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Disadvantages of Cohabitation

Updated on July 20, 2014
Sad couple
Sad couple | Source

© 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%.

Stop domestic violence
Stop domestic violence | Source

Domestic Violence

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.

Do believe that more marriages end in divorce if couples live together first?

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    • profile image

      haneen hamdan 5 years ago

      I think that there are better ways which are possible to know his or her partner before the marriage than cohabitation. For example, it is one way that they have some special event such as unexpected situation. Maybe, meeting for a long time or living for away temporary is another way. That is, living together is not best way.

    • ThussaysNanaMarie profile image

      ThussaysNanaMarie 5 years ago from In my oyster

      I agree living together has its disadvantages . Many hope it will lead to marriage and I believe the goal post keeps getting shifted. I think a commitment to have children is as much a commitment to get married. For those who co habit and Suzef the question is does he value you enough? Why sell yourself short?? A marriage ceremony does not have to be grand. As they say 'why buy the cow when the milk is for free.'

    • suzef profile image

      suzef 5 years ago from So Cal

      My head is a jumble. My new BF, who is a pretty spectacular person and I, who have knowingly avoided marriage, want to marry him. His pillow talk is full of alwayses and forevers, but his reaction to THAT word is causing me no small amount of concern. It doesn't even have to come up in relation to he and I. Yesterday he said "I need to warm up to it, we'll see in 3-4 years...blah blah blah". My gut is telling me, and maybe it's my insecurity speaking, that his balking is a significant sign that he won't be able or willing to work on the relationship when hard issues come up.

    • davenstan profile image

      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      You are welcome.

    • Joy M profile image

      Joy M 5 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Thank you.

    • davenstan profile image

      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      It is on the link "cohabit" in the hub.

    • Joy M profile image

      Joy M 5 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Where did you find your statistics about domestic violence? I had not heard that particular argument before.

    • davenstan profile image

      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      Sometimes you have decide if your desires for marriage is worth desiring over your boyfriend's feelings. Marriage do not ruin relationships, people do.

    • profile image

      GrandmaX2 5 years ago

      Though I am living with someone now, I do agree that marriage is a better choice. I married young and was married for almost 25 years. My husband passed away 6 days before our 25th wedding anniversary. I have since met someone and we have been living together. I would rather be married, however, he has this idea that marriage ruins a relationship. He truly believes that if we get married, things will fall apart. For that reason, I have no pushed the issue. I feel that if he believes things will get bad once we marry, he will begin looking for issues when there are none.

    • davenstan profile image

      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your experience. It is a tough economy, but living together will destory a relationship.

    • Melissa Bernier profile image

      Melissa Bernier 5 years ago

      I agree that living together is a bad idea. I found that it doesn't work out from personal experience. Luckily, I was able to have him leave my home with exactly what he came with. That was 10 years ago, I would never just live with someone again. It better to date for a long time before getting married rather than just looking at saving a few bucks to save on rent while living together.

    • profile image

      jenson 5 years ago

      It's often hard to live apart due to the economic situation, my fiancé earns the main share but even with the money I save us by using open source software we still couldn't afford to both pay a separate rent.

    • nternational seo profile image

      nternational seo 5 years ago

      A cohabitation agreement is a document that contains an agreement for a couple who want to live together in order to protect themselves from any unnecessary cost and litigation that may arise if the relationship breaks down. The agreement will state clearly how the cohabitees will regulate their property rights and what arrangements might then be made for mutual financial support, caring for children, dealing with debt etc.

    • davenstan profile image

      Katina Davenport 6 years ago

      You are right! Times have changed. I wrote this hub for some of my younger facebook friends that believe you have to live with someone before you get marriage to test things out. I am not an advocate of it.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      I lived with two of my boyfriends and it was mostly out of financial reasons...sadly. I lived with my husband for a couple of months before we got married but we were engaged. I know many women who shack up with guys because of fininacial reasons who push them to take that step. It's too bad, but so true.

      I do agree with you that much of the younger generation want to live together rather than marry but people are marrying later in life so times have changed.

    • davenstan profile image

      Katina Davenport 6 years ago

      Thanks! I hope this hub will help someone.

    • radhikasree profile image

      Radhika Sreekanth 6 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Living together before marriage has not been worth for many. Only a few have succeeded in this matter. This hub is an eyeopener to the young generation.