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