This is not really a blog post per se, but I am linking to articles about the issue of cohabitation for my own future reference. Perhaps someone else will find the links of interest.
While stats can be interpreted different ways, many studies have found a multitude of negatives and problems associated with cohabitation in comparison to marriage. Stats and analysis will, of course, change as society changes. Research and analysis must be on-going. Studies (or new analysis) seem to show a decrease in the documented “cohabitation effect.” Regardless, I do not think cohabitation is a good idea, even if some negatives associated with it decrease.
There are different types of cohabitation. A mature couple who makes the decision to move in together, with marriage in mind, and who make the decision carefully and thoughtfully….is different than the troubling trend of “serial cohabitation” or “cohabidating.” (However, I am personally opposed to cohabitation even if done more thoughtfully and carefully.) And research shows that too many who cohabit did not have the idea of marriage in mind, but rather cohabitation was something they just slid into – it just happened, was convenient, and not much thought given to it.
The commonplace nature of cohabitation has contributed, in my view, to relationships being taken less seriously and lowered commitment. Should we be surprised at the serial cohabitation trend? No. Marriage is important, marriage vows should be taken seriously, and commitment through marriage is important. I simply do not agree with the idea of giving marriage a “trial run” by cohabiting first. It detracts from marriage and associated commitment.
While I am not even addressing it in this post, as a Christian, I of course have biblical concerns and reasons for being opposed to cohabitation.
Here are some links:
Working with Cohabitation in Relationship Education and Therapy: A lengthy academic research article with many references to studies about the problems with cohabitation. The meaning of marriage has historically been much clearer than the meaning of cohabitation is today. This makes it challenging for practitioners who work with couples or with individuals about their relationship issues.
A summary of our work on Cohabitation. A summary of various studies from researchers at the University of Denver. Easy to skim through and quickly see the summarized results. An interesting point: “These papers show the history of testing the idea that cohabitation can create inertia that may lead some people to remain in a relationship—even into marriage—that they would otherwise not have continued in had they not begun cohabitation. The more fundamental idea is that cohabitation is risky for some people because it makes it harder to break up before they have really decided, with their partner mutually, on a commitment to marriage and a future together.”
Moving In and Moving On. An article from the blog of the Institute for Family Studies. Some key points from the article: All types of cohabiting couples have become more likely than in the past to break up or not transition into marriage. Cohabitation seems to be moving toward being, unambiguously, a form of dating with no implications about the odds of marrying. [Cohabidating or serial cohabitation] It is emphasized that: If you want to marry, be careful about cohabitation. It is less likely than ever to lead to marriage, and people are increasingly cohabiting in ways that are associated with greater risks to the aspiration of marital success.
(Related to the previous link and to clarify: while cohabiting unions obviously break up often, they are harder to break off than dating relationships because it becomes harder to move out and move on. So some people get stuck in a relationship they would otherwise have not remained in.)
The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage. An opinion piece from The New York Times by a psychologist from the University of Virginia. It discusses some of the above issues. I liked this: “Founding relationships on convenience or ambiguity can interfere with the process of claiming the people we love. A life built on top of “maybe you’ll do” simply may not feel as dedicated as a life built on top of the “we do” of commitment or marriage.”
A Poor Substitute for Marriage. Eric Metaxas on BreakPoint interacts with the above article.
How Shacking Up Before Marriage Affects a Relationship’s Success. This article in Time magazine highlights changing data analysis, and how it may not so much be the shacking up but the age at doing so that leads to higher divorce rates. But I was fascinated by this: “Why get married at all? Why not just live together as long as it suits both parties? Marriage has been shown to have a bunch of physical and health benefits that cohabitation has not yet been shown to have. Some experts believe that’s because more unmarried cohabiting couples used to be among the less well off. But in a recent study of married and just-living-together couples, a researcher at the University of Virginia found that the brains of spouses responded differently to stress than the brains of living-together couples.” It seems that cohabitation does not create the same feelings of security as the commitment of marriage.
Marriage: Still the Safest Place For Women and Children. While from 2004, analysis of ten years worth of findings from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) shows that the institution that most strongly protects mothers and children from domestic abuse and violent crime is marriage.
The Science of Shacking Up. Interview with an author by Christianity Today. I liked the point that: “Cohabitation cuts down on commitment. The message of living together is, “I’d really only like to take part of you. And maybe some time later I’d like to take all of you.” No wonder so many cohabitation couples break up or fall into unhealthy patterns. The relationship defines itself by a holding back of commitment.“