Kourtney Kardashian is making headlines again this week, and yes, they're about her marriage to Travis Barker. Except this time, we're not obsessing over their secret wedding (or their opulent second wedding) – we're talking about their living situation.
Kourtney was a guest on the Not Skinny But Not Fat podcast and revealed that she and Travis still live in their own houses, even though they've now been married for months. "I think we’re in the place where we’re figuring out how to blend our households and our kids," she explained, adding that they have family dinners every Sunday and will spend nights together through the week, since their homes are just one block away.
"I carpool every morning. Then I go straight to his house and have matcha — he has it ready for me," she continued. "And then we have matcha and talk and hang out and work out together, and then we start our day."
I am loving that we are having this conversation, even if it's via the Kardashians. While Kourtney and Travis made this choice more for their children than their relationship, a high-profile celebrity showing that a healthy relationship can exist without the couple moving in together is sparking conversation around what we do because we want to, and what we do just because it's expected of us.
Globally, we approach cohabitation in a relationship in a myriad of ways. But the traditional trajectory for romance in Western culture (that Hollywood feeds us anyway), goes something like this: Meet. Date for several months. Become exclusive. Date for another year or so. Move in together, and sleep in the same bed. Get engaged. Get married.
The get engaged/married part has shifted significantly for younger people – Australia's marriage rate has declined significantly since the '70s, while cohabitation rates have increased. We're already challenging traditional norms around marriage, so it's only natural that the next step we question is living together.
I moved in with my boyfriend quite quickly. We technically "moved in" just for fun during lockdown, two months into dating. It worked so well that we then signed a lease. I love living together, but I have to be honest: I don't love sharing a bed every night. I was single for ten years, I like my space! I like stretching out and not being woken up by snoring, or sleep talking, or a 5am alarm.
Financially, we can't afford to move into an apartment with two comfortably sized bedrooms, but if we could, we'd jump at the chance to sleep separately. We've discussed it before and realised that actually, there is no logical reason why a couple needs to share a bed. A setup where we could each have our space to snooze? That would work perfectly for us.
Triple J program Hack investigated the history of sharing a bed a few years ago and found that historically speaking, it's a relatively new concept. It stems from the 1960s, and was likely a push against what was considered traditional prior to the sexual revolution – and it actually used to be very common for couples to sleep in separate beds.
Living in the same home after marriage has a longer history in Western culture, but is it part of the foundation of a healthy relationship? When you think about it, it's easy to take each other for granted when you live under the same roof – my boyfriend and I can easily spend a full week going through the motions if we're busy. If we lived apart, we'd likely spend more quality time together.
Ask around and you'll find plenty of evidence that living apart or sleeping apart can be at the heart of a loving relationship. "My Aunty separated from my cousin's dad around 15 years ago, and I don’t think it was a particularly amicable separation," my friend Emma tells me. "A few years later she started dating her current partner. They both had their own homes and own kids, so kept a lot of their lives separate."
Emma went on to tell me that when the house next to his place went up for sale, her aunt bought it. They now live a short walk away from each other. "They spend most nights together staying at one of their places, but still have their own spaces/assets/accounts. She’s pretty financially cautious, so it think it’s important to her to keep all of that side of things separate," Emma explains.
My friend John told me about a throuple he knows that shares an apartment, but one of them has his own room by choice. He just prefers to have his own space.
I still enjoy a lot of the intimacy I get from cohabiting, but it's not impossible to cultivate that intimacy without sharing a home. I feel like that's where we need a mindset shift – it's not that we all need to stop living with our partners, or get separate bedrooms. We just need to stop assuming that these traditional relationship structures work for everyone.
I find it really refreshing to hear celebrities talking honestly about relationship choices that are outside the box. However you feel about the Kardashians, they're a powerful cultural force, and Kourtney's modern love story is only going to help dismantle our commitment to traditionalism just for traditionalism's sake. Ultimately, it's important to make decisions that are right for you and your relationship.