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On Not Living with a Partner: Unpicking Coupledom and Cohabitation


  • Sasha Roseneil



The dominant contemporary normative model of sexual/ love relationships assumes a teleology in which some time after getting together two people instantiate their state of coupledom by moving in together. As a consequence, those who do not cohabit with a partner are generally thought not to be coupled. Social researchers have largely shared this understanding of intimate relationships, operating with a tripartite model of relationships in which people are single, cohabiting or married. This paper seeks to unpick the assumed contiguity of coupledom and cohabitation, and to deconstruct the category of 'single'. It draws on data from an intensive investigation of the relationship experiences, practices and values of people who are not living with a partner. It starts with a discussion of the prevalence of not living with a partner, offering a commentary on recent demographic data and quantitative research. It then sets out the methodology used in research, and describes the sample, before exploring the diverse practices of partnership and orientations towards (non) cohabitation of those interviewees who were in non-residential couple relationships. Three main orientations are identified amongst the partnered (living apart together, or LAT) interviewees: living apart regretfully; living apart gladly and living apart undecidedly. The individual and relational contexts of these orientations are then discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Sasha Roseneil, 2006. "On Not Living with a Partner: Unpicking Coupledom and Cohabitation," Sociological Research Online, Sociological Research Online, vol. 11(3).
  • Handle: RePEc:sro:srosro:2006-46-3

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    Cited by:

    1. Alejandrina Salcedo & Todd Schoellman & Michèle Tertilt, 2012. "Families as roommates: Changes in U.S. household size from 1850 to 2000," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 3(1), pages 133-175, March.
    2. Kim Caarls & Valentina Mazzucato, 2016. "Transnational relationships and reunification," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 34(21), pages 587-614, March.
    3. Inge Pasteels & Vicky Lyssens-Danneboom & Dimitri Mortelmans, 2017. "A Life Course Perspective on Living Apart Together: Meaning and Incidence Across Europe," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(2), pages 799-817, January.
    4. Aart C. Liefbroer & Anne-Rigt Poortman & Judith Seltzer, 2015. "Why do intimate partners live apart? Evidence on LAT relationships across Europe," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 32(8), pages 251-286, January.
    5. Arnaud Régnier-Loilier, 2016. "Partnership trajectories of people in stable non-cohabiting relationships in France," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 35(40), pages 1169-1212, October.
    6. Tsui-o Tai & Janeen Baxter & Belinda Hewitt, 2014. "Do coresidence and intentions make a difference? Relationship satisfaction in married, cohabiting, and living apart together couples in four countries," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 31(3), pages 71-104, July.


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