Institute for Family Studies (IFS) Senior Fellow Bradford Wilcox lays out some basic but absolutely vital questions that point to some of the essential advantages marriage offers versus cohabitation.
“Is fidelity important to you? Having someone who always tells the truth? Has your back? Communicates well? If these are important to you, marriage looks best,” Wilcox writes.
That’s not just Wilcox’s opinion, either. He is commenting on the results of an important new study from the Pew Research Center entitled “Marriage and Cohabitation in the U.S.”
The results of the survey of 9,000 couples show, among much else, that “married adults are more satisfied with their relationship and more trusting of their partners than those who are cohabiting.”
By virtually every factor measured, Pew found marriage provides greater satisfaction, happiness and security for both partners than does cohabitation. That’s consistent with most of the research in recent decades, but Wilcox points to an important anomaly:
“Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Pew survey is that the majority of American adults, especially young people, continue to embrace beliefs about cohabitation that are out of touch with the research on cohabiting relationships,” according to Wilcox.
“Take, for example, the fact that nearly half of all adults (48 percent) said that those who live together first have a “better chance” of a successful marriage (38 percent said it ‘doesn’t make much difference’).
“Younger Americans were the most likely to embrace the view of cohabiting as a path toward marital success, with 63 percent believing it to be the case. Interestingly, older adults were more likely to believe that cohabiting prior to marriage doesn’t matter much to future marital success.”
“This idea that cohabiting before marriage can give your future marriage a boost is tied to another popular view: the myth that cohabiting is a good way to “test a relationship.
“Younger Americans were the most likely to embrace the view of cohabiting as a path toward marital success, with 63 percent believing it to be the case. The problem is the research shows otherwise.”
“The Pew survey found that nearly half, or 44 percent, of all cohabiting adults saw it as a step toward marriage, while this belief was embraced by 66 percent of married adults in the survey (who had live together prior to getting married but were not engaged when they first moved in).
“The problem is that research on cohabitation shows otherwise. As Dr. Scott Stanley and his research partner, Galena Rhoades, put it in an IFS blog post, ‘testing a relationship is probably the worst reason to cohabit.’
“They go on to explain: ‘Many people who are thinking about testing their relationship by cohabiting already know, on some level, what the grade of that test may be; but they are hoping that the answer looks better over time.’”
There is much more in both the Wilcox post on IFS and in the Pew study results, so it will be well worth the time spent reading both. Capitol Hill can be a brutal place for relationships, so these results show the importance for both of you of making the right choices.