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Guest marriage - European women openly talk about it and Russian women secretly dream of it. Svetlana Kolchik understands the thrill of living in two houses

Why are more and more people looking at the option of living in two houses - and does distance really help save a marriage?

Svetlana Kolchik, author of the recently published book “New Family,” talks about one of the main social trends of recent decades

visiting feels like home

Gemma and Yuri, residents of the town of Leiden in the south of the Netherlands, have been together for more than 15 years. They have two school aged children. But they have never lived under the same roof - and they don’t intend to. This couple is confident that they have found the formula for love without an expiration date. And perhaps a panacea for divorce.

In Europe, living in two houses is called LAT - Living Apart Together, in Russia - “guest marriage”. Another official term describing this form of relationship is non-residential partnership - “partnership without cohabitation.”

According to sociologists, in the Netherlands, Sweden and other Nordic countries, as well as in the USA and Canada, almost every tenth couple now chooses a guest marriage. And interest in this format of relationships is constantly growing.

When the owner of a coaching agency, Gemma, and civil servant Yuri realised that they were ready to start a family, they approached the issue of living together consciously.

“We decided to ask ourselves and each other: Do we even want to live together?” - says Yuri. - Most people say “yes” automatically, because this is accepted in society, this is the norm. Many people cannot yet imagine another way to coexist as a couple.”

Following the birth of two sons, the family still lives in two houses. They spend their holidays together. Weekends too. On Mondays and Thursdays the boys spend the night with their mother, and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with their father. The logistics are thought out to the smallest detail: the parents live twenty minutes away from each other by bike. A school and a kindergarten are located at approximately the same distance. Their children cannot imagine any other way of life.

According to Gemma and Yuri, those two or three days a week that each of them spends separately is “air”, which is so necessary in a long-term relationship. This is an opportunity to “breathe out” and recharge your batteries.

Plus, in a guest marriage there is a priori more dialogue, especially when there are children and you have to constantly discuss logistics. And a little less - routine and everyday life.

“Every time you kind of come to visit your partner,” Yuri admits. “You are more motivated to behave more decently: not to throw things around, to respect each other’s daily routine.”

Maybe don't grow up?

The term LAT appeared in the European lexicon in the 1970s, although many bohemians lived in guest marriages for years - for example, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and in our time - Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow.

Today, the growing popularity of this format is also facilitated by the phenomenon of “delayed maturation”, which is observed in many countries.

Due to economic instability and general uncertainty, millennials, and even more so representatives of the Z-generation, are increasingly postponing adult steps such as marriage or cohabitation, or having children.

According to many surveys, in the United States, for example, almost half of 18-29 year olds live in their parents' home. And in Russia, among those aged 18 to 35, almost a third of respondents continue to live with their parents.

“In Spain, many people even at 40 live with their parents or rent an apartment with friends. A guest marriage in this situation is very convenient,” says writer Masha Mozolevskaya, who has lived in Barcelona for the last 9 years and also prefers a guest marriage. - I got married very early by today’s standards, at 21. Before this, I had never lived alone: I immediately moved from my parents’ family to be with my husband. And now, since the divorce, I don’t want to live with anyone else except my son. I’m one of those who feel best with myself, so the option of a visiting husband is more than fine with me.”

Go to visit own husband with an international passport

In adulthood, especially if you have a history of marriages and children, the LAT format can become a convenient option - even if this means flying to another country with practically closed borders.

For example, Muscovite ceramic artist Olga has been doing this for five years. Her marriage to engineer Christophe from Paris is her fourth. And, according to her, the happiest.

“I’m 44, I already have two grown children,” she says. “Christophe is 46, childless and has never been married before.”

The Frenchman was frightened by the prospect of marriage because of the need to constantly share territory with someone. A wife in another country turned out to be an ideal option.

Once every month or two they meet for a couple of weeks, and also go on trips together. Relatives in Russia, however, do not consider them a “normal” family: why, they say, get married if you won't live together.

