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Living together in a sexually exclusive relationship: an enduring, pervasive ideal?

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Recent demographic trends constitute movement away from forms of relationship behaviour central to hegemonic heterosexuality. The perceived legitimacy of cohabitation, relationship dissolution and same-sex partnerships has also increased. Has a further shift occurred, among people not living with partners, away from conventional coupledom as an ideal? Using data from the second National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL II), this article examines trends and patterns in the incidence of sexually exclusive co-residence as an ideal future lifestyle. While subscription to this 'traditional' ideal varies substantially with age and other salient factors, it nevertheless remains prevalent virtually throughout the 'single' population. Furthermore, there was no marked change across the 1990s in this ideal's popular appeal, highlighting its continuing influence as a 'meaning-constitutive tradition' (Gross, 2005). Relationship practices and ideals thus appear to have diverged, with the former changing more. However, as lifecourses unfold, people sometimes relinquish the traditional ideal, not infrequently favouring 'living apart together' instead.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2016-03-01

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