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In the 150’s, people married for better or for worse. In the 160’s, people broke free from that society attempting to assert themselves as free sprits engaging in premarital sex and premarital cohabitation. Today premarital cohabitation is no longer considered a form of rebellion but is a step in a relationship towards marriage. Everyone knows how it is first you date, fall in love, then move in together, and if that goes well get married. Right? Wrong. “Only about one-sixth of live-ins last at least three years, and only one-tenth endure five years or more, says University of Michigan sociologist Pamela Smock” (Peterson). “Marriages preceded by living together have 50 percent higher disruption rates than marriages without premarital cohabitation” (Kemp). With over 11 million people cohabitating right now this information would seem quite caustic (Solot). This paper researches the reasons why people live together before marriage, who is cohabitating and what happens to the couples that do cohabitate before marriage.


Most of these 11 million cohabitaters are college students. Studies have found that somewhere between 0 and 40 percent of college students are cohabitating at any given time (Johnson). So why are these students living with one another? The reasons are simple expenses, convenience, and of course love. Many college students claim that it is cheaper to live with one another because it will save them money, sharing rent and bills. Convenience is a popular excuse because as a couple they are already spending a lot of time together; cohabitating would make it more convenient than making dates or driving back and forth to each others houses. Also, couples in love think that moving into together is a way of testing their compatibility. With these reasons, living together seems like a good idea; however Roland Johnson assures us that it is not a good idea.


One reason or excuse giving for cohabitation is expenses. Most people claim that they and their partner will split costs equally. However, studies show that women support men close to a 70 to 0 percent ratio (Roland). This strain on a woman’s expenses makes the excuse for convenience not plausible. If a woman is spending an average of 0 percent more than the man, it is concluded that she will have to work more to support that 0 percent increase. Since the majority of cohabitating people are college students, it is safe to assume that if a woman is working more, than it is safe to assume she’s paying less attention to school. A perfect example of this is my sister Aimee. Her and her boyfriend after dating for two years decided to move in together. After a brief time in his studio they up graded to renting a house. My sisters rent amount went from $00 to $500 a month including utilities. Being the woman of course she bought most of the groceries and pulled her own weight. The new stress on her expenses required her to drop classes and work full time in order to keep up with her new cohabitating life style. This does not sound more convenient or inexpensive for a female college student; however, the male would seem to have it made.


In a typical cohabitating relationship Roland also discusses that men take a more dominant role and women take a more submissive role. This is definitely more convenient for a man. His live in girlfriend picks up 0 percent more of the expenses, and does the cooking, and cleaning. This is definitely a male fantasy and a female nightmare. Women tend to see [living together] as a step toward eventual marriage, while men regard it more as a sexual opportunity without the ties of long-term commitment (Anderson). My sister thought that her and her boyfriend were going to get married. They were together for 6 years. She dropped out of college and worked full time to support her boyfriend when he lost his job and their union did not end in marriage. These situations allow the man to have the upper hand; he gets sex and a mommy.


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Most women think that cohabitation is a trial for marriage and that her and her mate are learning to live and grow together. In fact cohabitation before marriage teaches couples negative problem solving skills. “The longer you cohabitate, the more tolerant you are to divorce…you’re used to living in a low-commitment relationship, and it is hard to shift that kind of mental pattern.” (Labi) So instead of being committed and working through problems one or both people just walk out of the relationship. This makes a person more open to divorce once married, instead of communicating and working through problems. Even if the statistical data on the success rate of cohabitating relationships were false, the old saying still holds true. Who is going to by the cow, when they can get the milk for free?


What is the milk and how does it relate to cohabitation? The milk is symbolic of sex. Not having premarital sex is almost certainly an outdated thought for the 1century. However, church and society can still put a negative twist to it. A big part of almost any religion states that premarital sex is a sin. The only other people who might agree with this statement are your parents. Consequently people can still judge you for this behavior. Even call it hedonistic. That it dictates a persons moral codes of right and wrong (Knox). It can be argued then that a person who engages in premarital sex has a shallow belief system, low moral character, and is a disgrace to the church. Cohabitating couples also have lower church attendance and higher drug use than those who do not cohabitate (Knox). My mother and father cohabitated for 11 years and my mother conceived both my sister and I out of wedlock. Neither my mother or father attends church on a regular basis nor they are not drug users. They are both morally upstanding and successful people. This is just one example of this outdated reason. Outdated or not it still looks bad in the eyes of the church and my grandparents.


The testing excuse for cohabitation is one of the worst reasons for cohabitation. The meaning of testing is to discover a relationship or objects weak points or point of breaking (Helminger 11). This puts an extra strain on a couple’s relationship because the point of testing is to look for faults and failure. Good intentions or not, cohabitating couples that use testing as their excuse are setting themselves up for failure because they are purposefully seeking out the negative. When people go looking for something bad, something bad will always be found.


Not all cohabitating couples are doomed for divorce. Nadya Labi makes an excellent point that “the trend of divorce stretches back over the last hundred years, so clearly it was not caused by cohabitation.” Besides, people living together and breaking up before they get married is lowering the divorce rate because they are not getting married in the first place. If they do not get married they cannot get divorced. The US is not alone in the upward trend of cohabitating couples around the world. It is even more common in Denmark, France, Finland, and Sweden (Solot). However the divorce rate in the US is so high and the negative facts about cohabitation are so bad that cohabitation should always be considered an unfavorable choice.


With most cohabitating couples not making it to the commitment level of “I do” what happens when two people split. “When this relationship ends and most cohabitating relationships do; the person feels lost, abused, and used. They often are left in an extreme state of rejection, devaluation, and loss of self esteem,” Roland is speaking about the feelings of a woman after a break up. He is not trying to be sexist. A great example of this is my best friend Yolonda and her ex fianc�. They ending their cohabitating relationship after years and when Yolonda moved out of his house she called me twenty times a day. She wanted to talk and to feel important. Yolonda felt rejected and like she would never love again. She went from a strong, confident woman to a needed, depressed shadow of herself. The point is that in a cohabitating relationship where the man is typically there for sex and the woman is testing for marriage, it is a clear that the woman is typically the heart broken person in a cohabitating relationship.


After the inevitable break up, then what? The best thing to do is move forward and do not look back. Everyone knows this is an impossible thing to ask especially if your heart was broken. Many people draw strength from their friends and family; even religion if you are religious (Helmlinger 8-100). Soon a person will feel like their old selves after an understandable grieving period. Once that is over a person can start enjoying being single and meeting new loves (Helmlinger 6-71). With the new knowledge of a past relationship a person will be able to grow and learn from the past.


Of course sometimes a cohabitating relationship turns into a happy marriage. My cousin Carrie and her husband Tom have been married for a little over a year. They met, feel in love, lived together, and got married. Their relationship turned out exactly as people intend it to. If you ask them how everything worked out so well they will tell you how hard it was and still is. Speaking to my cousin, she told me that she knew breaking up was never an option. Even while living together. They weren’t testing the relationship they were preparing of marriage. The duration of their cohabitation was only for 6 months before they married and were engaged while cohabitating. Cohabitating can be a good idea when all aspects are considered; open communication and hard work must be applied through out the duration.


Cohabitation before marriage has many negative aspects that I discussed. Most people enter a situation like this uneducated and under false pretenses of what they are actually doing. Most of the cohabitating relationships are college students and it affects their schoolwork, their mind and their future. If everyone understood the commitment that is required in sustaining living together than they wouldn’t live together, they would just get married. At least this way they get a tax break.








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