What is cohabitation? According to the Oxford Dictionary, cohabitation means a couple ‘live together and having a sexual relationship without being married’ (n.d). In1960 between 2000, the rate of cohabitation has increased to 88% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008).Nowadays, more and more people choose to live together before marriage because it is a good way to test the stability of couples’ relationships (Rhoades et al., 2009a).10% of couples who live together before marriage will cohabitate for at least five years and above (Smock and Pamela, 2000). Hence, does cohabitation prove to be a good alternative to marriage?
Although others might agree that cohabitation is the best way to strengthen bonds between couples, but research has shown otherwise. Cohabitation will affect the children, the relationship of cohabiting partners and the society. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to point out the disadvantages of cohabitation.
Firstly, cohabitation will have negative effects on children. Based on the survey, 45% of Ireland’s cohabiting partners share their income (2009).Cohabitation families will face financial problems whenever their partner is sick or unemployed. Poor cohabitating families will lead to behavioural problems of children. Also, the children will be stressed out. Besides, children from cohabitating families do not have the same rights compared to children who come from intact families. This is because there are no law and custodial right involving children from cohabitating families. In other words, children of unmarried couples cannot enjoy the same benefits compared to normal children, for instance, government benefits and taxation. Children from cohabiting family will blame their parents. So, it is tough to build the relationship between the parent and children. Therefore, parents who are involved in cohabitation will bring negative effects to their kids (Kierkus, 2010).
Furthermore, children in cohabitating families may face emotional problems. According to research, children from cohabitating families will face more psychological and socio-emotional challenges than others (Live Site News, 2010). These challenges include the emotional management such as scholastic achievement, expression capacity, and behaviour. In addition, the risk of facing psychological distresses in children who are from cohabitating family is higher than normal children. These distresses include anxiety disorders of children that may cause arguments among family members (Crouse, 2004). For example, children will face panic, phobia and inferiority complex (Gollub and Shellock, 2011).
Meanwhile, ccohabitating parents will set a bad example to their children. According to Dyer, children will follow or learn from their parents and the same behaviours in their daily lives (n.d.). This is because parents are the ultimate role models for their children. Parents may influence the perception of their children regarding cohabitation. Children from non-intact families may practice sex before marriage in the future. A study done by Science Daily about sex, drug and alcohol, had mentioned that attitude of parents toward sexual activity can influence their children the most in the future (2008). Therefore, parents will not only influence their children’s perception on cohabitation, but also expose them to early sexual activities. Therefore, cohabitating families are the least suitable family environment for children.
Secondly, cohabitation will also affect the relationship between cohabitating partners. Recent survey shows that the reason for why many couples are involved in cohabitation is because they think that it is convenient; thus, they can spend more time together and cohabitation can be a trial marriage (Rhoades et al., 2009b).However, trial marriage will lead to divorce. Recent survey shows that cohabitating couples have an 80% of separation rate before marriage and 60% of couples will divorce in ten years (Hayward and Brandon, 2010a). The rate of divorce of cohabitating families is higher than normal marriage families. Other examples also shows that half of the cohabitating families will separate in less than two years (Hayward and Brandon, 2010b)
According to J Marriage Fam, couples who cohabitate before marriage will usually divorce in their first and second marriage (2010). This is because many conflicts will occur when couples live together before marriage, such as communication problems, time management problems and also job division problems. Based on a survey, the top reason of divorce is infidelity (Watson, 2011). Besides, financial hardship is also another reason which leads to divorce. For instance, 38.6% unmarried couples earn income under $30K which is low compared to other families in United States (U.S. Census Bureau. 2005). This is because couples will have different conflicting ideas on how to distribute family expenses. Therefore, conflicts may happen when there are differences of opinions.
