Some call it living in sin, others call it living in bliss, but these days it has become the norm for couples to live together before tying the knot. A mere 40 years ago, this wasn’t the case. According to the U.S. Census, less than 500,000 unmarried couples were shacking up in 1960. To put this in perspective, the number of couples living together has increased tenfold from 1960 to 2000. In fact, cohabitation a half a century ago was a crime. But just because cohabitation has lost its outlaw status doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences to pay in the long run.
Past studies have indicated that cohabitating couples are least likely to marry, have higher divorce rates and are more likely to be unhappy or even become depressed. When 10 Castleton State College students were asked about this sweeping social change, the majority disagreed with the negative associations of cohabitation, while two individuals took a more conservative approach.
“I would rather move in with someone before I marry them,” said senior Justin Morris who made sure to point out that he isn’t very religious. “People are different when they are home. Their guard is down and all the upfront images and masks they put up aren’t there.”
However, senior Andrew Brolsma believes in upholding the traditional values of marriage.
“My family is Catholic and they don’t believe in living in sin before marriage,” he said. “Personally I think living together before marriage will negatively impact the relationship because to me you don’t have anything to look forward to after the marriage ceremony. It’s going back to a normal, regular, everyday life.”
‘Psychology Today’ reported the findings of Yale University sociologist Neil Bennett that cohabitating women were 80 percent more likely to separate or divorce than were women who had not lived with their spouses before marriage. As well, a study done by the National Council on Family Relations of 309 newlyweds found that those who cohabitated first were less happy once married.
But consider senior Molly Rhodes, who has stories that would make anyone want to test the waters before committing themselves to a vow of till death do us part.
“I know people who have dated, moved in with them and then broke up with them because the person was ‘unlivable’ due to their thrashing, teeth grinding, and sleep walking at night!” she said.
A Johns Hopkins University study again confirmed that couples who cohabitate have quite different and significantly weaker relationships than married couples. But for Castleton students this may not hold true.
“We have grown closer, and we have learned how to deal with issues by communicating with each other,” said senior Samantha Greeno who has been in a serious relationship for almost six years. “I think that living together has positive effects on our relationship.”
Senior Chuck Smith also agrees that his four-year relationship has become stronger since moving in with his girlfriend six months ago.
Many of the studies conducted on couples living together before walking down the aisle insist that the individuals are not making a commitment to one another and they aren’t officially pronouncing their love and responsibility to each other. This all may be true for some couples but Greeno and her boyfriend are “planning a future together.” Their commitment of living together is more than a simple month-to-month rental agreement.
Reflecting on his experience in Italy a few summers ago, Morris says that he learned most people in Europe tend not to get married and live with the same person for “like 50 years.” This is living proof that many cohabitating couples can blissfully love and devote themselves to each other for the rest of their lives-even though Morris says that it’s mostly because it is very expensive to get married in Europe.
However, there may be some good news for individuals who aren’t serially cohabitating. Sociologist Daniel Lichter was quoted in USA Today stating that in very recent studies the research shows women who only cohabitate with their eventual husbands have remarkably lower rates of divorce than those who don’t cohabitate at all.
“If your relationship can survive such a close and constant connection, then marriage would be a snap!” said Morris.