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Cohabitation is On the Rise - Why Cohabiting Relationships Are Becoming More Popular in the U.S.

Updated on May 22, 2013

The question is: why cohabiting relationships seem to be the choice of many Americans today, over married? Some people argue that a cohabiting relationship is no way different from being married. However, living together may or may not be similar to marriage,depending on the couple. It lacks the social approval and legalized responsibilities of traditional marriage but offers greater freedom for the partners to design their roles as they see fit.

As living single without benefit or marriage becomes increasingly acceptable by society, marriages may have less importance as a cultural institution that sanctions sex, according to one writer. It has been estimated that approximately one-third of all cohabiting couples ended up getting married. Although a vast majority of these couples hope to marry some day in the future, they feel less urgency than those who have never lived with someone before.

Cohabiting couples who eventually marry do not necessarily communicate better or find greater satisfaction in marriages than couples who did not live together prior to marriage. Cohabiting couples living together who don't marry, typically break up, so you will rarely find a long-established cohabiting couple.

Couples living together in an informal arrangement create many of the same relationship building problems that newlyweds face. Conflicts or disagreements must be reconciled through a complex process of "negotiation and collective bargaining." Therefore, constant communication, no doubt, is of paramount importance to the process.

The couple living together must deal with the issues of commitment, fidelity, and permanence. Both the men and women in cohabiting relationships are more likely than married people to have extra couple affairs(or cheat). Although both partners have strong feeling for each other, they usually find it rather difficult to deal explicitly with such concerns. Before moving in, most couples usually make a definite, if unspoken commitment to each other. Their commitment is often based on a mutual desire for some kind of permanence that will allow them to plan for the future, according to some social psychologist.

Sexual exclusivity and fidelity to each other may or may not required. Some couples often treat outside relationships as taboo, remaining silent by mutual agreement. Others explicitly agree that each can pursue other relationships, but this is usually desired by one partner and merely agreed to by the other. Based on findings from a recent study conducted, couples who live together before they get married are less likely to stay married. However, their chances improve if they were already engaged when they began living together -- in fact, the likelihood that a marriage would last for a decade or more decreased if the couple had cohabited first, according to findings.

It appears as if cohabitation is deeply reshaping family life in the United States. According to a late study supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the number of children born to parents who live together but are not married, rose from six percent to eleven percent between 1984 and 1994. It is believed that an even larger share of U.S. children (approximately 40 percent), will live with their unmarried mother and her boyfriend some time before their 16th birthday. For children born to highly educated or older mothers, the likelihood of living in a cohabiting household is significantly lower than for other children.

Not only do these trends can have an impact on the lives of children today, they may also influence the attitudes and values of the next generation. Researchers believe it may be difficult for parents who cohabit to effectively counsel their children on abstaining from premarital sex or cohabitation. As a result, this may lead to even more widespread acceptance and practice of cohabitation in the future.

It is believed that the lower marriage and higher breakup rates we are currently experiencing in the U.S, are both due to the fact that living together has become more acceptable, and is now practiced by couples with a less serious commitment to a long-term relationship.


Though a few cultures may not condone cohabitation, no doubt more and more couples are now living together unmarried, and more children are being born out of wedlock or living in households with their mother and boyfriends. The answer as to why cohabiting relationships are more common today in general, are many, some of which are clearly stated above. However, overall, it appears as if we are becoming a society that (most couples) no longer want to be committed to each other. Overtime, we are likely to experience a more widespread acceptable of this current trend as it passes down from generation to generation.

(C)Copyright I.McFarlane 2012


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    • mackyi profile image

      I.W. McFarlane 5 years ago from Philadelphia

      Dr Billy Kidd

      Thanks for the additional information you have provided on this subject matter. You have certainly raised some important points, in particular "cohabiting concerns convenience" and cohabiting due to financial reasons.

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile image

      Dr Billy Kidd 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Interesting post. It should also be noted that the trend toward cohabitation is worldwide. In the United States, the most often cited reason for cohabitating concerns convenience--a roommate moved out, say, so the couple moved in together. Also, when people do not have enough money to do justice to what they feel is a sacred relationship they do not get married and cohabitate instead. But the most often cited reason for getting married if you are cohabitating is that it feels like the thing to do. This cohabitating drift towards marriage of couples who got together on a casual basis helps explain why so many marriages by such couples end in divorce. All this means, of course, is that the world is changing!