- Gender and Relationships
Disadvantages of Cohabitation
© 2012 Katina Davenport
Life is full of choices and decisions. The decisions you make can positively or negatively affect the rest of your life. Back in October 2007 I was hospitalized with complications after giving birth to my daughter. I had never been hospitalized before and was not expecting a roommate. To my surprise I had one. At first there wasn't much conversation between the two of us, but eventually this older lady began to open up about her medical history and life. She began to tell me how she doesn't have a real family. She had been living with a man for 20 years without the benefit of marriage. She became sad as she described how this decision became a reproach to her. Her partner's children did not consider her to be their mother figure and she does not have legal rights to any of his benefits should he die. She felt alone and unprotected.
Her story is like many other women in varying degrees and situations who have given their life to men without being legally married only to realize that in the end they could be left destitute. As attitudes about marriage are forever evolving one thing remains true there are benefits to being married and disadvantages to living together before marriage.
Cohabitation, shacking up, living together, living in sin, common law marriage; however you call it today's younger generation view living together as an alternative, an answer even to the growing divorce rate in America. Most now believe that a marriage license does not constitute marriage. Without saying “I do” they take on the responsibilities of married couples such as dividing bills and household duties.
While some couples are deciding not to get married others are deciding to live together before marriage to get to know their potential spouse first. The problem with this approach to marriage is that it is leading to more divorces when avoiding divorce is the reason for cohabiting in the first place. The chances of divorce for couples living together before marriage are 50%. Some believe that the research is old, but with the high percentage of divorce rate cohabiting couples are among the 50%.
The unfortunate state of this country economic crisis has unmarried couples living together to survive. Although I understand why couples would want to live together studies show that women are at greater risk for abuse in a cohabitated relationship. Sometimes without thought women are shacking up with men that they do not know well, that have less education, and are in bad economic situations. The vast majority of these men do not have the ability to be husbands even though the women are hoping the cohabitation would lead to marriage. Unfortunately, studies have shown more aggression in men in common law households making their women partners more susceptible to abuse in their relationship.
Breakdown of the Nuclear Family
Children that are born to cohabited parents are more likely to become cohabiters themselves just like their parents. The chances that their parents will marry decreases and if they do marry 40% end up divorce before the child is 16. The children in this situation are the biggest losers because they miss out on the cohesiveness of a nuclear family unit. More than likely they will miss out on having fathers as the women are left to raise the children on their own.
The National Institute for Mental Health concludes that women cohabiters have higher rates of depression. Worrying about the break up of the relationship causes distress and ultimately depression. Without the stability of marriage women with children in this situation are less likely to be happy with their relationships. There is no real commitment, which in the woman’s mind means that the relationship could end at any time.
The benefits of marrying outweigh the disadvantages of cohabitation. Benefits such as true commitment, stability regarding your relationship, spiritual unity, better mental health, and overall happiness are far better than the turmoil one can feel with a live in lover according to all the studies.
It was evident in the conversation I had with my hospital roommate; it is better to be married to the one you love than to not have any beneficial marital rights and the security that marriage brings.
The Demise of the Traditional Family
More and more there appears to be a demise of the traditional family. I personally know of a woman that has been less the self-sufficient in her life due to learning disabilities. She was married twice, and now lives with her boyfriend of more than 20 years. Her story lends itself to a woman that wanted to be married, but the boyfriend continued to put off marriage.
During the more than 20 year relationship, this woman has broken up with her partner several times and suffered bouts of depression. She was later diagnosed as a manic depressive. During her brake-up she thought she could get alimony, but there are no common law marriage benefits in Michigan.
Truth be told, I am a realist. I recognize that everyone does not believe in traditional marriage as I, but I believe the benefits of marriage outweigh the benefits of cohabitation.