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4.5: Cohabitation

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  • Cohabitation is the heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual moving in together of two partners without going through the formalities of legal marriage. Although similar in form and function, cohabitating couples live differently in many significant day-to-day aspects when compared to married couples. Also, many cohabiting couples eventually choose to marry, but their risk of divorce is higher than among couples that never cohabited.

    Cohabitation has been studied extensively for the last three decades, especially in contrast between cohabiting and married couples. Clear findings consistently show that cohabiting and marriage are two different creatures. Those who cohabit have less clarity on the intention and direction of the relationship than married couples. Further, people who cohabit, then later marry, are more likely to divorce than those who never cohabited. In 2010 the U.S. Center for Disease Control reported that cohabitation is very common “Among both men and women aged 15-44 who had ever cohabited and or married, the largest proportion cohabited before their first marriage. Approximately 28% of men and women cohabited before their first marriage, whereas 23% of women and 18% of men married without ever cohabiting. About 15% of men and women had only cohabited (without ever marrying), and less than seven percent of men and women first cohabited after their first marriages ended.” This report also stated that some of the cohabitation relationships dissolved while others transitioned to marriage. Less educated cohabiters cohabited longer while college- graduated cohabiters transitioned to marriage more.