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Enduring Love? > Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) that people raise when thinking about taking part in the Enduring Love? project.

Most of us are so busy getting on with everyday life that we don’t have time to sit back and think about what makes our relationships tick and what we do to make them work! You may think your couple relationship is the same as everyone else’s or maybe that it’s one of a kind. Do you actively try and do things like your friends and family? Have you been determined to take a different approach – and if so, in what ways and why? Taking part in the Enduring Love? project gives you, as an individual and as part of a couple, the opportunity to reflect on such questions.

Taking part also means you will be involved in important research that will reflect on the state of couple relationships in contemporary Britain. The information collected and the picture which emerges will then be used to inform relationship support and education services and the development of relationship and family policies. It is no exaggeration to say that your contribution is invaluable for the success of the project; in fact the project cannot work without your time and commitment. There’s no financial reward for taking part, but also taking part won’t cost you anything. The majority of people who take part in research such as this say that it’s been a rewarding and even enjoyable experience.

There are many different kinds of intimate relationship in contemporary Britain and so we welcome diversity in couple relationship experience. We are interested in talking to some couples who have children and others who don’t. It doesn’t matter whether you live together in the same household, across different households, or live-apart-together (LAT). We want to involve couples who are married or in a civil partnership and those who are co-habiting. You may be in a committed but more casually-defined relationship. You could be in a monogamous relationship or part of open or non-monogamous relationships in which other people feature significantly.

As you can see, we are not trying to standardize the couple relationship into one model and in the interviews we would want you to talk about how you sustain close, loving relationships with people beyond the couple, including children, parents, friends and lovers. However, for the purposes of this project we are focusing on how people sustain long-term couple relationships and we are therefore looking to interview only the primary couple.

We do not want to prescribe what constitutes a long-term relationship – it’s up to you to define. What feels like a long-term relationship may depend on your personal circumstances, the duration of relationships that you see around you, and your age. It’s relative! The only restriction is that both of you must be between the ages of 18 and 60 years of age.

Yes. We want to collect information from both people in the relationship. This is an important dimension for the project, not because we want to cross-check what you’ve both said against each other and work out ‘who’s telling the truth’. That’s not the point of the study - and it’s not possible either! We want to get both perspectives to see how couples manage to sustain their relationship, and this requires hearing what you both have to say.

You’ll be interviewed together and apart. What you say in the couple interview will obviously be known to both of you, but what you say in the individual interview will be totally confidential. Nothing will be divulged to your partner in any way.

You or your partner has the right to withdraw from the project at any time. We will respect your decision and will not make any attempt to coerce you to stay involved. If the other person wants to continue with the research, then we will complete all methods with them. To monitor the research process, we may ask why you or your partner left the project. If you do withdraw, then we will not use any information that you have given to us unless you give permission to do so. We will destroy all of the material relating to you and your involvement with the project at any time if asked to do so.

Taking part in the project will probably mean that you are actively thinking about the project for about one month and during this time the researcher will want to come and see you several times. This may seem quite a long period of time but you will need time to complete the different methods and you will also find that having a bit of time to reflect on what you said in between interviews is helpful. It will enable you think through some of the things that you’ve talked about. You may have recalled an event which is particularly relevant that previously slipped your mind, or you may want to add more detail to something that you’ve talked about, or may want to clarify a point or perhaps even change your mind about something.

After this research period we will keep in touch with you, to let you know how things are progressing. There may be a considerable gap between the intensive research period and the end of the project so if you want to keep up to date with how it’s all going you can visit the website. The research blog will detail what we’ve been up to and all the research highlights.

The amount of time which the researcher will spend with each couple may vary slightly, but generally speaking we expect that we will visit most couples between 3-5 times. All visits will be arranged at your convenience and we will do our utmost to be as flexible in making appointments on days and at times that work for you.

