Marriage and Cohabitation in the USA: What works best for some might not work the same for others.

Hard to imagine in 2021, there was a time when cohabiting was taboo in society and deeply frowned upon. Between 1965 and 1974, only 11% of women lived with their partner before marriage according to the National Center for Family and Marriage research. These days, 69% of adults say it is acceptable to live together before you are married according to a study done by the Pew Research Center in 2019. There are various reasons behind these statistics; for some, it may be that they believe it’s the best way to know if they and their partner will be able to co-exist before they commit to a lifetime of marriage. For others it may make sense financially; moving out is much cheaper than a divorce. Or, it is more fiscally convenient to not both be paying rent when you can just live together. Cohabitating also provides a couple with a better understanding and opportunity to see how responsibilities and sense of life will be shared, according to

Although the reasons mentioned above do make sense- could it be that marriage is just becoming less popular? According to The Hill, the marriage rate in America is at the the lowest level since the U.S. government began keeping marriage records for the country in 1867. The US News states that 70 years ago approximately 80% of U.S. households were made up of married couples; in 2020 it was 40%. What’s the reason for this decline in marriage?

A major reason behind the decline of marriage in America is female education, female economic independence, and gender equality. For centuries, women were denied equal access to education and opportunities that their male counterparts were not. In turn, it became the norm for a woman to marry a man- usually young, receive little to no education, and stay at home to tend to motherly duties and house chores. This set-up didn’t exactly allow women to dream about anything past a marriage- a career, having control of one’s finances, hobbies, i.e. independence. Nowadays, women are investing a lot of time and money into their education (and other things that came with the independence of gender equality) and it is delaying marriage, often-times many women choosing to not marry at all.

Due to gender equality evolving over time, it turned living alone into a norm for both men and women. This is something that was never encouraged or a norm in the past- marriage was. According to the United States Census Bureau, 15% of U.S. adults lived alone in 2019, which is a 13% increase from the 1960s. It seems that the trend has become to cohabitate or live alone before marriage- if marriage is even a thought. What do you think you would prefer?

Although cohabitation, and even living alone have become more popular than waiting to cohabitate until marriage, married adults have higher levels of trust and satisfaction within their relationship compared to cohabitating adults according to a study done by the Pew Research Center. For example, this study revealed that 84 married adults felt secure in their partner’s abilities to stay faithful, compared to the 71 individuals that cohabitate with their partner. In addition to higher levels of overall satisfaction from married couples, 53% of adults from the same study claim it is a better decision to get married if you plan to stay together long-term, opposed to cohabitating forever.

Personally, I have yet to cohabitate with a partner in my life due to being in college and having an apartment for myself. However, I am graduating this year and the decision to live with my boyfriend post-graduation is a decision I will be finding myself making very soon. After finding out all these statistics for myself, I was quite surprised to find out that marriage can have a large effect on the way partners co-exist in their lives. Although they gave me good insight, I was curious to hear what others think about cohabitation before marriage. I decided to go right to an experienced source: my mother. My mom has lived with a few partners before without being married. She has also been married, lived with her partner in marriage, and then divorced. She currently lives with her now-husband, my stepdad. After sharing with her some of the findings from this article, I was curious to hear what she thought about them. She told me, “I absolutely think you should live with someone before you marry em’! How are you supposed to know if you’re going to be falling into the toilet every time because they can’t put the seat down? Or if they don’t clean up their crumbs from the table after making a sandwich? Now that’s just annoying, who would want to live with that?”. Very insightful, Mom.

For my second source, I decided to chat with my grandmom about the same information shared with my mom and ask her thoughts. I was hoping for a different point of view given she is older, but she surprised me! My grandma told me, “I sure as hell wish I would’ve lived with your pap before we got married! He’s a hard man to live with…but easy to love. If I could go back in time and rent a cute apartment for myself when I was young, I would do that too. Everyone needs that time of independence and fun with your girlfriends before marriage.”

After hearing these statistics, opinions, and personal anecdotes what do you think is best for you? Do you see a future of cohabitation before marriage with your partner? Do you think it even makes a difference? What about marriage at all?

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