Cohabitation and Couples

8 August 2016

Keeping with American tradition, the American dream can be defined as finding your one true love, moving into a big house with a white picket fence, a big yard, kids, pets, and all that jazz that accompanies. Before a couple can move forward to fulfilling the, “American dream,” they need to test the waters with their partner. Today this is known as cohabitation, or moving in with one another before marriage. Today, there are 7. 5 million couples that are currently participating in a cohabitating arrangement.

According to Meg Jay, a clinical Psychologist, that number has increased exponentially from its 1960 mark of 450,000 couples that cohabit with one another. In her article, “The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage,” Jay writes several reasons as to why more couples are willing to move in with one another before marriage. “This Shift has been attributed to the sexual revolution and the availability of birth control, and in our current economy, sharing the bills makes cohabiting appealing,” (Jay).

Cohabitation and Couples Essay Example

Couples cohabit with one another to gauge if they are truly capable of living with one another for the rest of their lives. However, contrary to what meets the eye, initially, cohabitation actually creates an adverse effect to its intended purpose. Cohabitation leads many prospecting couples and actual cohabiting families down a long, dark road of unhappiness and heartbreak. A Nationwide study conducted by The National Marriage Project, in 2001, found that almost fifty-percent of adults in their twenties, would not marry someone unless if he or she moved in together first (Jay).

Jay writes, “About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce. ” This idea of taking your partner on a, “test-drive,” to prevent negative situations down the road, is wrong. “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.

Couples usually move in with one another before they can even discuss what cohabitation actually entails. Researchers call this, “sliding, not deciding,” (Jay). Couples move quickly, “from dating, to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot, to cohabitation,” (Jay). It happens rather swiftly. It makes sense, especially with how dire the economy has been in recent years. Split the costs associated with living in half. These costs are known as setup costs. Couples share the price of an apartment, they split the amenities, and maybe they buy a dog or some other pet.

Before couples realize it, they are locked in with one another. Sharing an apartment, bills, pets, and whatever else may come along actually prevents couples from getting out of a bad relationship. This is what being, “locked in,” refers to. Couples become so dependent on one another, and get overly acquainted with one another that it feels easier to them to stay in a bad relationship rather than leave when they become severely unhappy with their arrangement. The “switching,” costs become too expensive one could say.

Before couples know it, they have been cohabiting for ten years, and marriage is inevitable, despite their actual commitment to their relationship, leading to a quick divorce a few years later, (Jay). If only sliding out of cohabitation was as easy as sliding into a cohabiting situation. Another factor that contributes to the cohabitation effect is the difference in approach from the opposite sexes. Men view cohabitation as a method of running away from commitment, while women on the other hand think of cohabitation as a step closer towards commitment and the eternal sanctity of marriage.

“This gender asymmetry is associated with negative interactions and lower levels of commitment even after the relationship progresses to marriage,” (Jay). Despite their different views as to what cohabitation intends to accomplish, they both can agree that their expectations for their partner are actually lower than they would be for their husband or wife (Jay). Twenty-something young adults are not the only people participating in cohabiting households. Many adults that are many years past their twenties actually attempt to raise families in these households.

We have heard how negatively cohabiting affects the adults making the decision to cohabit, but what about their children? According to W. Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project, “ Children in cohabiting families are about twice as likely to drop out of high school, use drugs, or end up depressed, compared with children in intact married families. They are also at least three times more likely to be physically, sexually, or emotionally abused,” (Wilcox).

The effects of cohabitation on the children in those households are catastrophic. We are not just talking about putting up with someone in a relationship; we are talking about long lasting affects on these children. Wilcox and eighteen of his colleagues, studied the trends of these children, and concluded that, “the rise of cohabiting households with children is the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s family lives,” (Wilcox).

Aside from the long-term physical, mental and emotional abuse that is often applied to children in cohabiting households, how are you supposed to pass on to your children the hope of a stable relationship? “Cohabiting couples are twice as likely to break up and four times more likely to be unfaithful to one another, compared with married couples,” (Wilcox). The constant instability that comes with cohabiting relationships is the only example those children will witness in their life.

They will know nothing about commitment or a normal life and will more than likely continue this vicious cycle of instability. Not only does cohabitation affect the lives of the couples making the decisions, but also the children of these households. Cohabitation is a dangerous game played by so-called, “adults,” who are more than likely too immature to actually move in together before marriage. Cohabitation tends to lead to many unhappy years, and can seriously injure the, “happy mistakes,” couples tend to bring along with them.

Before couples decide to venture into this arrangement they need to sit down and actually talk about the commitment they are about to embark on. It takes serious maturity, and serious understanding of what they are getting themselves into. They need to understand both the positive effects, and the much more crucial negative outcomes of cohabitation. If you find yourself contemplating entering into an arrangement of cohabitation, make sure you map out a plan before you, “lock,” yourself into something you cannot get out of.

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