The Case Against Cohabitation

by Sarah on April 16, 2012 · 7 comments

This weekend the New York Times published a very controversial and popular article entitled “The Downside of Cohabitation.” The article takes a look at the fact that cohabiting before marriage does not lead to successful and happy marriages. On the contrary, couple who cohabit tend to be less satisfied with their marriages and more prone to divorce. The article calls the the “cohabitation effect.”

A lot of the cohabitation effect can be attributed to different attitudes men and women have for living together:

When researchers ask cohabitors these questions, partners often have different, unspoken — even unconscious — agendas. Women are more likely to view cohabitation as a step toward marriage, while men are more likely to see it as a way to test a relationship or postpone commitment, and this gender asymmetry is associated with negative interactions and lower levels of commitment even after the relationship progresses to marriage.

However, these expectations are rarely discussed, as many couples just find themselves slipping into cohabitation. This in turn leads to lower expectations and sliding into marriage as well without any serious consideration.

NeW has written about cohabitation before. Given that cohabitation does not seem to be going anywhere (the statistics listed in the NYT article indicate it will be around for a long time), what implications will this article have on people who are considering moving in together? Does it change your opinion on living together before marriage?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry Dillard April 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Hope you allow guys to comment, because I fully agree with this research. Researchers in Colorado years ago noted that fully 86% of all relationships that involve not just cohabitation, but frequent extra-marital sex will fail at some point, either before or after cohabitation, or after marriage. If I took you to an airport and showed you 100 airplanes and told you that 86 would crash before reaching their destination, would you fly that day? Not me!

Contrary to popular thought, cohabitation isn’t a commitment, it’s a way to AVOID commitment. MARRIAGE is a commitment.

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Alyssa April 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Thanks Terry for such a great comment: of course NeW welcomes the opinions of guys as well! I am glad this article made it to the NYT and I completely agree that couples should not live together before marriage. Beyond religious reasons that a couple should wait to live together, this article provides great support that “testing out the relationship” by living together before does not lead to a better marriage relationship. Also, what’s so exciting about getting married if you have already lived with the other person??

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Ben April 16, 2012 at 5:52 pm

I don’t know. Living together entails a certain amount of commitment.

At least that is how I see it.

Both have contribute to paying the bills. Both have duties to the house (trash, cleaning, etc).

Living together can remove some of the mystery and romance; a huge factor of love development.

Like waking up to his snoring or she talks on the phone all the time.

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Terry Dillard April 17, 2012 at 7:45 am

I’d hardly call it “commitment” if all that’s involved in ending the relationship is packing up and moving out, or changing the locks. Look at the statistics again, 86% of these relationships will fail at some point.

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Alyssa April 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm

This is becoming a popular topic! I came across Bristol Palin’s blog on the subject as well:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bristolpalin/2012/04/put-a-ring-on-it/

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Uwe December 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm

You’ve got incredible info here.

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