in a previous interview, referring to her kids Apple, 14, and Moses, 12.
Meanwhile her inner circle, rather than gasp in horror, has responded with envious approval.
“All my married friends say that the way we live sounds ideal and we shouldn’t change a thing,” Paltrow explained, adding that her “intimacy teacher” (yes, that’s a thing), Michaela Boehm, lauded their living arrangement, saying it adds “polarity” to their marriage (whatever that means).
Sure, many long-term couples might fantasize about having more alone time from each other—but the reality is a stretch for a number of reasons.
Unless you’re megamillionaires like this A-list couple, buying and maintaining a second house is a financial strain few families can easily endure. And, even if you could afford separate homes, is this truly the new path to happily ever after? Or the beginning cracks to your own marriage’s “conscious uncoupling” down the road?
Why Gwyneth Paltrow’s living arrangement isn’t as strange as you might think
It turns out there’s an acronym for this phenomenon, and a dating app.
“These types of relationships are called ‘living apart together,’ or LAT relationships,” says Annie Cox, founder and CEO of Apartner, a dating website for people interested in long-term, committed, monogamous relationships that don’t involve cohabitation. “LAT relationships are a growing trend, as there is a pronounced shift away from traditional, full-time relationships that simply are not meeting the needs of many people anymore.”
In other words, Paltrow has plenty of company! And it’s not just the company of people who want to sleep around on the side or simply not settle down.
“We are not commitment ‘phobes.’ We just don’t want to share a residence or our space with our partner all of the time,” Cox states. “We know we don’t have to live together to love together.”
In fact, separate homes could be seen as the next logical step beyond the far more common occurrence where couples have separate bedrooms—due to snoring, different sleep schedules, or otherwise. According to the National Sleep Foundation, one-quarter of married couples sleep in separate beds, while 1 in 10 have full-on separate bedrooms.
Heck, check out the White House: Rumors have long swirled that President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have separate bedrooms, and given their travel schedules and many homes, we’d wager they rarely find themselves in the same residence as it is.
Even real estate agents have noted this trend among couples who have the extra cash handy for second homes.
Mary Beth Sales, a real estate agent with Iconic Homes in Beverly Hills, CA, says it’s not uncommon for her clients to live separately since, say, one spouse has to stay within commuting distance of the work office, while the other longs to spend days on end at a beachside retreat.
“I’ve seen husbands leave each Thursday evening to go to the couple’s second home on the sea for regular getaway fishing trips,” Sales says.
“In today’s modern world, more and more married couples are living apart because one spouse’s occupation requires extensive travel,” adds Dori Shwirtz, a Florida-based relationship coach. “This arrangement works quite well for many, and actually makes the time they do have together more enjoyable and meaningful. And for those who can afford two homes, like older established couples, this arrangement can work quite well. Like they say, ‘absence does make the heart grow fonder.'”
The reality and risks of living apart
Despite its uptick in popularity, many still believe that living apart could set the stage for drifting apart, and eventually splitting up.
“It is hard to imagine how a couple can foster the deep sense of intimacy that a rich marriage offers if they aren’t living together,” says Raffi Bilek, a licensed social worker of Baltimore Therapy Center. “It’s great to have your own space, to not have to worry about where you throw your socks, to have things your own way. But avoiding the challenges of relationships means missing out on the deeper pleasures and meaningfulness it can bring.”
Gita Zarnegar, a registered psychoanalyst and psychotherapist in Los Angeles, says it takes a lot of work, commitment, and good planning for these couples to maintain healthy ties and deep connections while living apart.
“Couples are not spared from the difficulties of being in committed relationships simply by living in separate households,” she points out. “Problems with couples who live in the same household morph into a different set of complex struggles when living under separate roofs.”
Her advice if you really want to make a go of having separate homes? “You have to come up with a consistent plan for family dinners and romantic exchanges,” Zarnegar says. “Family chores and children’s routines should be maintained and preserved at all costs. Finally, there should be a regular meeting to discuss the positive and negative exchanges and complications that result from living separately. Open and honest communication without shaming, dismissing, or negating the other is always the best way to preserve and safeguard the integrity of your relationship.”
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