You could begin by completing our online questionnaire, which has been designed to provide crucial information on people’s initial thoughts about relationships and what enables couples to stay together. Some of the questions asked will be of the sort usually included on most Equal Opportunities forms, covering topics such as information about your ethic identity, age, gender, marital status, income level, number of dependent relatives and so on. This will enable us to see if certain opinions on relationships can be matched to different age groups, men and women, or people’s domestic circumstances for example. This information is anonymous and will be kept in the strictest confidence.

If you also want to take part you in the in-depth study then you should contact the research team.

Once you have indicated that you want to take part in the in-depth study, someone will make contact by either email or phone call. One of the researchers will then talk through the project. She will make a time to come and visit you, together, at home, at a time that is convenient to both of you. During this first visit the researcher will fully introduce herself and give you detailed information about the project. She will then read through a consent form with you and ask each of you to sign this. It’s then a matter of fixing up a schedule which works for you and arranging dates when the research interviews can take place.

The research team, Jacqui Gabb, Janet Fink, Jane Ribbens McCarthy and Martina Klett-Davies, all work for The Open University in the Department of Social Policy and Criminology. Information on our individual research interests and staff profiles can be found on the research team page.

We've all been vetted by the police through the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), and have up-to-date CRB Enhanced Disclosure certificates.

The content of couple interviews will obviously be known to both of you. However for material discussed in individual interviews, partners will only be able to read what you’ve said if you show it to them. We will offer you a transcribed copy of your interviews and this will be sent directly to you. We would ordinarily post out transcripts to your home address, with the name clearly marked on the envelope. However, if you would prefer to have your transcript sent somewhere other than the home address – for instance, to a friend, work colleague or to a centre or group meeting place, we will happily do so. Just let us know at the interview. Some couples may choose to share their accounts, while for others they remain very private. There is no right or wrong way of doing this; you should simply do what feels right for you.

Your interviews will be used to compile a picture of relationship experience in contemporary Britain. We may use what you say as a case study, that is to say focusing on your particular story as an example of how people feel and behave. Your story may also be used alongside several others, showing similarities of behaviour and feelings in relation to other couples.

The project is designed to provide a rich account of couple relationships at a particular point in time in our participants’ lives. Nevertheless, we would not want to rule out follow-up research and in the consent form you will be asked if you would be willing to be re-contacted at a later date. To this end, the website will be kept up and running after the initial 2 year project has been completed and we would be more than happy to hear from you after this time, although obviously you are under no obligation to keep in touch.

No one should be able to work out which couples took part in the study. We will make every effort to ensure that you cannot be identified, by keeping your identity and all contact data relating to you confidential. We will anonymise all accounts as soon as they are told to us. Transcripts will use a pseudonym, which means we give you a different name, and when we write up reports and/or articles from this research, we will always use this pseudonym. We will not say where you live and your contact details will be kept separately from the transcripts.

Enduring Love? is an academic research project that has no formal or informal ties to any family or social services agency. The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) which is not affiliated with any government office or social care service. The Strategy Group for the project does contain professional expertise from people working in the fields of family services and relationship support, but they are here in an independent capacity. Their role is to ensure that the project meets its aims and objectives.

In the first instance please speak with one of the principal investigators on the project.

Dr Jacqui Gabb, J.A.Gabb@open.ac.uk
Dr Janet Fink, J.Fink@open.ac.uk.

The Open University
Deptartment of Social Policy and Criminology
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
MK7 6AA

In the case that any issue should arise during the course of your involvement with the project, which cannot be satisfactory resolved by the researchers, then you may contact Meg Barker, who is a member of the Advisory Panel for the project and an experienced researcher in the area of family studies.

Dr Meg Barker, M.J.Barker@open.ac.uk

The Open University
Deptartment of Psychology
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
MK7 6AA

The Enduring Love? project does not offer couple relationship support services. Many of the UK’s leading organisations are, however, affiliated to the project. You can contact these organisations directly if you are interested in finding out information on the relationship support services which they provide.
The details of organisations can be found on the Affiliates page of this website.
 

The BBC also provides a useful list of relationship and family support and counselling contacts on their Health homepage

 

News

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