Furthermore, couples who live together before marriage will face a lot of household distribution and emotional problems. When couples cohabitate, the problem of household distribution might happen. As mentioned by William Harms in his article, women who are in a marriage will spend 14 hour per week in housework, but on the other hand, women who involve in cohabitation will only spend 10 hour per week in housework (2000). So, women who are cohabiting will not contribute much compared to women who are already married. Besides, the unemployment rate of cohabitating couples has increased 7% from 2007 to 2010 (Kreider, 2010). Hence, unemployed partners will have a much less income to support their families. Due to financial burden, couples may face a lot of emotional problems which will affect their relationship. Therefore, cohabitation not only will affect the relationship of the couples but also indirectly increase the rate of divorce.
Thirdly, cohabitation might also cause an increase in poverty rate. Couples who live before marriage will contribute to poverty. Based on a survey, there is 11% higher rate of poverty in cohabitating families compared to marriage families (Avellar and Smock, 2005). Children from unmarried families are likely to be poor. The money spent by couples who live together before marriages are higher than marriage families. This is because they do not only need money to raise their family but also to pay separate government taxes. Recent survey shows in Norway that more than 40% of cohabitating parents have children, whereas cohabitating families without children are only 37.8% (OECD Family Database, 2005). Therefore, cohabiting family will cause poverty.
Besides, couples who live together before marriage will have health problems. As mentioned by The New York Times, cohabitation caused negative effects toward women’s health (2006). One such example is women in cohabitation will easily gain to weight (Risen, 2006).This is because women will be influenced by men about the negative eating habit. For example, cohabitating couples will more having restaurant meals, fast food and junk food. Cohabitation will also lead to some health problems to couples such as sexual transmitted disease (STDs).For examples HIV and AIDS. HIV has caused 5,000 American women died every year (Crouse, 2004a).Cohabite couples will have unprotected sex that will lead to sexual transmitted diseases. In addition, the cohabitating women are six times higher to get STD compare to married women (Crouse, 2004b).
Other than that, social and behavior problems can also be brought by cohabitation. An example of social problems which caused by cohabitation is early sexual relationship that may lead to unwanted pregnancies. This is because those couples do not have enough experiences in prevent pregnancy. Then, they will also stay in the same house, same room or even the same bed. Hence, the chance of getting pregnant of couples who cohabitate is much higher than those who are not cohabitate with their partner.
For example, there are 3.2 million of unwanted pregnancies in United States (Finer and Zolna, 2006). Due to unwanted pregnancies, cohabitation may lead to child abuse and child maltreatment. This is because parents in cohabiting families are more unhappy, pressure and unprepared. According to British Marriage Project, it mentioned that there are twenty times more child abuse cases that occur in cohabitation families than marriage families (Fagan and Jaohson, 2002). In addition, some researchers also found that child abuse will increase more than 10% every year due to the increasing in cohabitation (National Marriage Project, 2002b). This result has been proved that cohabitation will cause higher possibility of child abuse from.
Besides, Lonardo et.al also claims that cohabitation will cause behavioral problems among cohabitating couples (2009). Based on the survey ,a male that live together before marriage have 7 times more involve in behavior problems and caught by police compare to a man who has get married (Albert,2006).The survey proved that the rate of behavioral problems in cohabitating family are much higher than normal married family. Moreover, teenager couples will also have behavioral problems.
For example, teenage couples may have academic problems when they are cohabitating. This is because they will spend most of their time dating; thus, this will eventually cause them to neglect their studies. Moreover, the freedom of individual may expropriate when couples live before marriage. Thus, teenagers who are going through the puberty stage will have anger management problems. So, when two teenage couples live together, they will most probably argue and fight with each other most of the time. In addition, if parents of those couples do not support their living status, conflicts and arguments between the parents and teenagers will occur. Hence, this shows that cohabitation will not only lead to behavioral problems among cohabitating couples, but also ruin the relationship between parents and cohabitating couples.
