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Cohabitation vs. Traditional Marriage


Cohabitation has taken an increasing trend in the young population and many people prefer it for compatibility before marriage. Living together with partners of opposite sex helps reduce financial and other unforeseen exposures because the partners equally contribute to the same while they get the sexual romance. This paper focuses on the strengths, weaknesses and similarities that arise between cohabitation and marriage and the resulting effects on both the partners and children.

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Analysis of the two shows that marriage increases both social and religious participation and a more lasting acceptance of responsibility and commitment as compared to what cohabitation does. People who are likely to cohabitate include young adults with less education and low income, less religious persons and less traditional individuals among others. These individuals mainly cohabitate to try marriage, to test for compatibility, for economic gain, due to fear to commit and for easy dissolution of the relation should any issues that require separation arise.


Cohabitation is an act whereby two persons live together in a passionate and sexual relation without getting legal marriage for a relatively long time. Young people may choose to live together when they earn less and wish to share costs or to avoid financial constraints among other reasons as will be discussed below.

Differences between Cohabitation and Marriage

For one to enter into marriage relations, there are requirements that they have to meet that may vary from one country to another and the two partners coming together must agree to conform to them. In cohabitation, there are no formal requirements for relation to commence and as a result anybody may cohabitate at wish and at any time.

In marriage, depending on the earnings of the partners, one may be called upon to provide support to the other in case of brake up and when one is in financial difficulty. In cohabitation the support is not legally binding and the partners are not obliged to support each other after separation. When the partners divorce under marriage, there are legal guidelines that define how they are to divide their property so that no one suffers. However, in cohabitation, the partners may divide their property in a manner that they deem fit. This may turn out to be the source of other conflicts (Kalmijn, Loeve, & Manting, 2007).

Children that are born under marriage are legally presumed to be the offspring of the husband and the wife in common, but children born under cohabitation do not give cohabitants legal presumption of paternity unless the same is confirmed through blood test (Lichter, Qian, & Mellott, 2006).

In case where one partner becomes incompetent, the other partner exercises the right to perform duties and actions that could have been performed by the sick partner under marriage. This is not the case under cohabitation whereby the sick partner may involve a third party to make decisions on their behalf and not necessarily the other partner. Decision made is not binding unless order to do so is received from the sick partner to either another third party or to the partner who is not ill.

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Advantages of Cohabitation

Cohabitation is important to individuals who intend to marry so that they know whether the marriage they intend to enter into may work in the future. One is able to learn the demeanors of his/her partner before marriage. The costs of living such us food, water and rent are shared; therefore, reducing living expenses. In most cases, the parties involved give each other emotional support and at times indulge in sexual relations without necessarily having to commit into marriage. This helps them to test compatibility with potential partners they may agree to marry.

It also helps one to be ready for marriage by learning how to tolerate characters, manners and attitude of their possible partner and learning their deeper intentions in life by sharing their thoughts when they are together (Brines & Joyner, 1999). This helps in building trust between them that may not be easily interfered with when they finally commit to get married.


It is common that the more somebody stays with another, the more likely they are to end up into a formal relationship like marriage that may not have been intended. Cohabitation may, therefore, lead into premature marriage that may later turn out to be problematic.


Cohabitation may lead to stress and development of negative attitude towards another. Either party is not obliged to remain in such relationship and, therefore, may walk out any time they feel. This may turn out to be stressful.

High divorce rate

It has been argued that those who live together for sexual benefits before marriage have high chances of divorce. Partners who live together may have extramarital affairs outside of the relationship that they may continue with even after marriage. This may result into filing of divorce when one party gets information concerning external affairs. Cases of secondary partners are less in those women who are married as opposed to cohabiting women.

Lasting responsibilities

Cohabitation encompasses less pledges and commitments as compared to marriage, but instead is composed of personal emotional bond arrangements between cohabitating parties for certain time interval. In marriage however, levels of commitment and care is high and the parties willingly take responsibility not only to themselves but also to their entire family. This makes the relationships to be strong and to last for a longer time.

Commitment and permanence

Marriage involves less independence between the couples as they always tend to do things together unlike non married persons who values personal independence. Those who cohabitate have different basis of doing things and males always prefer having more freedom and less responsibility for their partners. Studies show that the more people cohabitate the less likely are they to think positively about marriage and instead develop negative attitude about each other and on childbearing. Better commitment and longevity of relationship is experienced in marriage and partners will be willing to take responsibility arising from either side (Brines & Joyner, 1999).

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Why Marriage is better than Cohabitation

As compared to cohabitation, marriage is a long term acceptance of responsibility whereby the partners choose to be committed to one another irrespective of conditions and benefits. This promotes personal security and trust. The partners view sexual relation as exclusive and, therefore, become more faithful. Good emotional relation in children results because the parents are not likely to break up.

Also, a child that live without either parent is exposed to abuse that may result from their single parent having a different relationship. This may make them develop behavior problems and poor academic performance that may have long term negative influence in their life. It is also evident that married couples are better off financially as compared to those who cohabitate because the couples will always have a common budget of their spending (Kalmijn, Loeve, & Manting, 2007).

Besides, non-married persons in most cases may not be concerned about health issues in a relationship and, as a result, may be more vulnerable to acquisition of diseases. They have high exposure to mortality as compared to married couples. Married individuals connect well with the community and the church, which is imperative for (emotional) support. This privilege is not enjoyed by non- married partners.

Essential components of marriage, such as, love and commitment add more satisfaction and pleasure in a relationship making a better sex life as compared to cohabiting partners. Partners who cohabitate may have sex frequently as they may wish but lack of commitment and care for one another may make it less enjoyable because the partners themselves are even exposed to diseases due to poor health concerns (Lichter, Qian, & Mellott, 2006).


Throughout the passage, it is evident that cohabitation has more costs in the long run as compared to marriage. For children to live responsible life and parents to enjoy the love of their children and that that they share, they should practice marriage other than cohabitation (Brines & Joyner, 1999). It should be understood that trust and commitment are important ingredients that leads to happiness in life and outweighs benefits accrued in cohabitation. Awareness should be encouraged to the young population that may lead them into the understanding of the consequences of cohabiting to social and religious teachings.


Brines, J., & Joyner, K. (1999). The ties that bind: Principles of cohesion in cohabitation and marriage. American Sociological Review, 64(3), 333-355. Web.

Kalmijn, M., Loeve, A., & Manting, D. (2007). Income dynamics in couples and the dissolution of marriage and cohabitation. Demography, 44(1), 159-179. Web.

Lichter, D., Qian, Z., & Mellott, L. (2006). Marriage or dissolution? Union transitions among poor cohabiting women. Demography, 43(2), 223-240. Web.

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