A new study came out recently that highlighted a possibly new trend in the relationships of 18-29 year olds. It seems that they are choosing to be in committed relationships, spending multiple nights of the week together, while keeping their own apartments. Many report that this allows them to have their own space, while being seriously involved with another person. Although this isn’t a new type of a relationship, it may be a new category within a relationship status. Following this type of pattern allows couples to really get to know one another, which may help them determine if they want to create a life together for the long term. If they determine that they don’t want to stay in a relationship, the stayover trend allows them to get out much more easily.
While it makes sense that people want to know that they have an “escape clause,” if you will, why does it seem to be happening more now than in the past. I think that there is a much clearer separation today between being a teenager and being an adult. It’s called lots of different things: delayed adolescence, extended adolescence, emerging adulthood. This time period was not as prevalent in years past when people graduated from high school or college and often married their girlfriend or boyfriend of the time. There was the expectation in the past that you got a job, got married, had children. That isn’t as clear a direction for this generation, many of whom come from divorced parents and do not want to make the same mistake. There also seems to be a focus on independence in today’s culture, that will absolutely impact marriage choices. In a “stayover relationship,” individuals are able to maintain their independence while simultaneously being involved. Commitment phobic or smart?
It could be considered a smart idea, certainly, as people are spending longer in school and working harder to establish careers. This type of behavior within a relationship does allow for that. It also seems that people are focused on themselves more, figuring out what they want first before wanting to join with another person. Also, especially during one’s 20s, there are a great deal of transitions, so many may choose not to marry while they get settled in their lives. Maybe, in addition, this is a “test drive” for marriage?
In some ways, we have to admit, that it is. It allows for there to be opportunity to figure out if the marriage can work. Cohabitating does allow couples to work out the kinks in the relationship prior to having their lives fully intertwined and deciding to have children, and may help them to figure out how to improve the relationship so as to avoid divorce. Living together provides individuals opportunities to improve the relationship, learn about living style and really create a life together.
That being said, there is some other research that says that cohabitating prior to marriage may actually hurt a marriage in the long run. A study of approximately 1000 married people found that twice as many of the people who cohabitated wanted a divorce versus those who did not cohabitate.
The researcher found that there could be a “cohabitation effect”, which could include:
increased amounts of negative communication in a marriage
decreased levels of satisfaction
Maybe it ties into the “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” argument.
This juxtaposition regarding the pros and cons of living together ALSO gives some credence to the stayover trend. If you spend a lot of time with another person, so much so that you don’t want to be without them, maybe that is an argument for getting married rather than just living together. At the end of the day, each individual has to figure out what works best for him/her.
What do you think about the “stayover” trend? New or not?
Here’s a link to the segment I did on CBS’ The Early Show: