Cohabitation Before or Instead of Marriage, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Introduction

Thesis statement: Premarital cohabitation does not proceed to better adjustment in marriage.

I chose this topic because it is directly related to me in a way that I was engaged for five years and lived with my husband for 6 years before marriage. In my opinion it works for some and does not work for others. In this paper I will explain both sides based on the statistical data.

Cohabitation signifies living together in a relationship without marriage, which is a very important macro level trend in many countries that has ramifications for national family laws, tax laws, work benefits, and other macro level obstacles. In European and North American countries, cohabitation has been the standard for many groups. In the United States unmarried households are increasing according to the census. It became double in 1990s from 2.9 million to 6.2 million in 2006. (U.S. Census Bureau 2006a). Between 1960 and 2000, the increase was 10-fold, with 10 million people (8% of U.S. couple households) living with a heterosexual person. Two thirds of married couples survived together for an average of 2 years before marriage (MacDonald, 1995).

Cohabitation is usually identified as a prelude to marriage. A large number of single people I know see it as a way to make sure that the couple is appropriate before getting married. In most of the cases I have witnessed, at least one of the partners anticipates the arrangement to result in marriage in 90% of cohabitations. The truth does not stand out these excessively positive attributes. Alternatively, only 58% of women I knew who cohabited end up marrying the man. I think living together before marriage is a good way to find out whether you completely get along, which would avoid a bad marriage and ultimate divorce. I lived with my husband for quite some time before marriage and we ended up good. But the accessible data on the effects of cohabitation fail to verify this belief. In fact, a significant body of evidence concludes that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage. The likelihood of a first marriage ending in separation or divorce within five years is 20%, but the probability of a marriage relating cohabitation breaking up within five years is 49% (MacDonald, 1995). After 10 years, the probability of a first marriage ending is 33%, compared with 62% for cohabitations (MacDonald, 1995). This proof is dubious because it is difficult to discount the fact that people who cohabit before marriage have different attributes from those who do not. It can be these characteristics, and not experience of cohabitation, that lead to marital unbalance. There is no clear proof yet that those who cohabit before marriage have stronger marriages than those who do not.

Reasons for Cohabitation

Among my friends, a wide majority feel that cohabitation has become a lot more reasonable because of the increasing numbers who cohabitate. A further cause is the accessibility of effective contraceptives that decrease the concern of pregnancy for those who want to live together but not start families.

I wanted to live together with my husband before marriage so I can find out more about his habits and attitude, wanting to test compatibitly, avoiding the risks of being stuck in an unhappy marriage, working on personal problems before determining to marry, and saving money. In the case of my friend Amy and her boyfriend, he wanted cohabitation just for sexual reasons which are the popular activity now days. Traditional norms were challenged, and comparatively trustworthy birth control for women became available. All he wanted to not get married nor have children just wanted to live with his sexual partners in cohabitation. In his sense of mind he believed that cohabitating would free couples from feeling “trapped for life”. He liked the idea that could establish commitment for reported periods of time and occasionally renew them as they saw fit. Women had elevated more equality in many ways and got married many years later, on the average. Childbearing was also postponed, and cohabitation was a natural outcome. Also, as the number of divorces increased, and I am worried about that. Cohabitation rather than marriage became gradually popular.

Now question develops, is cohabiting an alternative to being single or an alternative to being married? Premarital cohabitation is often not a new idea. I would suggest two step plan for single adults to do “trial marriage” first in which couple might resolve whether or not they were compatible. The second step would be taken by couples who wanted to legalize the union when they had children.  Taking it step further some experts suggested a three stage plan whereby a relationship developed from sexual satisfaction, to social security, to sensible spawning.

These views expanded trial marriage about as far as it could go, potentially heading to the concept of premarital cohabitation. It has only been within the past forty years that cohabitation has become renowned among the middle classes, having originated among lower class and disadvantaged youth. Cohabitation is typically viewed as an alternative for persons who want a sexual and companionship living arrangement, but is not ready to form a family. In more receiving cultures, cohabitation is distinguished from marriage as an alternative to marriage.

