October 17, 2014

Premarital Cohabitation: A Snippet of my Research Paper

This session I did my research paper on Premarital Cohabitation for my Lifespan Development Psychology class. This subject hits a personal note with me because I am a strong supporter of it. You don't truly know someone until you live with them. Both Philip and I only want to be married once, so making absolutely sure about each other involved moving in together. At first when I started my research the information was strongly against my beliefs. But as I dug deeper and found more recent articles I found some awesome statistics and studies that support my view.

Cohabitation facilitates the kind of interaction that increases the knowledge of oneself and of a potential partner and of the kind of mutual adaptations that are so essential to a stable relationship. While there are several reasons couples choose to cohabit, one of the main reasons is to test the waters; to see what life would be like if they were married. But what effects does premarital cohabitation have on romantic relationships and/or subsequent marriage?

Cohabitation has been on the rise for several decades now.

The numbers above are a significant indicator of the apparent changes in the progression of romantic relationships between both different sex and same sex couples.

With couples waiting until after college and/or after starting a career cohabiting has become a step in the partner selection process as well as a transition srep into marriage. The steps of a romantic relationship have shifted to include the cohabitation option.

Cohabitation is less accepted in societies with high levels of religiosity, but the advancement of western industrialized societies has increased the tolerance of premarital cohabitation and therefore making it a more widespread phenomenon. There has also been an increasing acceptance of divorce. However, with the continued plateau of divorce rates we can assume that this rise in cohabitation is not associated with a similar growth in divorce. Traditionally, cohabitation is associated with a negative affect on marriage, but in the last couple of years new research has shown a significant change. In fact, one study suggests that living together during the engagement is actually more defensive against divorce than not.

However, age is a great factor that has not been included in previous studies. It’s common knowledge that the younger you marry the less likely your marriage will succeed. That can also be applied to cohabitation. Couples who marry or cohabitate before their mid-20s’ relationships are more likely to fail. Why does this occur? It is due to the fact that younger couples are not yet ready for the roles of “husband” and “wife”.

Another factor that can greatly influence the success and probability of a marriage after cohabitation are the intentions of the couple going into the cohabitation agreement. Upon entering cohabitation, if the couple has definite plans to marry they will experience a level of marriage quality similar to those who had not. 

However, cohabiters without marriage plans only have a 17% chance of actually getting married and experience higher odds of marital dissolution than cohabiters with marriage plans.

As cohabitation has become more widespread its effects on marital instability have declined. It has the potential to improve the quality of life for many poeple, especially women, because it is not subject to the same gendered roles and expectations that may be associated with marriage. In my own personal experience, premarital cohabitation has saved me from making a couple horrible decisions and helped me make the best one of my entire life. The moral of the story here, though, is to only go into a cohabitation agreement with your partner if you are on the same page with respect to marriage and your future together, but only after you have had time to “grow up” and get to know yourself better.

Did you and your spouse cohabited before marriage? If so, did you go into the cohabitation agreement with marriage plans? Do you feel like your marriage has benefited from premarital cohabitation?


Baker, M., & Elizabeth, V. (2013). Tying the knot: the impact of formalization after long-term cohabitation. Journal Of Family Studies, (3), 254.

Cohabit. (n.d.). Retrieved October 4, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cohabit

Grose, J. (2014, March 10). Call Your Dad: Living Together Before Marriage Does Not Lead to Divorce. Slate.

Jose, A., O'leary, K., & Moyer, A. (2010). Does Premarital Cohabitation Predict Subsequent Marital Stability and Marital Quality? A Meta-Analysis. Journal Of Marriage & Family, 72(1), 105-116.

Kuperberg, A. (2014, March 10). Does Premarital Cohabitation Raise Your Risk of Divorce? Retrieved October 7, 2014, from https://contemporaryfamilies.org/cohabitation-divorce-brief-report/

Kuperberg, A. (2012). Reassessing Differences in Work and Income in Cohabitation and Marriage. Journal Of Marriage And Family, (4), 688. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2012.00993.x/abstract

Lau, C. (2012). The Stability of Same-Sex Cohabitation, Different-Sex Cohabitation, and Marriage. Journal Of Marriage & Family, 74(5), 973-988.

Lee, K., & Ono, H. (2012). Marriage, Cohabitation, and Happiness: A Cross-National Analysis of 27 Countries. Journal Of Marriage & Family, 74(5), 953-972.

Manning, W. D., & Cohen, J. A. (2012). Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Dissolution: An Examination of Recent Marriages. Journal Of Marriage & Family, 74(2), 377-387. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2012.00960.x

Oppenheimer, V. (1988). A Theory of Marriage Timing. American Journal of Sociology, (3). 563.

Xu, X., Bartkowski, J. P., & Dalton, K. A. (2011). The role of cohabitation in remarriage: a replication. International Review Of Sociology, 21(3), 549-564. doi:10.1080/03906701.2011.625664

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