( dpa )- Some couples have separate bedrooms. Others go a step further and have separate households even though they are living in a committed relationship.
This trend, known as Living Apart Together (LAT), is catching on in German cities, according to a new study by Berlin's Humboldt University.
"It has become particularly popular with couples in their late 30s," says Wiebke Neberich , who conducted the research.
"They see this as an attractive and long-term alternative to a conventional relationship, unlike younger couples who often view it as a temporary solution," she said.
Her study showed the number of LAT relationships growing from 11.6 per cent in 1992 to 13.4 per cent in 2006. For women over 38 the percentage rose from 4.7 to 7.9, while for men it grew from 4.6 to 8.4 per cent.
"That is a proportional increase of 70 to 80 per cent," she said. "The bigger the city the more LATs there are," she added.
Neberich's research showed that LAT couples were just as happy as those who shared a home together, especially if they were independent, both personally and financially.
Brigitte Daniel and her boyfriend, Peter, lived in a LAT relationship for four years after both going through failed marriages and cohabiting relationships.
"It worked out very well," said Daniel, who kept a three-room apartment in a Hamburg suburb, while Peter lived in his own house just outside the north German port city.
The couple, both in their early 50s, recently decided to move in together after Daniel was made redundant and could no longer afford the rent for her apartment.
Daniel and her friend are one of four categories of people that social scientists say opt for a living apart relationship.
Others are couples who have bought or rented their own hopes and want to keep them as well as professionals who work in different cities. The fourth group is the widowed who want to ensure that their children inherit their property.
A study conducted on behalf of the German Youth Institute showed that mothers living in LAT relationships were just as happy as those in cohabiting partnerships.
"A sense of well-being depends not on the form of household but on the presence of a partner, regardless of whether one lives together or in a separate home," the study said.
"Mothers living in a LAT relationship are no different when it comes to experiencing stress or well-being than those in traditional families," it said.
To make an LAT partnership work, both sides should be clear on the parametres of their relationship, according to family counsellors .
One of the main rules, they say, is to communicate in some form on a daily basis to establish and maintain an emotional connection.