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Shacking up versus marriage

in Random Musings, Romance

wedding rings

Photo by theswedish on

I read a fascinating article yesterday about the rising frequency of cohabitation (a.k.a. living together) before marriage. The living arrangement seems to have lost a lot of its taboo. As a happily married woman who has never experienced this first-hand; I find the topic fascinating.

According to the CNN article:

  • Between 2006 and 2010, 48% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 moved in for the first time with a man to whom they weren’t married. In 2002, it was 43%. In 1995, it was 34%.
  • 1 in 4 women live with a man by age 20 and almost 3 in 4 by 30.
  • 40% of women living with significant others transitioned to marriage within three years,  32% of those relationships remained the same, and 27% dissolved.
  • Nearly 20% of women became pregnant within a year of moving in with someone for the first time, up from 18% in 2002 and 15% in 1995.

While I understand the “try it before you buy it mindset,” I do wonder how much that missing piece of paper affects a relationship. Does the lack of commitment actually keep the romance fresher because as soon as the heat becomes a simmer, a partner can walk? Or does it make the romance a bit less personal because trust is lacking? Outside of the moral  or religious arguments against living together, what are the other long-term effects that cohabitation may have on a couple?

My choice

My husband and I made the choice early on that we were going to postpone the physical relationship until we were married. Much of that was based on our spiritual upbringing, but waiting seemed logical in building commitment and trust as well. When we graduated community college and transferred to a university, we knew we’d likely not stick with our plan if we lived in the same small town and had no accountability. Marriage was inevitable so we took the plunge prior to transfer and have been happy ever since.

The flip side

On the other hand, based on the rate at which marriages fail, I can see the draw to not signing paperwork. What’s the point if you have a good chance of calling it quits in a few short years? Does saying “I do” really make the bond any stronger? Is a wedding really more for the family and friends, or is there a mental connection that is somehow made when vows are exchanged?

What about you?

What’s your opinion? Is “try before you buy” a logical step in a solid romance, or do you still lean towards marriage being mandatory?

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