The Lowdown on “Shacking Up:” Ten Points to Consider Before You Move in with Your Significant Other

The Lowdown on “Shacking Up:” Ten Points to Consider Before You Move in with Your Significant Other

cohabitation 2Elise Ellsworth

“Should we move in together?” Many couples living together today never paused to consider this question. Living together relationships are becoming increasingly popular, especially among twenty-somethings. There are some very common sense reasons for this type of living arrangement: Lots of people do it now. How can living together be very bad if 4.2 million U.S. adults engage in the practice? You learn if you work well as a couple before making a major marriage commitment. A recent article from a modern relationships website pointed out that “couples who live together learn about each other and start to form an identity working as a team.” They can learn (or not) how to balance their relationship, careers, and even finances together. It makes more financial sense. The current U.S. tax system penalizes low-income married individuals with children. It’s easier this way. If you decide to go your separate ways there’s no messy divorce, no courtroom and legal drama.

But here are some well-researched facts to consider about cohabitation. If you decide to cohabit you are:

  1. More likely to divorce if you marry – That’s right – seems counterintuitive – but the statistics show that couples who live together before marriage are actually more likely to divorce. You are also less likely to be satisfied with your marriage. There has been one widely publicized study which claimed to have debunked the divorce data but its results are controversial as they apply to a narrow group of couples who – among other characteristics – only ever cohabited with persons they married and who were engaged when they began cohabitation.
  2. Quite likely to break up before you marry – About 45% of cohabitation relationships break up before marriage. A CDC study showed that after 10 years 62% of cohabiting couples as compared to 33% of married couples will have called it quits.
  3. Less Happy (on Average) – That’s right – married couples are generally happier than couples who live together.
  4. More Likely to Experience Depression – Research has shown that individuals in a living together arrangement are much more likely to experience depression.
  5. Have a Greater Chance that Your Partner Will Cheat on You – A study by Judith Treas and Deirdre Giesen showed that cohabiting couples are twice as likely to experience infidelity within the relationship as married couples.
  6. Not necessarily better off financially – The article “Why Marriage Makes Financial Sense” points out that the high costs of separate insurance plans, loans and even middle class taxes can more than negate the effects of the marriage tax penalty which applies only to low income individuals.
  7. Less Healthy and Less Productive than Your Married Friends – Yes, that’s right. Married couples live longer, are more physically and mentally healthy, and are more productive than their cohabiting counterparts.
  8. More Likely to Experience Domestic Violence and Abuse (if female) – For females, cohabiting is a dangerous arrangement with a study by University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite showing that 16% of women reported that arguments became physical in cohabitation relationships as compared to 5% of married women.
  9. Less Likely to Have a Satisfying Sexual Relationship – The same study done by Linda showed that married couples have more satisfying sex lives than those of their cohabiting counterparts.
  10. In a relationship that is harmful to children – Children in these unions suffer terrible consequences. A recent federal study of child abuse and neglect showed that children living with a parent cohabiting with an unmarried partner are more than 10 times as likely to be abused and five times more likely to be neglected than children living with married parents. The same study showed that children who live with their own parents who are unmarried but cohabiting are five times as likely to be abused and six times as likely to be neglected as children living with married biological parents.

If couples think that cohabitation comes without consequences they are misled. The ease of entering into a living together arrangement belies its serious consequences.

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