The Week – Couple rebellion in time for school

Couples have purposefully made the choice to stay in committed, monogamous relationships, with an individual twist: they get to live alone

Couples — and not just the young ones — are more often choosing to live apart in committed, monogamous relationships, says a UVic study.

The annual back-to-school week has famously marked that time when couples have to make the decision: together, or apart? But University of Victoria researchers have recently found a whole new breed of couple: the ones willing to be together and apart.

“This is a fascinating investigation to look into, because there has been no literature on this subject,” says Dr. Karen Kobayashi, assistant professor and research affiliate with UVic’s Centre on Aging. “We’ve seen an increasing number of people having to do these ‘commuter’ relationships, and it’s an interesting phenomenon that is only going to increase.”

The study isn’t focusing on your traditional long-distance affair. The couples that Kobayashi and research partner Laura Funk, out of University of Manitoba, are studying have purposefully made the choice to stay in committed, monogamous relationships, with an individual twist: they get to live alone.

“What we’ve found so far is that a lot of the couples are coming to us and saying, ‘Thank you, this will finally validate our lifestyle — we’re so tired of explaining our choices to our families’.”

While Kobayashi says there are couples who wish they could live together, but can’t due to work or studies, the majority of couples reflected in the interviews have been middle-aged adults who otherwise could choose to bunk in together, but instead opt for a fifth-wheel parked in someone’s property, or maintaining two apartments in the same city.

A study in 2003 showed that nearly 57 per cent of couples in the 20 to 29 age group lived this way, while only 11 per cent of couples over the age of 50 chose the Living Apart Together (LAT) setup. Now, Kobayashi says the findings have tipped the scales dramatically.

“The majority of our age group for this study is over 35, and we’re seeing women who want their independence, men who want their space, and people who have experienced divorce and separation who want to be much more careful with their relationships this time around,” says Kobayashi.

The study launched last April with a one-year funding grant, but only began collecting data recently. While the researchers have been inundated with responses from LAT couples, Kobayashi says they still welcome anyone who wishes to be involved in a future study. Currently, their aim is to issue results in spring of 2012, then secure funding for a national study.

“This is really the springboard for much deeper research,” says Kobayashi. “At university, we’re now seeing the first generation of children who fully experienced divorce, and it’s exciting to see what an important issue these LAT relationships are to them.”

School aid for divorcees

Speaking of the Generation Divorce, back-to-school divorce solutions expert Karen Stewart has offered a few tips for parents trying to make that seamless switch between life at home and at school in a two-household family.

While school time complications can range from who’s picking up and dropping off the kids to how study habits will be followed between households, Stewart  says the key is to have a plan, and a commitment to that plan. After that, let it be.

“There are always going to be different rules in different homes and, at the end of the day, all you have control over is your own environment. Trying to make your ex follow the same schedule and habits you want them to is a lose-lose — everyone is going to work best under their own terms,” she says.

So what if junior is coming home from Dad’s with unfinished homework, or Mom is always late on the pick-up? Stewart says remember who comes first.  “It’s tough, but with divorce, you can’t expect those familiar roles will stay the same … you need more communication than ever before. You need to mutually decide on extra curriculars, and not expect your spouse to relay parent-teacher information,” Stewart says. “It’s all your own responsibility now, yet you still have to work on a team.”

Happy birthday hemp club?

Happy birthday to UVic’s infamous Hempology 101 club, which turns 16 on Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Don’t light up too quickly, yet. The university will be blowing out the club’s candles with a new campus no-smoking policy, effective Sept. 1. No word yet on how officials or the club plans on handling its weekly 420 sits that traditionally occur on campus. For more on how to celebrate anyway, visit hempology.ca. M

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