Chinese Women in Living Apart Together Relationships

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Shuang QIU, University of York, United Kingdom
The past decade has seen a rise in the western world of couples living separately, bringing about changes in individual personal life and a transformation of intimate relationships. Similarly, in contemporary China, some couples live in separate households, but still keep their relationship. Although some of the reasons for couples living apart in China are quite similar to those in western contexts, such as job/educational locations, others are different. Such differences can be seen with the category of Chinese “study mothers” who physically accompany and take care of their children full time to provide them with optimal living and study conditions, relocating their residences next to their children’s school. Under such circumstances, the husbands have to work away from home for providing them with continuous financial support.

Drawing on 39 in-depth interviews with people aged between 23 and 57, this paper finds that even though some study mothers see positives and benefit from couples’ living apart together (LAT) relationships, increased child-care responsibilities, financial dependence, and loss of a career and support networks all suggest a negative impact on women’s personal and marital life. On the one hand, moving away from a focus on the role of wife can be somewhat liberating at the same time that the focus on motherhood can be overwhelming. And the result of these priorities can be a further distancing from the other part of the family—the husband. For men, finding jobs in urban areas and acting as the sole breadwinner has not only showed masculinity but strengthened his status in the family. However, men may also experience pain and anxiety because of work pressure and family separation. Therefore, in order to understand the embodied experience of Chinese study mothers in LAT relationships, we should recognise the differences in historical and societal context of each country.