Study Reveals Perils of Living Together (Zenit 30 June 2008)
Perils of Cohabitation
By Father John Flynn, LC
Living together before marriage is a very common
practice for couples in many countries. Many defend it
on the basis that it enables the future husband and wife
to get to know each other better. Abundant evidence exists, however,
that cohabitation is more of an obstacle
rather than an advantage in preparing for marriage.
Michael and Harriet McManus recently published
“Living Together: Myths, Risks and Answers (Howard Books),
which documents their research on the topic.
The authors, founders of the organization Marriage Savers,
warn that couples who cohabit before marriage
are much more likely to divorce afterward.
There is a big difference, they say, between a permanent bond
such as marriage and just living together in a conditional relationship.
Typically in cohabitation the two individuals are more concerned
on obtaining satisfaction from the other person, they write.
In marriage, by contrast, spouses tend to focus more on giving
satisfaction to the other person.
One major problem with cohabitation, the book explains,
is that the two partners often start living together for
very different motives.
While many women look upon it as a stepping-stone
to marriage, men often look at it for convenience,
and not as a firm commitment.
Furthermore, the authors cite studies showing that typically
cohabitation is not a fifty-fifty division of expenses and burdens.
Women tend to contribute more,
both in terms of money and in domestic work.
Numerous recent studies also demonstrate that physical
attacks against women are much more common among
cohabiting couples than among married couples.
Serious violence and murder are also more prevalent
among couples who are not married.
Another concern is the welfare of children.
Michael and Harriet McManus point out that 41%
of cohabiting U.S. couples in 2003 had children
under 18 years of age living with them.
Yet cohabitation in place of marriage should
be considered a major societal concern.
An abundance of research shows
clear benefits for married couples, who are normally happier,
healthier and economically better off.
Research also points to a significant reduction in
these benefits if a couple is only
living together and are not married.
Cohabitation is a factor in spurring higher parenthood
due to births to couples not married.
It is also responsible due to the higher breakup rate
for cohabiting couples who have children
— which is more than twice what it is for
married couples with children.
He tied in the higher break-up rate to
the lack of commitment in cohabiting couples,
a point also mentioned in the McManus book.
Cohabiting partners, he said, “tend to have
a weaker sense of couple identity,
less willingness to sacrifice for the other,
and a lower desire to see the relationship go long term.”
He cited one study carried out in the United States
that calculated cohabiting couples break up at
a rate five times higher than for married couples.
Romance Without Regret