In the previous century, society perceived cohabitation only from a negative side. People did not understand this phenomenon; thus, they sharply reacted to the individuals who lived together without marriage. In today’s society, this situation is simpler, and only their feelings are the main elements of people’s relations. For example, divorce has become a common and accessible phenomenon that does not need the disapproval of society. Furthermore, people have realized the fragility of marriage and began to take precautions in the form of cohabitation. However, there are different opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of this phenomenon. Opponents of cohabitation believe that such a life seriously weakens the institution of marriage and reduces the chances to have children. At the same time, proponents of cohabitation believe that people have a right to feel free from social prejudice and they have a choice in organizing their personal lives. Cohabitation is a controversial phenomenon with different opinions but it is quite widespread in modern society, which proves the superiority of benefits.
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The Origin of Cohabitation
Cohabitation exists as a relationship between partners who live together but who do not enter into a formal marriage. Nowadays, cohabitation places an increasingly important social role in the family institute (Lauer & Lauer, 2016). According to the report the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young couples increasingly choose cohabitation with each other rather than the legal registration of their relationship (Lauer & Lauer, 2016). However, there are certain models of cohabitation, and they have their specific characteristics. Initially, there is pre-marital cohabitation, when people are planning to marry in the near future. Moreover, there is cohabitation as an alternative to marriage (Lauer & Lauer, 2016). Recently, the popularity of cohabitation has increased, and this situation causes an ambiguous attitude on the part of society. As a result, different scholars argue the weaknesses and strengths of this phenomenon.
The Weaknesses of the Cohabitation
According to sociological surveys, scholars have concluded that cohabitation is not appropriate preparation for marriage or prevention of divorce (Reinhold, 2010). Moreover, they have found that life in cohabitation seriously weakens the institution of marriage (Reinhold, 2010). This phenomenon reduces the chances to get married and increases the risk of a failed marriage. Some sociological studies have shown that couples who live for a long time in cohabitation lose a desire to have children (Reinhold, 2010). Furthermore, people, who are willing to cohabit, are less responsible than the supporters of formal marriage. As a result, such people are more prone to the disruption of relations. More to say, cohabitation may adversely affect subsequent marriages (Reinhold, 2010). Spouses, who have a bad experience of premarital cohabitation, have an increased risk of deciding to terminate their relationship. In addition, cohabitation reduces tolerance, and people acquire a psychological background to break a relationship that could have been saved under other conditions (Reinhold, 2010). Furthermore, cohabitation changes the attitude of partners to the marriage union, thereby reducing the prospects for stable relations. Consequently, cohabitation forms a negative background for the development and existence of an appropriate relationship.
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Cohabitation is less stable as compared to official marriage. Some sociological researches demonstrate that couples in marriage have higher rates of physical and mental health (De Waal, 2008). Moreover, scholars notice that married couples are more happy and prosperous than couples in cohabitation (De Waal, 2008). The duration of marital relationships and the strength of the union contribute to emotional prosperity, appropriate conditions of skill development, and the generalization of material and social resources (De Waal, 2008). In contrast, people in cohabitation do not have these benefits, so they are faced with many mental difficulties in their lives. For example, women often want to register their relationship, acquire some social status, and to be confident in a partner (De Waal, 2008). Such a condition becomes the reason for the psychological suffering of partners. Furthermore, the absence of emotional background may cause depression for people in cohabitation. Some scholars argue that married women are much less exposed to cruelty and violence than those in cohabitation (Seltzer, 2004). For example, some individuals feel no responsibility for the actions committed in cohabitation. Furthermore, a cohabitating couple may have problems connected with children. For example, there exists the problem of proving paternity and judicial proceedings in the cases when a couple breaks up and the father no longer cares about family (Seltzer, 2004). Moreover, when a couple breaks up in cohabitation, they begin to divide their parental rights. Eventually, it causes mental problems for children and greater complications than the divorce of married people (Seltzer, 2004). In addition, a family can have trouble with the registration of last names or entries in kindergarten, school, and hospital. Therefore, cohabitation is the cause of many social problems and threats to society.
The Benefits of Cohabitation
Most modern couples want to create a family and have children. As a result, many young couples consider cohabitation as a test of their marital compatibility. They are confident that it is necessary to live without any obligations. However, sometimes, they realize that marriage is only a status that does not solve anything in relation. In fact, cohabitation gives a sense of inner freedom, self-confidence, and psychological independence. For example, proponents of cohabitation argue that modern women are happy when they feel free from social oppression that forces them to get married. Consequently, cohabitation combines the essential features of a prospective relationship.
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Moreover, marriage is a serious step that might not be suitable for all couples. Thus, cohabitation is a great option for the people who do not need proof of their relations in the official document. A person can learn more about the partner and make sure that they fit together. In addition, living together is a serious test (Vespa & Painter, 2011). People cannot disassemble and play the role of others in cohabitation for long. Thus, a prolonged cohabitation will help to determine if a person is willing to tolerate the shortcomings of a partner or one should not waste time on a hopeless relationship (Vespa & Painter, 2011). On the contrary, official relations have some serious obligations. Thus, their termination will be much complicated. Moreover, a desire to live together before marriage is motivated by the increase in the number of divorces in modern society (Vespa & Painter, 2011). Thus, modern couples choose cohabitation as the best choice for the development of their relations. The experience of living together in the future helps to find the right person to marry because cohabitation is a good way to know each other better. Altogether, cohabitation helps to form an appropriate condition for the development and maintenance of the relationship.
Another advantage is the absence of necessity to divide the property. Partners are aware that in the event of a divorce, they will remain with their initial material level (Smock, 2000). This condition saves their mental health and helps in the complex decision to make an expensive purchase (Smock, 2000). Furthermore, people in cohabitation relations are in constant desire to maintain their relationship. For example, they try to maintain romance and amaze their partner. Psychology of such a relationship has the feature of freedom-illusion that keeps the level of relations in a comfortable condition (Smock, 2000). This environment helps to understand whether a person is ready for the next step. In addition, the couple often makes sure that cohabitation is the best solution for the young family. Consequently, the major elements of cohabitation prove that this phenomenon is the dominant form of modern relations.
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Cohabitation exists as the form of extramarital joint residing of a man and a woman. Sociologists view this concept from different angles and note the benefits and drawbacks of this phenomenon. Partners in cohabitation have the opportunity to know each other better and ensure the reliability of their relationship. Cohabitation eliminates the problem of the allocation of funds and property as well as the process of divorce and litigation. At the same time, cohabitation ensures the psychological independence and comfortable relationship of a couple. On the other hand, cohabitation weakens the institution of marriage, reduces the opportunities to have children, and opens the problem of paternity. Moreover, cohabitation increases the risk of a failed relationship. Nevertheless, modern couples choose cohabitation as a favorite type of relationship development. Therefore, cohabitation is a choice of modern society, but it has many weaknesses and benefits, which proves that it is a controversial phenomenon for public perception.