By Rose Pastore, published on November 1, 2011 - last reviewed on January 2, 2012
Today's typical romance résumé looks something like this: "going out" as a teen, hooking up in college, dating seriously as a 20-something, and then, sometimes, marrying around 30. That's nearly two decades of falling in and out of love before (maybe) making what society views as the preeminent commitment: marriage.
"People are spending more of their adult lives in committed relationships but not married," says Paula England, a sociologist at New York University. "That leads to these vague, intermediate steps." Three new studies examine how we love now. —Rose Pastore
Stayover Relationship: noun. A committed, monogamous partnership, usually between college students, in which the couple sleeps together three or more nights every week—sometimes all seven—but doesn't live together or necessarily plan to in the future. Stayover relationships breed comfort and convenience as a couple without sacrificing independence. "If you're a student, you know you'll leave in a year or so," says Tyler Jamison, a researcher at the University of Missouri. "Those leaps in life keep couples from talking seriously about the future."
LAT: noun. "Living Apart Together." A committed relationship in which members maintain separate residences. They don't spend the night together frequently enough to be considered stayover. LAT pairs tend to be older divorcées who have kids and don't want to uproot their lives by combining their homes. In a 2009 study, researchers found that LAT couples value personal freedom more than married people do, but both types value emotional dependence.
LTA: noun. "Living Together Apart." A domestic relationship in which two people who have children together continue to cohabit after the romantic connection has ended. LTA couples are usually low-income and urban, and during times of high unemployment (e.g., now), one parent may move in to care for the kids while the other works. The reasons women give for being in an LTA are similar to pre-20th-century reasons for marriage: shared parenthood and pooled resources, rather than sex and love, a new study published in Family Relations notes.