26 Feb, 2020

Living together without being married

. . . is marriage old-fashioned, and like oatmeal, the 1-minute quick oats are just as good?

Did you know that living together as unmarried romantic partners was a custom in the ancient Western world? And did you also know that cohabitation in lieu of marriage has been much more common for a while in countries across the Atlantic than here in the United States? Enough with history and geography. You’ve likely noticed around you that cohabitation has been on the rise over the past several decades. It is even sometimes referred to as “the new marriage”. 

How common is cohabitation?

According to a 2018 U.S Census Bureau report, the number of young people ages 18-24 living together without being married is now higher (9%) than those who decide to tie the knot (7%). And this trend keeps increasing. In the past 10 years, the number of unmarried couples aged from 25 to 34 went up from 12% to 15%. It might not seem that excessive, but it is when we compare this percentage to the official statistics from 1968. At that time, only 0.1% of couples were living together without first having a formal ceremony. However, today more and more people postpone marriage or refuse it entirely for different reasons. One reason could be finances. Perhaps they think that splitting the bills is convenient, or they want to take the time to save for a proper wedding, which can be insanely expensive. Others may have lost faith in marriage altogether due to the high divorce rate rumors, or they consider cohabitation to be just as an acceptable arrangement as marriage, if not even better. Most of the time, though, living together appears to be the perfect way to “test run” the relationship before making a more serious commitment.

What About You?

You too might say “I’d find it impossible to commit to a marriage without living with someone first. You might think that marriage is old-fashioned, and like oatmeal, the 1-minute quick oats are just as good. But will cohabitation really be helpful in determining whether you fit well with your significant other? Will cohabitation strengthen your relationship and make your potential future marriage happier? At Pure Freedom, we take your physical and emotional well-being to heart, so we decided to investigate.

The 4 realities of cohabitation you need to know :

  • Relationship Satisfaction: The latest studies from the National Marriage Project and the Wheatley Institution show that couples who live together without being married are less happy than those who are. According to their research, and after making sure that the differences in education, relationship duration and age didn’t interfere in the results, they found that being married makes you 12% more likely to be happy than simply living together. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that marriage will make you happy, right? It definitely depends on each person, but research shows that 70% to 80% of marriages are actually happy.
  • Relationship commitment: The same studies found that cohabiting couples are 15% less likely to be committed to each other than married couples. The explanations behind it are the reasons why people choose to cohabit in the first place instead of getting married: convenience, finances, and because they want to test the relationship before saying “I do”. But such a test can easily come to an end. In contrast, marriage is not just a contract but a promise to love and stay together despite the difficulties. Marriage does influence individual behavior, and when it comes to sexual infidelity, cohabiting couples have been found to be more likely to cheat on each other, which in turn increases the risks of getting an STI and experiencing emotional distress.  
  • Relationship stability: Cohabiting couples are 26% less likely to experience stability in their relationships. They are more prone to breaking up than married couples, and they are also more likely to divorce once they get married. Although this might sound confusing, researchers attribute it to what they call “relationship inertia”.
  • Relationship inertia: Living together brings its share of bills and responsibilities, making it more difficult to break up than if you were simply dating. In consequence, some couples get used to the convenience of the situation and decide to marry despite the many weaknesses of the relationship. In other words, they end up marrying someone they would never have married if they hadn’t lived together first. Unfortunately, this is the perfect recipe for lower marital satisfaction and higher risk of conflict and divorce. 


It is easy to understand why cohabitation may be perceived as a good idea before or even as a replacement to marriage. But the reality might not be so bright in the long-term. However, that doesn’t mean you should choose a marriage partner lightly. Knowing each other’s traits and personalities is essential when it comes to such a commitment. The good news is that marriage is still thriving in today’s culture, with the divorce rate being much lower than we think. You can learn more about it right here, so that you can share with your friends!

By Elodie Takamiya






Wagner, BrandonG. “Marriage, Cohabitation, and Sexual Exclusivity: Unpacking the Effect of Marriage.” Social Forces 97.3 (2019). https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/oxford-university-press/marriage-cohabitation-and-sexual-exclusivity-unpacking-the-effect-of-PVIGvisnHB?