A reader asks Joan how to tell her long-time lover she doesn’t want to move in with him.
If you’re a couple in love, does it necessarily follow that you should live together, or want to? My lover thinks so — I don’t! We’ve been a committed couple for two years. I love being with him and I love being apart from him. Is something wrong with me? Or can we, as seniors, change the rules and expectations?
I am a 65-year-old woman, on my own since a reasonably amicable divorce 12 years ago. I’ve had a social life and occasional sex partners during that time and have never had reason to feel lonely.
Two years ago, Carl and I met on OKCupid and fell in love. We’ve been a couple ever since. Carl, a widower, lives 40 miles away, and I stay at his house about half the week. We have a marvelous sex life, thanks to good communication and a drawerful of vibrators! Neither of us is interested in marrying again. Our adult children are happy we’ve found each other.
To Move in…or Not?
Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? The problem is this: he thinks that since we get along so well, I should move in with him, saving the time and expense of all that driving, and not requiring planning in order to be together. He has a large, well-kept, comfortable house with an extra room that I could have as my private space. I have a small house in constant need of repairs. He says I’d get a nice profit if I sell it. He offered to put my name on the deed to his house so it would be mine if he dies first.
The idea of being with Carl full-time does not appeal to me at all, even having a room of my own.
The idea of being with Carl full-time does not appeal to me at all, even having a room of my own. I love being with him, I love my time alone, and I love being with him again after having time alone.
I’m used to my independence — eating dinner at 4 pm or 9 pm if I wish, making plans with friends without coordinating with him, and just plain being alone and making independent decisions.
How do I explain this to him? Do I need to change? I don’t know how to handle this conflict without hurting this relationship that I enjoy so much.
- Happy Alone and Together
How do you explain this to your partner? You just did — clearly, articulately, lovingly. Show him what you wrote to me.
There’s nothing wrong with you or defective in your relationship that you choose to live separately. Most of us need spaces in our closeness with another human being, even when the love is intense.
You’re used to enjoying the solitude and independence of living alone.
You’re used to enjoying the solitude and independence of living alone. You’re in a loving relationship now, and you’re happy alternating alone time with couple time. You’re not, however, willing to turn everything into couple time. We’re of an age where we can choose or invent our own relationship style. In fact, many seniors are doing just that.
The LAT Option
Many couples our age and younger are choosing to live separately, even if theirs is a solid, bonded relationship. This is even a trend, called LAT: Living Apart Together. LAT is a committed, intimate, romantic connection without intent to share a home. It fills many needs and has been gaining acceptance in our age group.
It’s like the song by Dan Hicks: “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?” If you’re together all the time, you miss out on missing each other. You don’t experience that sexy anticipation when you’ve been apart for a few days or weeks and — oh yes! — you’re about to be together again.
Plus, you genuinely enjoy your time alone and the spontaneity that allows you. That’s a priceless pleasure.
Why a Move-In?
Do you know why Carl is pushing you to sell your house and move in with him when you’ve told him it’s not what you want? Is it one of these reasons?
- He can’t get enough of you and misses you the moment you leave.
- He wants the comfort of a live-together relationship.
- He lacks his own interests, hobbies, and friends independent of you.
- He’s insecure wondering what you might be doing during your solo time.
- He believes that if you really loved him, you’d never want to leave his side. (Ask couples who were sequestered together through the pandemic how well that worked!)
Hear what he has to say — just listen without arguing — and consider whether there’s a way to address his concerns while still maintaining your perfectly reasonable viewpoint. Show him the resources below to help him understand that you can be happily in love while living apart.
- “LAT (Living Apart Together) for Seniors” by Mac Marshall. Be sure to read the reader comments, too!
- “Why Living Apart Together Is a Growing Trend: Two homes may just be the ticket to long-term love” by Iris Mersky Myles, AARP, The Ethel.
- “Older Singles Have Found a New Way to Partner Up: Living Apart” by Francine Russo, New York Times.
- “The Wife Left, but They’re Still Together” by Kelly Coyne, New York Times.
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Joan Price has been Senior Planet’s “Sex at Our Age” columnist since 2014. She is the author of four self-help books about senior sex, including her award winners: “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved.” Visit Joan’s website and blog for senior sex news, views, tips, and sex toy reviews from a senior perspective. Subscribe to Joan’s free, monthly newsletter.