Next, many religions are against cohabitation. Based on the religious beliefs, cohabitation is a way to encourage sexual behaviors. Couples who cohabitate should learn to behave and control themselves, staying away from lust and avoiding possibilities of crossing boundaries. According to Paul, before marriage is the actions that they do not know God and do not know how to protect themselves (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, New International Version).Thus, this mean that marriage is holiness and couple must avoid having sex before marriage. Moreover, based on the Christian’s point of view, divorce and remarriage are also not encouraged.
According to the Bible, men and women must only have sexual relationships with only one person, which is their husband or wife (1 Corinthians 7:2, New International Version).Thus, based on the context of Christianity, sex before marriage cannot be accepted. If couples insist in living together before marriage, it will affect their religion’s image. In addition, Islam does not permit sex before marriage. From the Islamic point of view, a man can marry with not more than four women, but it does not encourage their believers to involve in cohabitation. Islam urges that sex is only involved between husband and wife in marriage but not to those who cohabitate. Therefore, by looking at the point of views in Christian and Islam, cohabitation is not encouraged.
However, there are still groups of people who disagree that cohabitation will lead to a series of negative effects. According to the opponents, they believe that the couples who live together will have more time to communicate and understand each other. Moreover, opponents also mention that couples who lives together before marriage will help them to make sure that they are right for each other. Then, cohabitation will also help couples to know their partners’ personalities and characteristics in more detail. From all of the reasons stated above, the gap between couples will be reduced if they live together before marriage. Therefore, couples who are cohabitating can solve many conflicts and problems by face-to-face communication.
Despite the opponent’s argument, cohabitation is not the only way to spend more time together to improve their relationship. This is because there are still many other ways for couples to spend more time together and improve their relationship. According to a recent survey, there are 20 tips to improve relationship for couples, such as by participating in social activities, communicate more with each other and set up some other rules in their relationship besides cohabitation (Nicastro, 2011). Besides, there is another study by National Council of United States that mentioned that a person who cohabitate before marriage will obtain less happiness in marriage (2002). This is because when they have spent most of their time as couples before marriage, they cannot actually feel the happiness and fresh feelings after the marriage. From this result, it shows that that cohabitation cannot improve the happiness among couples nor improve the relationship between cohabitating couples.
Moreover, cohabitation is not a good method for cohabitating couples to determine whether or not they are suitable for each other. This is because they usually do not treat their relationship seriously as married couples did. Most of the couples choose to cohabitate because they want to have a trial and error of marriage. According to Goodman Greaves, the rate of break ups after cohabitation is much higher than married couples (2010).
This is because cohabitating couples will feel insecure as they do not have any legal stand as married couples when they cohabitate. In another words, they are neither husband nor wife in the legal point of view. Besides that, one study of United Families International found that the rate of domestic violence in cohabiting families is double compared to normal families (2002). Based on this research, it shows that cohabitation will cause family violence for women that will cause the couples to become less confident towards their relationship.
Furthermore, as what had John A. Piece said, ‘Communication is not only the essence of being human, but also a vital property of life.’(n.d). This shows that communication skills are the utmost important thing among all couples. This is because communication can help couples to increase their confidence and relationship bond with each other. Based on the survey, communication problem in cohabitating couples are more than married couples (Kays and Tomasulo, 2010).So, it has been proved that cohabitation has not improved communication between couples but only worsen the current situation of communication problems among couples. This is because the different point of views of lifestyles between couples will increase their arguments .Examples of different living habits are sleeping habit, eating habit and health habit. Therefore, the survey approves that cohabitation is not a way to reduce the communication gap between couple.
In a nutshell, the arguments mentioned above prove that cohabitation should not be encouraged because it does not only bring effects to the couples themselves, but also to their children and society as well. In addition, researches have also shown that in terms of family, religions and society, cohabitation has more disadvantages than advantages to cohabitating couples. Cohabitation should also be dealt seriously in the world so that the problems which are brought by this issue can be minimized. Therefore, it is concluded that couples should not live together before marriage.
Courtney from Study Moose
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