Today's generation are opting for "stayover relationships" that let them enjoy relationships without living together, a trend that appears to be slowing down the road to marriage.

Research from the University of Missouri-Columbia found that instead of cohabitating, young people in relationships are spending three or more nights together per week.

They maintain their own homes in the process, which may explain recent data that shows U.S. youth are pushing marriage out further and further.

"This seems to be a pretty stable and convenient middle ground between casual dating and more formal commitments like living together and getting married," says Tyler Jamison, a University of Missouri doctoral candidate and in the department of human development and family studies.

The "convenient" relationship allows for an arrangement that facilitates couples who are not sure they want to end up in a permanent relationship and do not want to end up living together if things go awry.

Jamison believes stayover relationships represent a general trend in which young people want to delay permanent relationships because they ostensibly want to finish their education or pursue other goals.

"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 Jamison to Reuters.

"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, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, are based on interviews with college-educated adults in committed relationships.

Jamison describes the phenomenon as one that has a number of benefits but not many consequences, but some experts feel it's a reflection of the general degradation of U.S. society.

"We don't want anyone hindering us from doing our thing," Aaron Turpeau, a licensed professional counselor and relationship expert in Atlanta. "You hear people say it all the time: 'You do you, and I'll do me.' Unfortunately, this obsession with independence leads to unhealthy human relationships."

He adds that what results is a large segment of young people living on the fence, never committing one way or the other.

"We don't value what we don't need, and we don't love what we don't value," he says. "I can say I want a relationship, but I don't need a relationship. I want a man, but I don't need a man. So we play house; we play marriage and as soon as we get tired, we go back to our own places."

Jamison will expand the research to examine unmarried parents, and suspects that people of all ages enjoy stayover relationships.



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