The Downside of Living Together
More and more couples today live together or "play house" before taking the matrimonial plunge. Living together before marriage has become so popular that approximately half the couples in America participate in this activity (Gorrell 16). Some couples choose to live together to test their compatibility and possibly avoid an unsuccessful marriage. With the number of marriages ending in divorce these days, it sounds reasonable that many couples want to give marriage a trial run before making any formal commitment. But do the chances of a successful marriage actually improve by cohabiting?
"Cohabitation isn't marriage," says sociology professor Linda Waite of the University of Chicago (qtd. in Jabusch 14). Married and cohabiting couples do not have the same characteristics. According to Professor Waite, cohabiting couples lack both specialization and commitment in their relationships (Jabusch 14). Unwed cohabitants generally live more financially and emotionally independent of one another to allow themselves the freedom to leave. This often results in less monogamous, short-term relationships.
Married couples specialize-while partner might take over the cooking, the other might specialize in cleaning. They pool their money, time, and other resources, creating a higher quality lifestyle. Unmarried couples find it much harder to trust each other financially without the legal bond and, therefore, do not move quickly to pool those resources. While marriage does not ensure monogamy, married couples have more invested in their relationship and think longer before acting on their impulses and stepping outside of the relationship. Unmarried couples do not operate as a partnership, says Waite: "they are being two separate people-it is trading off freedom and low levels of commitment for fewer benefits than you get from commitment" (qtd. Jabusch 15).
Many singles believe that by practicing marriage they will receive the commitment they desire. With this in mind, they move in together intending to tie the knot eventually. Time passes and the couple rarely talks seriously about finalizing the commitment. And so, they often end up cohabiting for a few years until eventually someone gets tired of waiting and leaves. Cohabitation can suppress the development of a higher level of commitment. Sometimes, one or both of the people involved become complacent in the relationship, and without any pressure to move forward, they won't. As social psychologist Dr. Julia Hare puts it, "Why...