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

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Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

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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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