Families, Relationships and Societies
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Enduring commitment: older couples living apart

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  • 1 The Open University, UK
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As people live longer, there is an increasing possibility of couples becoming separated because one partner moves into a care home. Our qualitative mixed-method pilot study in an English town involved eight married couples aged over 65 years to explore experiences and practices of couplehood in these circumstances. This article focuses on the most striking emergent element of expressed couplehood in these now challenged long-term relationships: commitment. Drawing on in-depth (biographical) individual and joint interviews, observations and emotion maps, this article explores how separation affected the couples’ current sense and enactment of commitment to the relationship. Commitment in the partnership is now often one-sided. How committed the community-living partner feels – and its enactment – is heavily shaped by the shared history of happy and unhappy periods in the relationships, current contextual constraints, and family and institutional support.

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