Cohabitation and marital adjustment

In 1970s premarital cohabitation was fairly extensive, I expected that premarital cohabitation would strengthen rather than weaken marriage. I recommended that premarital cohabitation would serve as a screening device that would guaranteed the interface of prospective spouses.

But when I did the research for the assignment I have found out that a number of analysis studies executed over the last thirty years have displayed a less constructive picture of the effect of cohabitation on later marital adjustment. Among other things, it has been mentioned that married persons who had previously cohabited were more disagreeable about problems such as money, household duties and entertainment; had a lower quality of communication; seen marriage as less essential to their lives and were less dependent upon each other; had lower marital satisfaction; and were more likely to divorce.

The  national unique sample of over 2000 married persons who had cohabited, when compared to no cohabiting couples, had a lower level of marital success in the preceding four ways. From experience of my friend Amy I have noticed that they tend to have a less marital connection, chosen by spending time together eating meals, shopping, visiting friends, on working on projects or going out on relaxing or entertaining activities. Second, they had more repeated and more serious marital disagreements, such as behaviors like slapping, hitting, punching, kicking or throwing things at each other. Third, they were more inclined to marital instability, displayed through actions such as thinking the marriage was in trouble or focusing on the idea of getting a divorce; taking divorce action such as talking to friends or their spouse about the probability of divorce, or contacting with clergy, counselor or attorney; or actually separating from the spouse or filing a petition for divorce. From all this I could not figure out whether it is good to cohabit before marriage or not. In my case everything worked out pretty good. We shop together, eat together, and have connection.

Research done in the 1990s continued to find that those who cohabited before marriage were more dissatisfied with the standard of their later marriages when in comparison to couples who had not cohabited. However, Cadwallader, 1966 interpreted the dissatisfaction in these marriages as having more to do with the improper perceptions and life styles of these couples than the fact that they planned to cohabit, which I agree 100%. He determined that their more liberal traits gave them the freedom to present displeasure and split when things did not go well.

A specific study done by DeMaris and MacDonald (1993) disagreed with this conclusion saying that “regulating for unconventionality had only a minimal influence on the cohabitation effect” (p.406).  These experts made the point that “although family perceptions and beliefs tend to forecast the attractiveness of a cohabiting lifestyle, they do not account for distinctions between cohabiters and non-cohabiters in instability” (p. 399).

DeMaris and MacDonald found that cohabiters explained lower levels of commitment to and happiness with their relationships and had poorer commitments with parents than did comparable married individuals.  I feel that the choice between cohabitation and marriage is impacted by conduct and values toward work, family, use of free time, money, and sex roles, as well as toward marriage itself.

I would say that having cohabited with someone other than one’s spouse is prognostic of lower marital adjustment. In a study of over 9000 reactions to a national survey, MacDonald, 1995 determined: “after controlling for other factors, outcomes suggest that prior cohabiting relationships negatively influence current married and cohabiting relationships.

This was affirmed by looking at the marriage life of my friend Amy that cohabiting couples are more likely to experience cheating and another study that found the cohabiting couples were more likely to separate and less likely to satisfy after a separation when compared to married couples. Cohabitation tends to differ for older and younger adults. Older cohabiters report greatly higher levels of commitment standard and reliability than younger cohabiters, although they are less likely to have plans to marry their partners. Reasons for cohabitation are similar, but evaluating compatibility is a more significant cause for younger cohabiters.

Effect of cohabitation

In this section I will describe the effect of cohabitation from my point of view and from my experience. I believe that cohabitation benefits prepare couples for marriage, thus decreasing their risk of divorce if and when they marry. Cohabitation leads to beneficial marital results when compared against couples who don’t cohabit before marriage.

