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Cohabitation

Up until now, we have seen that married couples enjoy better psychological, physical and social well-being. However simply getting married does not guarantee the enjoyment of these benefits. It appears that like most things in life, you reap what you sow. Not everyone gets married however, and some couples may choose a relationship arrangement where they simply cohabit without expectations of marriage. Other couples alternatively see cohabiting as a form of try-out marriage, where successful cohabiting will eventually result in marriage.

Jeffry Larson, a professor of marriage at Brigham Young University and author of ‘Should We Stay Together’ argues that the belief that living together before marriage increases the chances of a successful later marriage is false (1). This is because couples that live together before marriage don’t report having happier marriages compared to couples that did not live together before marriage. Also, couples that cohabit before marriage have higher divorce rates.

The above argument is based on the reasoning that people who live together tend to be less traditional, and less devoted to fully committing to their partners. As a result, this makes the couples in a cohabiting union more likely to abandon the relationship when things go wrong (2). Larson proposes that unlike the marital institution, where the couples operate on a ‘for-better-or-worse’ principle, cohabiting couples often operate on a ‘for-better-until-things-go-wrong’ approach. In other words, marriage as an institution (unlike cohabiting couples) encourages couples to stick with the relationship when things go wrong.

This feature of marriage seems to be disappearing in modern society. Rather than try and improve one’s marital quality, most couples choose to leave the relationship once things go wrong. This is because, as a society, we are now more preoccupied with the notion of ‘having it all’. The truth, (which most people know but choose to ignore), is that life is not a Danielle Steel novel or romantic comedy, where people get married to their soul mates and live happily ever after. Marriage should be approached like most things in life. One must be willing to compromise, work hard and have realistic expectations.

References

(1) Larson, H. J. (2001). The Verdict on Cohabitation versus Marriage. Retrieved 2009-06-02, from
http://marriagefamilies.byu.edu/issues/2001/january/cohabitation.aspx

(2) Larson, H. J. (2001). The Verdict on Cohabitation versus Marriage. Retrieved 2009-06-02, from
http://marriagefamilies.byu.edu/issues/2001/january/cohabitation.aspx

 
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