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The stayover relationship: Great for monogamy, or just delayed adulthood?

You better sit down for this one.

Young people are choosing to live their own lives, have their own apartments and still be in serious, monogamous relationships, according to a new study by the University of Missouri.

And before you fall out of your chair, you should know that researchers think this may be why marriage is on the decline and when people do marry, they are doing it at an older age.

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The study, which was meant to fill in the gap of knowledge about how young adults are managing their relationships, interviewed 22 college kids and recent grads in exclusive, committed relationships. Results showed that some of the couples liked to stay over - for the whole night! - at their partner's place anywhere from three to seven times a week.

The researcher, Tyler Jamison, says that stayovers act as a "stopgap measure," helping couples stay serious, but not that serious. You know, serious enough to want consistent access to casual sex, but not to the point of buying the couch that they're sleeping on together.

"As soon as couples live together, it becomes more difficult to break up," Ms. Jamison said. "At that point, they have probably signed a lease, bought a couch and acquired a dog, making it harder to disentangle their lives should they break up. Staying over doesn't present those entanglements."

Her findings also show that these couples were happy with how things were (presumably so, since they were together at the time of her interviews), but didn't necessarily see things progressing to marriage or living together.

Ultimately, these stayover relationships seem to be about control.

"A key motivation is to enjoy the comforts of an intimate relationship while maintaining a high degree of personal control over one's involvement and commitment," said Larry Ganong, a professor in the university's human development and family studies department.

This only makes sense, since Ms. Jamison acknowledges that part of the appeal of these stayover relationships is that people have a much quicker emergency exit when the relationship gets tough. Having your own apartment to pout in certainly helps a person avoid the real work an adult relationship takes. Though it does seems like a pricey insurance policy if the couple is indeed spending all seven nights a week together.

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No doubt a few of you are perhaps in these stayover relationships or have been in the past, and aren't sure why this study is making the news, as readers on wondered.

The study argues that these young couples are flying in the face of social mores that tell them to hurry up in shacking up, getting married and having babies.

Sounds a little antiquated, no?

Well, let's not forget these were kids interviewed in Missouri, where Southern Baptism rules the day, and in that context, maybe they are in the midst of a relationship revolution.

What do you think about the so-called "stayover" relationship? Is it a good idea for young people who don't know where their lives will lead, or is it an excuse not to get on with being an adult?

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About the Author

Madeleine White is the Assistant National Editor for The Globe and Mail. She has been with the Globe since 2011 and previously worked in the Globe's Video and Features departments, covering topics ranging from fitness and health to real estate to indigenous education. More

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