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Does Cohabitation Help or Hurt a Person’s Future Marriage?

Autor:   •  October 16, 2017  •  1,234 Words (5 Pages)  •  336 Views

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With the support of cognitive dissonance theory, Stanley & Markman (2006) suggested that the deliberation of commitment is of importance, as people will behave consistently according to their commitment. Therefore, partner should have clear mutual understanding and compromise on their commitment in their cohabitation relationship and adjust further when they later get into marriage.

When partners are uncertain whether they will be marrying or not, it is not a wise idea to start cohabitation as a test of compatibility. It is because unanticipated outcome is more common in cohabitation such as premarital pregnancy and couples might not be ready to handle properly. As things are not planned and happened under the lack of mutual agreement, it poses higher risks to later marital dissatisfaction. However, once cohabitation has started, there would be greater inertia in the relationship, it is harder for couples to break up despite unsatisfactory or low level of dedication. (Kline et al., 2004;Stanley & Markman,2006;Manning& Cohen, 2012;Cohan & Kleinbaum, 2002). Stanley & Markman (2006) explained that constraint commitment is the difficulty in leaving a relationship and people who cohabitated often slide to marriage without a serious decision. Cohabitation involves a share of household and possibility financial share. These practice together with the cohabitating habit, cause growing inertia and make it harder for the two to break up. According to commitment theory (Jones and Adams,1999 as cited in Stanley & Markman,2006), the four types of commitment are relationship-driven, dedication- drive, event- driven and constraint-driven. The inertia grown in cohabitation would result in event-driven or constraint-driven commitment. As a result, marriage would happen even in low level of dedication as it seem natural that marriage is the next step of cohabitation. In the long run, it is easier for couples to feel regret or with lower marital satisfaction.

On the basis of these findings, it comes to the conclusion that cohabitation would hurt a person’s future marriage when couples have no plan of marriage or the status of cohabitation is of ambiguity. It is because the nature of cohabitation does not involve deliberative commitment that is crucial in a long-term life relationship. On top of that, when partners start cohabitation under indecision of marriage, they often start with low level of dedication and without mutual understanding of commitment in their relationship. Furthermore, once cohabitation started, even partners find that they are not that compatible, it is hard to leave the relationship and marriage of lower satisfactory result (Woods, & Emery, 2002). Therefore, partners should reexamine these potential risks before making decision of cohabitation. If they would like to start cohabitation, they should compromise their meaning of cohabitation and their mutual commitment in their relationship and potential marriage.


Cohan, C. L., & Kleinbaum, S. (2002). Toward a greater understanding of the cohabitation effect: Premarital cohabitation and marital communication. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(1), 180-192.

de Vaus, D. A., Qu, L., & Weston, R. (2003). Premarital cohabitation and subsequent marital stability.

Kline, G. H., Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., Olmos-Gallo, P. A., St Peters, M., Whitton, S. W., & Prado, L. M. (2004). Timing is everything: Pre-engagement cohabitation and increased risk for poor marital outcomes. Journal of Family Psychology, 18(2), 311.

Manning, W. D., & Cohen, J. A. (2012). Premarital cohabitation and marital dissolution: An examination of recent marriages. Journal of marriage and family,74(2), 377-387.

Stanley, S. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2006). Sliding versus deciding: Inertia and the premarital cohabitation effect*. Family Relations, 55(4), 499-509.

Woods, L. N., & Emery, R. E. (2002). The Cohabitation Effect on Divorce: Causation or Selection?. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 37(3-4), 101-122.


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