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Why more couples are choosing to live apart
Surveys show three different types of couples who live apart together.
Traditionally, this meant marriage, although nowadays most cohabit before getting married, or splitting up. But there is a third choice: living apart together.
Not only is it surprisingly common, but living apart together is increasingly seen as a new and better way for modern couples to live. Surveys have previously suggested that around 10% of adults in Western Europe, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia live apart together, while up to a quarter of people in Britain statistically defined as "single" actually have an intimate partner – they just live somewhere else.
Living apart together supposedly gives people all the advantages of autonomy – doing what you want in your own space, maintaining preexisting local arrangements and friendships – as well as the pleasures of intimacy with a partner. Some even see it as "subverting gendered norms" – or at least that women can escape traditional divisions of labour.
But our research shows a darker motivation – people can end up living apart because they feel anxious, vulnerable, even fearful about living with a partner. And, despite living apart together, women still often continue to perform traditional roles.
While some who live apart have long distance relationships, most live near one another, even in the same street, and are together much of the time. Nearly all are in constant contact through text, Facebook, Facetime and other messaging platforms. And virtually all expect monogamous fidelity.
Surveys show three different types of couples who live apart together. First are those who feel it is "too early", or who are "not ready" to live together yet – mostly young people who see cohabitation as the next stage in their lives. Then there are the couples who do actually want to live together but are prevented from doing so. They can't afford a joint house, or a partner has a job somewhere else, or can't get a visa, or is in prison or a care home. Sometimes family opposition, for example to a partner of a different religion, is just too intense.
Third is a "preference" group who choose to live apart together over the long term. These are mostly older people who have been married or cohabited before. It is this group that are supposed to use living apart to create new and better way of living.
Fears and threats
Our research, however, based on a nationwide survey supplemented by 50 in-depth interviews, points to a different story for many "preference" couples. Rather than seeking a new and better form of relationship through living apart together, the ideal remained a "proper" family – cohabitation, marriage and a family home. But respondents often feared this ideal in practice, and so "chose" to live apart as the best way to deal with these fears while still keeping a relationship. Often they had been deeply hurt in previous cohabiting relationships, financially as well as emotionally. Some women experienced abuse. As Michelle* explained:
I don't want to lose everything in my house, I don't want to be possessed, I don't, and I don't want to be beaten up, by someone who's meant to love me.
Not surprisingly, Michelle had "built a very solid brick wall" with her current partner. It was living apart that maintained this wall. Another respondent, Graham, had experienced an "incredibly stressful time" after separation from his wife, with "nowhere to live and no real resources or anything". So living apart was a "sort of self-preservation".
Current partners could also be a problem. Wendy had lived with her partner, but found that "when he drinks he's not a nice person … He was abusive both to me and my son".
Living apart together was the solution. Maggie was repelled by her partner's "hardcore" green lifestyle: his lack of washing, sporadic toilet flushing, and no central heating (which she needed for medical reasons). She also felt her partner looked down on her as intellectually inferior. So living apart together was "the next best thing" to her ideal of conjugal marriage.
Some men found the very idea of living with women threatening. For Ben, "not a big commitment merchant", living apart together was at least "safe". And several men in the study hoped to find more "compliant" partners abroad. Daniel, whose current, much younger, partner lived in Romania, explained how his "whole universe was blown apart" by divorce. And how he felt that "females in England … seem to want everything straight off in my opinion – I just didn't want to communicate with English women at all."
Given these fears, worries and aversions, why do these people stay with their partners at all? The answer is a desire for love and intimacy. As Wendy said:
I do love him…[and] I would love to be with him, if he was the person that he is when he's not drinking.
Maggie told us how she "really loved" her partner and how they had "set up an agreement" whereby "if I do your cooking and your washing and ironing can you take me out once a month and pay for me". Even Gemma, who thought living apart together gave her power in the relationship, found herself in "wife mode" and did "all his washing and cooking".
For some people, then, choosing to live apart is not about finding a new or better form of intimacy. Rather living apart is a reaction to vulnerability, anxiety, even fear – it offers protection.
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.
- The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
- Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
- The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
Bradley Rivera via twitter.com<p>In 1963, the concave dish was built into a natural sinkhole on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The location was <a href="https://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html" target="_blank">picked because it was near the equator,</a> providing scientists a clear view of planets passing overhead, and also of the ionosphere, which is the uniquely reactive layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where the northern lights form.</p><p>Since its construction, scientists have used the Arecibo telescope to map near-Earth asteroids, detect gravitational waves, study pulsars, detect exoplanets and <a href="https://www.seti.org/goodbye-arecibo" target="_blank">search for alien civilizations</a>, among other projects. Here's a brief look at some of the discoveries and accomplishments made using the Arecibo telescope:</p><ul><li>1964: Astronomer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Pettengill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gordon Pettengill</a> discovers that Mercury's rotation period is 59 days, significantly shorter than the previous prediction of 88 days.</li><li>1974: Physicists Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr. discovers the first binary pulsar, for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics.</li><li>1974: Scientists use the telescope to transmit the "Arecibo message" to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">globular star cluster M13</a>. The message, when translated into image form, contains basic information about humanity and human knowledge: the numbers one to 10, a map of our solar system, an illustration of a human being, and the atomic numbers of certain elements.</li><li>1989: Scientists use the telescope to image an asteroid for the first time.</li><li>1992: Astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail become the first to discover exoplanets.</li></ul>
The Google-owned company developed a system that can reliably predict the 3D shapes of proteins.