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

European Journal of Population, 2018: 34, issue 3, pp. 313–336
ISSN: 0168-6577 (print); 1572-9885 (online)

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.