Much can be learned about the nature and meaning of close relationships by studying language use. This qualitative study explores the process of defining relationships and choosing partner reference terms among an understudied population—living apart together (LAT) couples in older adulthood. Twenty-five men and women aged 60 years and older were interviewed about their LAT relationships. Grounded theory analyses demonstrated that participants chose terms by trial and error through a process of meaning making. Terms associated with youth culture (e.g., girlfriend, boyfriend) were spurned, although they were commonly used for lack of age-appropriate alternatives. Participants defined LAT by drawing contrasts to dating and marital relationships. Practical implications and future directions for research are discussed.
- Couple/marital/romantic relationships
- family communication and interaction
- family relationships
- grounded theory
- later-life families