A Different Kind of Beauty

A great post by a classmate on the pressure to be the “ideal” women – beautiful and thin

Life's A Stage

mannequins

I found the inspiration for this post from one of my peer, Jessica’s blog, who posted about a similar topic. I read on the internet a few weeks ago that there was a store in Sweden that had put mannequins on display that were sizes 6 and 10. People around the world supported it to a certain degree, but there were still complaints that the mannequins were not “traditional” enough. Why are we so determined to perpetuate gender conformity? The ideals of what is “sexy” in society directy affect the construction of identity for gendered individuals-no matter what gender(s) you identify with.
How many of us look at people around us to see how we compare to their appearance? I know I do. When we perpetuate the ideals of gender conformity-that everyone must be a certain size and look a certain way- it compeletly destroys the ability of gendered individuals…

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To move in, or not to move in?

To move in, or not to move in? Thinking about moving in with your partner, but wondering if it’s the right decision for you? Learn more about cohabitation so that you can make the right decision for yourself and your relationship.

Let’s start with the basics – what is cohabitation? Cohabitation is a sexual relationship in which two people live together without being legally married (McDaniel & Tepperman, 2011). Cohabitation can lead to common-law marriages – a valid and legally binding marriage entered into without civil or religious ceremony, resulting from a cohabitating relationship that lasts more than three years (McDaniel & Tepperman, 2011). In recent decades cohabitation rates have drastically risen, as couples of all ages and life stages are choosing to cohabitate for multiple reasons as either a precursor or alternative to marriage.

To find out more about cohabitation and common-law marriages in Canada check out these government websites; Common Law Relationships in Canada  at http://www.commonlawrelationships.ca/, and Ontario Family Law: Common Law relationships and Cohabitation Agreements at http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/justice-ont/family_law.asp.

Research has demonstrated both negative and positive outcomes for cohabitating relationships. When trying to decide if cohabitation is the right choice for you and your partner, examining some of the empirical research on the effects of cohabitation can be extremely beneficial. The following posts will break down three recent studies on the effects of cohabitation, in hopes to enlighten you on the draw backs, benefits, and factors involved in cohabitation.

 

McDaniel, Susan A., and Lorne Tepperman. Close relations: an introduction to the sociology of families. 4th ed. Toronto: Pearson Canada, 2011.

Cohabitation – types of couples

Research on the outcomes of cohabitation has yielded different findings, suggesting that grouping all cohabitating couples into one broad category may not accurately reflect the diversity and dynamics of cohabitating relationships. A study by Willoughby, Carroll, and Busby (2011), examined the differences in types of cohabitating couples by proposing a typology based on a couples’ trajectory towards, and perception of marriage. This study sampled over 1000 never-married cohabitating couples, and used latent class analysis (a research method used to identify unobservable subgroups within a population) to create a model of five types of cohabitating couples – the type of cohabitating couple was found to be associated with relationship dynamics and outcomes.

For many adults cohabitation is a stage of the coupling process, where individuals explore love, commitment, and potential life partners (Willoughby et al., 2011). This coupling process can vary across individuals, cultures, situations, and relationship types, as cohabitating relationships are entered into for many different reasons such as; freedom, economic benefits, love, testing a relationship or partner,and convenience (Willoughby et al., 2011). Whatever the motivation is to enter a cohabiting relationship, marital plans and engagement status have been found to be important indicators of both current and future relationship outcomes for cohabitating couples.

The typology of cohabitating couples developed in this study is based on engagement status and marital plans; Incongruent – Engaged couples, Engaged – Slow couples, Engaged – Fast couples, Non-Engaged – No Marriage couples, and Incongruent – Non-Engaged couples (Incongruent refers to couples who’s attitudes/plans are not corresponding). Couples in the engagement subgroups (slow and fast marital plans) report higher levels of relationship satisfaction and stability, as well as positive communication and lower levels of conflict with their partner; reported levels are comparable to reports by married couples (Willoughby et al., 2011). The sub group of non-engaged cohabitating couples with no marital plans appeared similar to dating couples on levels of satisfaction and stability (Willoughby et al., 2011). The most significant effects were found with the incongruent subgroups of cohabitating couples, who have been found to experience several negative effects including; higher levels of disagreement and conflict, and poorer relational outcomes.

The research in this study illustrates that cohabitation is a dynamic and diverse form or relationships. Engagement status and marital plans appear to be related to factors involved in relationship satisfaction, as well as short term and long term relationship outcomes. The research presented by Willoughby, Carroll, and Busby (2011), suggests that entering into a cohabitating relationship without understanding the meaning  of the decision for the relationship and future intentions may have negative consequences, so before deciding to move in with your partner couple’s should discuss their thoughts and feelings about their relationship and future intentions.

 

Willoughby, B. J., Carroll, J. S., & Busby, D. M. (2012). The different effects of “living together”:     Determining and comparing types of cohabiting couples. Journal of Social and Personal          Relationships, 29(3), 397-419. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0265407511431184

 

Cohabitation – gender; he says, she says?

While cohabitation is a customary part of the relationship process today for many North American couples, an individual’s experience with cohabitation may depend on their gender. An exploratory study by Huang, Smock, Manning, and Bergstrom-Lynch (2011), examined what cohabitation means to young adults through focus groups and in-depth individual interviews. The study found that the primary motives for young adults to enter into cohabitating relationships are spending an increased amount of time together, sharing expenses, and evaluating partners for compatibility; “logistics, love, and sex – we might as well live together” (Huang et al., 2011). While men and women report similar motivations, they discuss the benefits and drawbacks of cohabitation quite differently.