Olga sees only advantages in this format: “No everyday life, no fatigue from each other. Each of our meetings is an extravaganza, including in bed. Passion never goes away. And in the last years of marriage, I didn’t want sex with my ex-husband at all. Well, the main thing is that the rest of the time I can relax and be creative.”

At the same time, it is distance, according to Olga, that smooths out potential problems: “At some moments I close my eyes only because we do not live together. For example, my husband has not learned to build boundaries with his own mother: she can come into our house at any moment, rummage through our closets. If I lived in France permanently, this would stress me out much more.”

According to Olga, guest marriage is a worthy alternative to the standard “get married and start living together” scheme: “I am really glad that more and more people understand this. A guest marriage is not suitable for everyone and not in all phases of life. But my friends - especially those who have relationship problems - are quietly jealous of me. I tell them: “Why wait for problems - maybe try separation right away?”

There is no room for jealousy

Many adherents of the LAT format emphasise that not everyone can afford this lifestyle. Both partners must be self-sufficient - both financially and emotionally. According to psychotherapist Marina Travkova, author of the book “Infidelity. Why do loved ones cheat, is it worth forgiving, is it possible to avoid”, guest marriage can work under a number of conditions. These include the psychological maturity of both partners: willingness to trust, work with expectations and conduct adult dialogue. And also, of course, clearly thought out logistics - especially if there are children.

As for jealousy when spouses spend time apart for a long time, “If you want to change, this will happen regardless of whether you live in the same apartment all the time or not,” says Marina, co-owner of a law firm, a mother of two children who has lived with her Italian husband in a guest marriage for more than 20 years. Their relationship only began to crack during the lockdown, when the whole family was stuck in Moscow for a long time.

According to Marina, distance is an excellent test of the strength of a relationship. “Sometimes we separate for a whole month. And then we start to miss each other. You understand that this person is still a loved one, that you don’t want anyone else. Problems are forgotten. Moreover, my husband and I have the same values. We also like to spend our holidays the same way. And conflicts mostly arise over trifles. My husband gets wound up quickly, and in our case, taking time-out is much better than sorting things out.”

Now that they spend more time in Italy, this couple still prefers to live in separate apartments - their relationship is better at a distance.

“I don’t feel the need for my husband to be with me all the time,” explains Marina. “And I don’t understand how attraction can persist for years if you’re together seven days a week.” The fact that I don’t depend on anyone financially, of course, also plays a role.”

Personal space

“If you can afford to live separately, a guest marriage in adulthood is a great option,” agrees Morten, a sports equipment sales manager from Gothenburg, Sweden. Since his divorce, he has spent every second week with his partner for 10 years .

“In general, I know few couples who have a better relationship than ours: after all these years it is as good as new,” Morten boasts. “Taking a break from each other is very useful, but, alas, not everyone can admit to their partner that they would like to live separately.”

In Sweden there is a term for guest marriages: särbo. Statistics on such unions are difficult to find, but another phenomenon has long been known, indirectly confirming their popularity. Of all the countries in the world, Sweden has the most households registered per person - at least 50%. Of these, 15% are with a child.

Morten is confident that this option will be chosen more and more often in the coming years: “Sweden, on the one hand, is a very family-oriented country. On the other hand, we are terrible individualists, and over the years this trend has intensified.”

This trend is not limited to Sweden.

We live longer and usually have several long-term relationships during our lives. The concept of “norm” dominates us less and less. Instead of “need” in relationships, it increasingly sounds like “I want.”

The economy and lifestyles are changing. Millions of people are switching to remote work - in this case, personal space is even more valuable. It is possible that a guest marriage for many will be the most effective way to preserve love for a long time.

Svetlana Kolchik’s book “New Family” about family formats and relationships in Russia and Europe is already on sale.

Review of international social trends in the field of love, family and relationships from ex-editor of Marie Claire and author of the bestseller "New Family" Svetlana Kolchik in the telegram channel 'Is this possible?'

By: Svetlana Kolchik

You can subscribe to the author’s telegram channel here