More Women Are Saying "Yes!" To Cohabitation

BlogHer Original Post

After a two-year hiatus from graduate school, I decided at 25 that I wanted to complete my degree. I moved from New York back to Washington, DC took out enormous student loans (that I am still paying today) and started my life anew. Shortly thereafter, I met the “man of my dreams” -- and within months, not only were we talking about marriage but I was contemplating moving again to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was completing his Ph.D. at MIT.

The decision was a difficult one. I wasn’t keen on the whole idea of “shacking up” because the old adage “why pay for the cow if the milk is free?” ran rampant in my mind during my moments of contemplation. But move I did. It was disastrous. We lasted three months living together, and although we were engaged five years later, I ended it before we walked down the aisle.

Image: Tela Chhe via Flickr



Back then, I was one of the 34% of women between the ages of 25-44 who cohabited with a man before marriage. But according to a study recently released by the CDC, today the numbers have increased dramatically and between 2006-2010, 48% of women in this demographic moved in with a man they weren’t married to. In an article about this on CNN psychologist Lisa Kift says "Many couples believe they are doing their due diligence by having the experience of living together before making a commitment to marry." 

Interestingly, within one year of cohabitation, 20% of women become pregnant, an increase of 5% from 1995. And within three years, 40% actually marry. Seemingly, cohabitation before marriage is not only more acceptable but is quickly becoming the norm in society today. According to an article in the New York Times, this decision may not be the path to long-term marriage. According to the article, “couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not. These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect.”

In my research, I did find a major negative consequence of living together before marriage: a possibly increased risk of physical aggression. According to a study cited in the Journal of Family Violence, “48% of couples living together experienced domestic violence, compared to 19% of married couples and 27% of those divorced or separated.”

If you are debating cohabitation, I’d like to direct your attention to an article on PsychCentral that provides some great questions to ask yourself before diving in, including:

  • talk about values and beliefs
  • give it time before making the leap and
  • have a plan.

The article includes several other great questions that should be explored before cohabitation.

Is living together before marriage, or not marrying at all, the ideal situation? I think it depends on the couple and reasons for cohabitation. Some people are not interested in marriage at all but can live together in a committed relationship for a lifetime. Other people are firmly rooted in not living together, for reasons varying from religious ideals to personal morals. The decision to cohabitate is a personal decision -- one that increasing numbers of women are making today.

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