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Questionnaire responses continue to grow

We had a phenomenal response to our survey! 2,269 respondents have now completed the questionnaire in the first 4 weeks. But we are not complacent and the more people who fill out the questionnaire, the more we will be able to say about the diversity of ways in which people are experiencing long-term relationships, as well as anything that people who stay together have in common.

The dramatic success rate last week was partly achieved because the Open University OpenNews student edition mentioned the research. Meg Barker did a fantastic job describing the Enduring Love? project in the Society Matters blog on Platform.

Meg explains the question mark in Enduring Love? that gives the title a double meaning. So we're finding out what makes an enduring love, as well as what the experience is like when love itself becomes something to be endured. Of course, many relationships include elements of both these things: when times are hard the relationship feels like something to be endured, and when things are going well the 'enduring' nature of the relationship is something that may be celebrated. Is 'enduring love' a love that is flexible enough to shift and change over time as the situation demands it?

Naturally, the situation demands that on Valentine's Day we're to celebrate our couple relationship regardless of whether it is 'endured' or 'enduring' on the 14 February.

I was invited to a lecture organised by the charity Marriage Care last week. Professor Scott Stanley from the US gave a very interesting lecture into his research into the 'commitment' rates of cohabiting and married couples in the US. The study found that cohabiting women were more dedicated than their male partners. Stanley also found evidence that constraints such as having a joint bank account make it less likely that couples, and particularly women, think they will break up, regardless of relationship dedication (link below).

Stanley coins the concept of 'sliding' into cohabitation versus 'deciding' to get married. According to his research, two thirds of cohabitating couples said that they slid into cohabitation as opposed to having made a decision to live together.

'Sliding' versus 'deciding' are catchy terms but I don't think we should think of cohabitation and marriage in those binary terms nor assume that cohabitees necessarily slide into their living arrangement. In terms of women's supposed higher level of commitment, I would question the way men and women report 'commitment'. Could it be that men tend to underreport and women overreport?

What stuck in my mind though was the importance of material constraints in shaping the way we live. How shared rental agreements, shared mortgages and shared bank accounts bind couples together. Seen through a different lens though, can the act of signing up for a shared bank account be seen as the cohabiting couple 'deciding' on a future together?

This is my fourth blog; ever. Thanks in advance for your all your comments and suggestions.

Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. & H. J. Markman (2012) A Longitudinal Investigation of Commitment Dynamics in Cohabiting Relationships, Journal of Family Issues, 33: 3, pp.369-390

Contact us

For further details on the project and all media enquiries, please contact: 

Principal Investigator

Professor Jacqui Gabb

Chair of Sociology and Intimacy


The Open University
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
School of Social Sciences and Global Studies
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes