Seeking Semi-Honey Relationship?

An article on new words entering the Chinese language seems to have attracted notice from the news largely because of mortgage terminology, but I was struck by another term.

young, married professionals who live in separate homes to keep the romance alive and maintain their own space have been branded “Semi-honey couples” (“ban tang fu qi”), the official Xinhua news agency said, citing education officials.

This interests me on two levels.  One, of course, is the phrase itself.  Assuming we trust the English rendering, I wonder how the term came about.  “Honey” the endearment, in the traditional vein of comparing lovers to sweet things?  Or is it some sort of formation or back-formation from “honeymoon,” which never ends if you don’t have to fight over the toothpaste?  Of course, it could also be some third, uniquely Chinese idea I know nothing about.

The other is the idea that this kind of relationship is so widespread in China that we need a word for it.  The idea of separate spaces for married people has held a fascination with me for years; I thought it was some sort of fantasy of my own till I read in an interview that the novelist Robert B. Parker and his wife lived in different apartments within the same house.  For the most part, however,  people, even people who casually accept other kinds of living arrangements among their peers, find the idea simply too weird.

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