First, the impact cohabitation has on subsequent marriage is not the same for all groups. For example, Julie Philips and Megan Sweeney report that for Caucasian women, 37% of those who cohabited before marriage saw their marriages end within 10 years compared to 28% who did not cohabit. “The cohabitation impact is much smaller among African Americans and Hispanics. 51% African American women who cohabite before marriage and then they sees that their marriage fails after 10 years compare to those who had never cohibted. Among Mexican American women, 32% who had cohabited practiced marital failure compared to 26% who had not cohabited” (Cadwallader, 1966). Among foreign born Mexican Americans, there were a lot more marital failures among women who had not cohabited than among those who had. Thus we can say that the negative effect of cohabitation on later marriage is most reliable among whites and may not even hold true for African Americans or Mexican Americans. Others argue that marriage is too great a commitment and prefer cohabitation. They feel that emphasis should be on the dedication between two people and that the high quality of the relationship is the most important consideration.

It appears to be common for people to think that cohabitation is a valuable way to avoid a bad marriage. However, data do not prove this link. In fact, evidence concludes that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage. This proof is dubious because it is difficult to distinguish the “selection effect” from the “experience of cohabitation”. Since people who cohabit before marriage have different attributes from those who do not, it may be these characteristics, and not the experience of cohabitation, that guides to marital lack of stability. It can be said for certain, however, that there is no evidence that those who cohabit before marriage have more powerful marriages than those who do not.

Disadvantages to Cohabitation

Single couples may experience discrimination in housing, insurance, taxes, child custody, and other areas. They may also face stress to marry from parents and friends who may have social and religious experiences different from the cohabiters. Some people, particularly divorced people, become cohabiters because they do not want the legal and economic “entanglements” of another marriage research fails to prove whether prior cohabiters have better marriages.

In some ways, cohabitation is replacing dating. There also seems to be an accelerate in “serial cohabitation” or living with one partner for a time and then another. “It is interesting that women seem to believe cohabitation as a step before marriage to that partner, whereas men tend to see cohabitation as something to do before you make a commitment. Men who live with women they potentially marry don’t seem to be as committed to the union as those who did not live with their mates before getting married” ( Popenoe, et. al, 2007). There are also a growing number of older Americans living together. The reasons vary, but for many it is a combination of bad experiences in previous marriages, the desire to keep their finances separate, and for some, loss of benefits if they remarry. There are at least 112,000 households headed by someone 65 years or older with an unmarried partner (Popenoe, et. al., 2007).

A comparison of gay and lesbian cohabiting couples with heterosexual married couples displayed that in many areas they do not differ. Alternatively, it seems that gay or lesbian partners function better in their relationships than heterosexual partners. So, is cohabitation a positive or a negative thing? There are different viewpoints among different people. For example, some reports suggest that marriages of people who have cohabited and later on marry are considerably more likely to end in divorce. Some people feel this is partly because people who choose to live together tend to be younger, to be less religious, or to have other qualities that put them at risk for divorce. “70 % of those who lived together for at least 5 years did potentially marry, but after 10 years 40% had broken up, as compared to 32% who did not live together first” (Danziger, et.al,1977) . They indicate that society discriminates against people who wish to commit themselves to another person and stay unmarried.

References

David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, The State of Our Unions: The Social Health of Marriage in America, 2007 (New Brunswick, NJ: The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, 2007) p. 19

Mervyn Cadwallader The Atlantic Monthly; November 1966; Marriage as a Wretched Institution; Volume 218, No. 5; page 62-65.

Carl Danziger, Mathew Greenwald (1977), “AN OVERVIEW OF UNMARRIED HETEROSEXUAL COHABITATION AND SUGGESTED MARKETING IMPLICATIONS”, in Advances in Consumer Research Volume 04, eds. William D. .l pbPerreault, Jr., Atlanta : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 330-334.

MacDonald, W. L., & DeMaris, A. (1995). Remarriage, stepchildren, and marital conflict: Challenges to the incomplete institutionalization hypothesis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 57(2), 387-387. http://search.proquest.com/docview/219749539?accountid=35812

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