For anyone who has had to untangle assets after a separation, it's a long and arduous journey.
The legalities, financial loss and stress of separation are enough to convince many to never combine assets again.
This certainly was true for 68-year-old Alison Grey* and her partner, Adrian*.
Initially, Alison was surprised by Adrian’s reaction after he declined the idea of moving in together but, over time, she grew to understand the benefits of keeping their assets separate and enjoying some time alone.
They are among the many men and women choosing to live apart together (LAT).
LAT is a way of partnering where you can maintain a long-term, committed, romantic relationship without sharing, or intending to share, a home and other assets.
'Why would you want to change what we have?'
Back in 2019, after dating for eight years, Alison broached the idea with Adrian of moving in together.
“I remember saying to him, ‘We’re so good together, why haven’t we moved in together?’” she said.
“His response was, ‘Why would you want to change what we have? This works.’”
Both owned their homes. During the week, Adrian would stay over several nights, and then go back home, so they had nights alone at home.
“It worked out so well. Also, I’m a light sleeper and the nights he doesn’t stay, I sleep better,” Alison said.
“I do like my time alone, and I appreciate the bliss of sleeping alone. This helped influence me to not put pressure to move in together.”
She added that the benefits of having separate places kept the romance strong.
“I’m always excited about going out to dinner with him and travelling together,” she said.
“We’ve travelled all over the world and in 10 years, we never had a fight. He is a very generous man and pays for a lot of things. We share costs too, to remain financially independent of each other.
“He is a minimalist and has only what he needs - that’s his philosophy - whereas, I have accumulated a lot of stuff.
“He thinks I’m untidy. It’s these kinds of issues that people fight over [but] because we don’t live together, we don’t have to blend our likes and dislikes.”
'I resolved never to put myself in that situation again'
Prior to meeting Adrian, Alison was in a long-term relationship with John*.
With a successful career in the arts, she was the main earner in the relationship. John’s salary fluctuated during their entire time together.
“He never earned much, sometimes nothing for months on end, but we loved each other and decided to commit to each other,” Alison said.
The couple bought a home and moved in together. Alison paid for the deposit and the monthly mortgage repayments.
“I’ve always worked hard,” she said.
“I work in the TV industry and have always earned more than my partners. John was also in the industry, but struggled to find work.”
After 15 years, the relationship broke down.
Alison sought legal advice. Her lawyer informed her she would have to pay out her partner.
“This put a cold bucket of water over my romantic notions, which were about honour and fairness,” Alison said.
“My lawyer said, ‘No, this is an equal society, even though you were the major earner’.”
The financial pressure put Alison into a state of penury. She had to sell their home to pay John out.
“I took five to 10 years to get out of that debt. It was a tough time, I was paying back taxes and I had to pay him half of what we had together.”
She said the separation left an impressionable scar on her.
“One can believe in equality, but when you’re the bigger earner it doesn’t seem fair,” Alsion said.
“I paid for almost everything we had. I resolved never to put myself in that situation again.”
Five years after her relationship with John ended and prior to meeting Adrian, Alison almost fell into the same trap with her next partner.
“I had a narrow escape, thankfully. I realised I couldn’t do that again, I had too much to risk.”
A 'stress-free life'
She said her relationship with Adrian had been freeing.
“We each have our homes and my life is stress free and really enjoyable.
“This is actually what was right for me all along. The romantic idea of living together and combining assets no longer appeals to me. It might work for somebody else but not for me.”
The couple also said they would leave their assets to their own children.
“Right up front, I said, ‘I am leaving my assets to my children and you leave yours to your children’,” Alison said.
“We had a very clear understanding from the beginning. My children would miss out if I was in an arrangement like the one with my ex-partner, John.”
NOTE: *names have been changed to protect individuals' privacy.