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The Impact Of Cohabitation On Post Marriage Relationships

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About half of U.S. couples live together, "cohabitate", before they get married. This is practical in terms of paying the rent, but not in the long-term best interest of the relationship (D. Blackwell and D. Lichter). Couples who lived together before marriage experienced higher rates of marital separation and divorce than those who did not according to D. Blackwell and D. Lichter. They have found that there are two possible explanations for this. The first has to do with characteristics that distinguished those who live together and those who do not. People who choose to live together may have poorer communication skills compared to people who do not. (Thus, poor communication living together but, instead, of the people who choose to do so.) Another explanation might be that couples who decide to move in together tend to be somewhat uncertain about their long-term prospects. This uncertainty may diminish their commitment to the relationship, which in turn may diminish the effort they put into developing their communication skills. The following sections will discuss the factors of cohabitation and the research studies completed on how cohabitation affects the communication quality in these relationships and the overall satisfaction of the relationship post marriage.


Those who research cohabitation are all too aware that cohabitation is complex and diverse, and includes a range of living arrangements of varying durations that may or may not include children, that may or may not convert into marriage, that may be full time or more part time, and that may be but one of a portfolio of co-residential partnerships. In research there are several definitions/types of "cohabitation", it is the two definitions provided by Casper and Bianchi (2002) that concerns this topic. Prelude to marriage, family formation may be initiated by unmarried cohabitation as a "testing" ground for a relationship. Couples may feel a greater need for this premarital experience when they observe high rates of divorce. Choices to cohabit first may also depend on access to affordable housing, or to reliable contraception to postpone childbearing. Stage in the marriage process, this ideal type is closely related to the previous one. Although Casper and Bianchi (2002) distinguished between trial marriage and precursor to marriage based on the motivation of individuals entering cohabitation with respect to marriage, we distinguish this type from the previous one, based on the actual timing of marriage and childbearing. In this scenario, couples may increasingly experience competing opportunities that they could pursue by briefly postponing marriage, as long as it is understood that they intend to marry eventually. Cohabitation is a complex family form, and for about half of cohabiters, it is a relationship that lasts approximately two years and then ends, either through marriage or dissolution. For others, it is a precursor to marriage. And for one tenth of cohabiters, it is a long-term relationship that seldom ends in marriage (Bumpass & Sweet, 1989). In the majority of cases, cohabitation shares many of the qualities of marriage. It involves sharing a residence and personal resources, excluding intimate relations with others, and, in a substantial number of cases, having a child. More than 10 percent of cohabiters experience the birth of a child while cohabiting, and about one quarter bring children from previous unions to their current cohabiting relationship (Bumpass, Sweet, & Cherlin, 1991). Despite its similarity to marriage, we know that cohabitation before marriage has a large impact on marital relationship satisfaction.

Relationship Satisfaction

Relationship satisfaction can be explained as the level of personal satisfaction a person achieves from the relationship as explained by Nock (1995). He goes on to discuss that there are five dimensions allow for a standardized measurement of an obscure term such as relationship satisfaction: disagreement, fairness, happiness, conflict management, and interaction. The expectation that cohabiters have poorer relationship quality than married (couples that choose not to cohabitate before marriage) is supported by Nock's (1995) comparison of marriages and cohabiting relationships. Nock's analysis of the relationship quality of married and cohabiters who were involved in unions of less than 10 years reveals that cohabiters are less happy with their relationships and less committed to their relationships than married. It is the lower level of commitment and satisfaction in these relationships that lead to the lower level of communicative quality.

Communication Quality

Communication Quality is best defined by Brown and Booth (1996) as amount of everyday communication and the level of self discloser in the said communication In their study Bumpass, Sweet, and Cherlin (1991), it is discussed that in the past decade the rate of married couple has taken a sharp decline in both first marriage rates and rates of remarriage. In this study the decline has been attributed been largely by the increasing number of couples choosing cohabitation over marriage. This is creating a cohabitation environment with "family



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