Living apart after so many years of marriage but still being together seems to be a formula which is catching on very quickly. The Japanese have even coined a phrase to describe it: ‘graduation from marriage’. Now the phenomenon is said to be spreading to South Korea where older couples who still love each other, but want fresh adventures, opt to live apart.
With careers reaching an end and children gone, more married couples are choosing to live apart and pursue the dreams they were earlier denied in a society governed by strict Confucian values.
According to a survey by one matchmaking service in Korea, 63% of women and 54% of men like the idea of greater independence in later life, a gender divide also reflected in Japan.
The term ‘sotsukon’, which combines ‘sotsugyo’ (for ‘graduation’) and ‘kekkon’ (for ‘marriage’), was coined there in 2004 in a book by the author Yumiko Sugiyama, recommending the graduation from marriage.
In a nation with an ageing population where the longest period in a woman’s life is increasingly after her children are grown up the idea took hold. It also has celebrity endorsements. In 2013, Japanese comedian Akira Shimizu and his wife announced they would graduate marriage and produced another book, Sotsukon – A New Form of Love.
Doctor Jason Danely, senior lecturer in anthropology of Japan at Oxford Brookes University, said it was little surprise that the phenomenon was now gaining ground in Korea. ‘They’re both facing similar problems: rapidly ageing populations and issues of family and gender.’
With the advancement of medicine and the improvement of living standards, the elongation of life has become a reality which requires a different kind of outlook. Traditional ways of living give way to a less defined love life in order to reinvigorate what was once an adventure that has run out of steam. A new one is then likely to offer an extended dimension.