It wasn’t that long ago that unwed cohabitation was enough of a taboo for a couple to be ostracised by the community. Now, though, it’s considered unusual if a couple don’t test drive their relationship by living together before marriage.
Does such a test drive work? There have been plenty of studies into whether cohabitation before marriage has any effect on a couple’s probability to make it the distance, with some studies linking unwed cohabitation to high divorce rates, while another found no link. And another found that a person’s age at the relationship’s start was a more decisive factor.
The study from the non-partisan Council on Contemporary Families found choosing a partner too early in life may heighten the risk of divorce – although if that’s the case, society should expect to see divorce rates plummet as Generation Xers and Millennials marry far later than their Baby Boomer parents.
With one in three marriages in Australia ending in divorce, many young couples see moving in together as a test to see whether the relationship will last in the long term. For example, it may not be until they live together that a couple finds their expectations on the division of housework or on household budgeting are compatible – something it’s helpful to discover before going to the expense of a wedding.
Another impetus to live together before marriage comes from the high cost of holding a wedding, and then the even higher cost of getting on to the property ladder, leaving some couples to choose to buy a house before paying for a wedding – putting their order of priorities at odds with those of their parents.
Then there is the sheer convenience of being able to live together without social censure – something that enables young couples to be able to move closer to workplaces or away from stressful family situations without needing to go the trouble of funding a wedding or feeling the restrictions of a legal obligation to another person.
People with a more religious bent, however, tend to believe that living together before marriage defeats the purpose of marrying at all. For them, marriage as a sacred thing that is somewhat sullied in the eyes of God by having cohabitated first. Many also believe that living together heightens the temptation for couples to engage in sexual activity before marriage – something distinctly frowned upon by most conventional religions.
Others call unwed cohabitation a cop-out from the maturity point of view – if a couple’s legally bound together, they’re likely to have more enthusiasm for working through difficulties in the relationship rather than taking the easy option of calling it quits and packing one’s bag.
There’s also widespread belief that couples who are married are less likely to break up because there is more to lose, but the statistics show that this isn’t the case.
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