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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Young adults are slowing the road to marriage with "stayover relationships," a dating trend that allows them to enjoy committed relationships without living together, new research shows.
A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia revealed that as an alternative to fully cohabiting couples are spending three of more nights together a week and still maintaining their own homes, which could help to explain recent U.S. census data that indicates people are getting married later.
"Instead of following a clear path from courtship to marriage, individuals are choosing to engage in romantic ties on their own terms -- without the guidance of social norms," said Tyler Jamison, a researcher in the university's Department of Human Development and Family Studies.
"There is a gap between the teen years and adulthood during which we don't know much about the dating behaviors of young adults. Stayovers are the unique answer to what emerging adults are doing in their relationships."
The findings, which are published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, are based on interviews with college-educated adults in committed relationships.
Jamison and the co-author of the study, Lawrence Ganong, found that comfort and convenience are the biggest attractions of stayover relationships among young adults, which allow them to maintain a form of control over the pace of their relationship and their possessions.
"None of them saw themselves as cohabiters," Jamison explained, even if they spent six or seven nights together. "It is interesting how separate they felt about their living arrangements to the point where they would act like a guest in the other person's place."
The need to control the pace of the relationship is mostly based on timing with many young adults not at a point in their lives to make long-term commitments. The stayovers acts as a stopgap measure between casual dating and long-term commitments.
"It is not a different relationship form," Jamison said. "It is one thing that people do while dating."
Reporting by Paula Rogo; editing by Patricia Reaney