Leading article: Distance loving

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The Independent Online

Spouses living apart: what's it all about? We ask because it is reported to be an increasingly common phenomenon, with even the Mayor of London reported to be trying it. Various explanations have been proffered for the growing number of "living apart but together" (LAT) couples. These range from the economic (the perverse incentives of the benefits system, growing affluence), to the social/psychological (people's modern independence of mind).

But is it a good idea? The lessons of history are ambiguous. Nelson and Lady Hamilton were kept apart by the call of duty; Napoleon and Josephine by his determination to conquer Europe. The love between the first couple flourished. Between the latter pair, it died long before Bonaparte's dreams of conquest.

Antony and Cleopatra made a go of separation for a while, with him in Rome and her in Alexandria. Things went really wrong for them when they got together. But let's go further back still. The marriage of Odysseus and Penelope, which survived their long separation, is surely the supreme example of LAT working.

And perhaps that last classical pair set the test for today's couples: as long as both can remember what the shared bedroom looks like, all can be well.