Jennifer and her boyfriend had lived together for more than four years before they were married. She and her husband had a lavish wine-country wedding. The wedding was attended by the couple’s friends, families, and two dogs. Less than a year later, she was looking for a divorce lawyer. Jennifer said, “I spent more time planning my wedding than I spent happily married.” The most disheartening thing to Jennifer was that she’d tried to ensure that her marriage was strong. She explained “My parents got married young so, of course, they got divorced. We lived together! How did this happen?”
The reasons for cohabitation before marriage are many. Like Jennifer, I feel many believe that cohabitation will improve their ability to choose a better partner. People often think that by giving marriage a “test run” it will better prepare them for what is to come in marriage. Jennifer also believed that because they lived together before marriage it would protect them from the pitfalls of divorce. More than 60 percent of first marriages are now preceded by living together, compared to less than five percent of couples fifty years ago. Cohabitation has become a prelude to marriage, some see it as an alternative to marriage, and others see it as a better option than living alone because it is financially beneficial to share living expenses.
In the United States teenagers of both sexes desire “a good marriage and family life.” There has, however, been an increase in the percentage of teenagers who are accepting of living together before marriage, which is now well over half of all teenagers. Media portrays cohabitation as a way to determine if as a couple, you are meant to be. It’s not only teenagers that have this mindset, emerging adults who are categorized as 18-25 year olds, want to find a balance and find a partner who they can enjoy companionship with but also allow them time for independent activities. Cohabitation seems to allow the balance of a committed relationship with all the sexual benefits, but also have the freedom of not being married.
Both cohabitating and married couples expected fidelity in their relationship. However couples who had cohabitated prior to marriage were at a 39 percent greater risk of marital infidelity. If cohabitation precedes the wedding, the husband’s dedication to his wife and levels of satisfaction in marriage were significantly lower. Among emerging adults most people believe that they have a soul mate, and they desire physical attraction and sex; cohabitation seems like an easy way to get both. Not only does cohabitation affect fidelity in marriage it also affect the couples ability to solve problems. Spouses who have cohabitated before marriage showed more negative and less positive problem solving and supportive behaviors compared to spouses who did not cohabitat.
A strong marriage is something most people want. It was one of the reasons we personally chose not to cohabit. We wanted to start my marriage off on the right foot. There are so many benefits to being married over merely living together. Married people are more likely than those who aren’t married to be very happy. We can tell you that we are happier in this life than we ever were as single women. We also know from seeing our parents’ marriage of over thirty years how happy you can be after all that time. Even seeing grandparents in their marriages of fifty and sixty plus years before one passed away is a reminder of how happy one can be in a marriage and how devastating it can be when you lose the person you spent your life with.
Other Benefits of Being Married
Those that are unmarried have a significant increase in the hazard of dying for both men and women. Marriage promotes better health habits and greater longevity among men. Largely due to the care, attention and monitoring by their wives. Even among those considered in the poverty rate are shown to have better health. Being one who is considered in the poverty rate I know my husband and I have benefited from our marriage. Overall we have only been sick a number of times. We are also able to keep each other on track when it comes to eating healthy and exercising. Married people are less likely to have high blood pressure than those who are divorced, widowed, or separated. Married people generally live longer, are more emotionally and physically healthy and more likely to recover from cancer than unmarried people. Continuously married people experience better emotional health and less depression.
There is other evidence to suggest that those who are married also have a ten to forty percent increased income than those who are single or cohabitating. Part of this comes from people who are married are more likely to have a college education compared to those who cohabit.
Marriage is something that is really important to most Americans. Like Jennifer, many Americans believe to believe that cohabitation is a good way to strengthen future marriages. It is important that we share this information with others so that we can prevent people from making decisions that harm their future.
For more information and research studies on Cohabitation, go here.
Cori Godinez and Rachel Garland are both students at Brigham Young University-Idaho. They are studying marriage and family studies and will graduate soon. Cori has been married for three years and has a ten month old little boy. Rachel has been married for four years, and has a two year old little boy. Both are dedicated to their families and have a desire to strengthen all families.