Commuter Couples and Distance Relationships: Living Apart Together


  • Mary Holmes

Document type: Encyclopedia Entry

Appears in: Work and Family Encyclopedia

Year: 2009


  • Demographics
  • Dual-earner
  • Flexible Work Arrangements/Flexibility
  • Gender


  • Sociology


Loving couples are usually expected to live together, but there are a variety of types of couple relationships in which partners do not share a household. Living apart together will be the term used to cover all of these non-cohabitational relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual, married or unmarried. Living apart together couples have an ongoing self-defined couple relationship without everyday cohabiting (Levin & Trost, 1999, pp. 280-281). Some living apart together couples live nearby and others further away. Those who live further apart will be referred to as commuter couples and/or distance relationships. Couples living apart together each have their own “home,” so this does not include young couples still living with parents. Some argue that those living apart together are different from commuter couples in giving roughly equal importance to each home. Commuter couples and distance relaters supposedly have a main household and a second apartment, which the commuter travels between (Levin, 2004). However, this distinction is not maintained here because research suggests that most commuter couples and distance relaters give each partner’s household fairly equally importance and take turns to travel between them (Gerstel & Gross, 1984; Holmes, 2004, 2006). Commuting and distance relating usually refers to partners who live apart because they have professional careers that are difficult for them to pursue within the same town. Most dual-career couples find that they need to live apart, or, at a minimum, consider the prospect of living apart together, in order to establish careers in their professions or in order to be promoted (Green, 1997; Gross, 1980). The term “distance relationship” is sometimes used to focus on the particular issues associated with pursuing an intimate couple relationship whilst living far apart (Holmes, 2004). However, “commuting” and “distance” can be used interchangeably to describe non-cohabitation across different locations.

Link: Commuter_Couples encyclopedia