Both men and women reported a significant motivation and benefit of cohabitation was the increased amount of time partners get to spend with each other; however men associated this factor with an increase in sex (4x more than women), while women associated this factor with an enhancement in love (3x more than men) (Huang et al., 2011). Financial advantages were also reported as a strong motivator for couples as a practical solution to housing and transportation costs; furthermore both men and women agreed that ideally partners should be financially stable and conversely that having debt or bad credit would make a partner less attractive (Huang et al., 2011).

Women and men are equally likely to gauge cohabitation as a temporary relationship state to measure compatibility; however women are more likely to view cohabitation as a move towards marriage, where as men are more likely to view cohabitation as a step in the relationship (Huang et al., 2011). This alludes to the idea of preparation versus test-drives perspectives in pre-marriage cohabitation.  A strong difference was found in the reported disadvantages of cohabitation as women worried about cohabitation as a less committed or legitimate form of relationships (compared to marriage), while men worried about a loss of personal freedom after moving in with a partner (Huang et al., 2011). Both genders expressed a high concern for the potential of divorce in the future; suggesting that while many couples choose to cohabitate, marriage is still an important value and for better or worse couples may enter cohabitating relationships as a risk management strategy (Huang et al., 2011).

Cohabitating relationships – like other forms of relationships and the individuals in them – are unique and dynamic. Individual differences, relationship dynamics, future relationship intentions, and factors such as gender can all influence a couple’s cohabitating relationship. Ultimately many couples believe that the advantages to cohabitating outweigh the drawbacks, although men and women may weigh the factors differently.

Huang, P. M., Smock, P. J., Manning, W. D., & Bergstrom-Lynch, C. (2011). He says, she says:   Gender and cohabitation.Journal of Family Issues, 32(7), 876-905. doi:   http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0192513X10397601

Gendered relationship advice

Social scientists aren’t the only one’s interested in relationships and cohabitation; this is also a hot topic in many magazines and websites. Men’s and women’s magazines talk about love and the same relationship issues quite differently. Check two articles about “Shacking Up” the first in Women’s Health online magazine – http://www.womenshealthmag.com/sex-and-relationships/living-with-your-boyfriend, and the second in Ask Men online magazine – http://ca.askmen.com/dating/dating_advice_100/101_dating_tips.html.

Do you think men and women have profoundly different experiences in relationships and cohabitation, or is this a men are from Mars/women are from Venus idea?

Cohabitation – individual well being & relationship qaulity

The reasons why couples choose to enter a cohabitating union may have a stronger influence on the future of their relationship than most people realize. Past research has shown that many couples simply ‘slide’ into a cohabitating union – there is not an explicit decision to move in together, it merely ‘happens’ as a relationship progresses – and findings have implicated that making this transition without understanding the meaning for the relationship can lead to negative outcomes. Recent research has begun to inspect the outcomes of relationships when couples do consciously choose to progress their relationship and enter into a cohabitating living agreement. A study by Rhoades, Stanley, and Markman (2009) examined if the different motivations behind cohabitating unions affected the well being of partners and the outcomes of relationships. An in-depth mail survey was sent to 120 cohabitating couples, asking each partner their reasons for living in a cohabitating relationship.

The most commonly reported reasons to cohabitate included spending time together and convenience, followed by testing the relationship, and few people reported opposition to marriage as a reason to cohabitate (Rhoades et al., 2009).  Motivations for cohabitation can be broadly categorised into internal reasons and external reasons for commitment; internal reason are relationship driven such as positive attributes about a partner and the relationship (i.e: love and time together), while external reasons are event driven such as situational attributes and convenience (i.e: lowering expenses) (Rhoades et al., 2009).

Internal reasons such as the most commonly endorsed motivation of spending time together,  have been found to be positively associated with individual well being in addition to short term and long term relationship satisfaction (Rhoades et al., 2009). Conversely external reasons such as the motivation of testing a relationship have been found to be related to more negative outcomes such as failed communication, increased aggression, low relationship adjustment, and commitment concerns (Rhoades et al., 2009).

Cohabitation has become an increasingly popular relationship union and living arrangement for couples in today’s society. While research has demonstrated both advantages and draw backs to cohabitation, one of the most fundamental factors in relationship outcomes may be how the decision to begin cohabitating was made; couples who wish to live together should consciously make a decision to cohabitate and understand the implications for their relationship. As the Rhoades (2009) study demonstrated, choosing instead of sliding into cohabitation can improve individual well-being and relationship satisfaction.

Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. (2009). Couples’ reasons for cohabitation:   Associations with individual well-being and relationship quality. Journal of Family   Issues, 30(2), 233-258. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0192513X08324388

So, to move in or not to move in?

Cohabitating relationships come in diverse types and are a dynamic form of intimate relationships, which have become an increasingly popular option for North American couples of all ages and life stages. The outcome of cohabitating unions can be influenced by several interacting factors such as individual traits of personality and gender, and relationship variables like engagement status and marital plans. While research on the effects of cohabitation has found both positive benefits and negative drawbacks of this type of union, it is ultimately up to each individual and each couple to decide if progressing into a cohabitating union is the right decision. Consider the information out there on cohabitation; know what cohabitation legally implies for your relationship; and talk about your current feelings and future intentions for your relationship; and if you choose to enjoy the experience of living together! Take a look at the Shacking Up Moving Guide at http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2012/04/shacking-up-move-in-together/

One last resource for couples who do choose to move in together and enter a cohabitating union – you can consider establishing a cohabitation agreement for you and your partner. Check out the article in The Star for food for thought on this topic; http://www.thestar.com/life/2012/04/09/cohabitation_agreements_help_give_commonlaw_

spouses_same_rights_as_married_couples.html, and if you’d like to learn more about cohabitation agreements visit http://www.cohabitationagreement.ca/

And whether or not you decide to move in together, may you have a happy and successful relationship!