Have Your Cake & Eat It Too: How to Enjoy Romantic Relationships while Avoiding Caregiving Responsibilities

Seeking and finding love after divorce or widowhood is a common way to combat loneliness in old age. With greater longevity, evolving social norms, and rising divorce rates among those over the age of 50, however, older adults are increasingly finding that re-partnering in less traditional ways than marriage may be more favorable.

Though a popular arrangement in Europe for over two decades, one type of living arrangement has been gaining popularity in the United States: “living apart together” or LAT. Those LAT exhibit long-term committed romantic relationships that offer the same intimate and emotional support as marriage or cohabitation, but do not share (or intend to share) a home. Consequently, partners have minimal care-giving responsibilities. Women have generally been responsible for the familial caregiving of their children, parents, and spouses throughout their entire lives. So the idea of a partnership with limited caregiving responsibilities is particularly favorable for women who fear that marriage or cohabitation in later life will shortly lead to full-time caregiving.

More research is needed to uncover demographic differences in those likely to LAT. However, researchers know that those with higher socioeconomic status are more likely to report remarrying later in life. They theorize that, because those with higher socioeconomic status are more likely to have the financial resources required to maintain separate households, they may also be more likely to LAT.

For those interested in LAT, experts advise that partners should have detailed conversations about their respective expectations early in their relationships. For instance, both partners should express their wishes about their own care, and reflect on any financial or familial resources that may be available as alternatives to partner caregiving. With the goal of supporting women and changing gender roles, experts also state that, while women may feel cultural and social expectations to serve as caregivers, women should acknowledge that they have the right to choose other social roles if desired.  LAT may be just the solution to shedding those life-long burdensome caregiving responsibilities!


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Russo, F. (2021, July 16). Older singles have found a new way to partner up: Living Apart. The New York Times. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/16/well/family/older-singles-living-apart-LAT.html

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