European Journal of Population

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 313–336 | Cite as

Moving in or Breaking Up? The Role of Distance in the Development of Romantic Relationships

  • Sandra KrapfEmail author


Most romantic relationships start with a living apart together (LAT) phase during which the partners live in two separate households. Over time, a couple might decide to move in together, to separate, or to remain together while maintaining their nonresidential status. This study investigates the competing risks that partners in a LAT relationship will experience the transition to coresidence or to separation. We consider the amount of time LAT partners have to travel to see each other to be a key determinant of relationship development. For our statistical analyses, we use seven waves of the German Family Panel Pairfam (2008/2009–2014/2015) and analyze couples in the age group 20–40 years. We distinguish between short-distance relationships (the partners have to travel less than one hour) and long-distance relationships (the partners have to travel one hour or more). Estimating a competing risks model, we find that couples in long-distance relationships are more likely to separate than those living in close proximity. By contrast, the probability of experiencing a transition to coresidence is lower for LAT couples in long-distance than for those in short-distance relationships. Interaction analyses reveal that distance seems to be irrelevant for the relationship development of couples with two nonemployed (unemployed, in education or other inactive) partners.


Living apart together Long-distance relationships Transition to coresidence Separation Travel time Relationship progression Cohabitation 



The research for this paper is part of the project “Partner relationships, residential relocations and housing in the life course” (PartnerLife). Principal investigators: Clara H. Mulder (University of Groningen), Michael Wagner (University of Cologne) and Hill Kulu (University of St. Andrews). PartnerLife is supported by a grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO, Grant No. 464-13-148), the Deutsche ForschungsGemeinschaft (DFG, Grant No. WA1502/6-1) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC, Grant No. ES/L01663X/1) in the Open Research Area Plus scheme. I thank Michael Wagner, Clara Mulder, Lisa Schmid and Julia Mikolai for their valuable comments on an earlier version of this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Sociology and Social PsychologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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