The percentage of American adults who have ever lived with an unmarried partner has increased as marriage rates have fallen. According to a recent Pew Research Center research, the majority of Americans still think it is appropriate for unmarried couples to cohabitate, even if they have no intention of getting married. A small majority still believes that marriage has positive social effects. The study also compares the experiences of cohabitating people with those of married adults, finding that married persons report better levels of relationship satisfaction and confidence in their partner.
Here are the report’s top conclusions:
Cohabitation is more common among adults than marriage.
According to a Pew Research Center study of data from the National Survey of Family Growth, 59% of persons between the ages of 18 and 44 have lived with an unmarried partner at some point in their lives, compared to 50% who have ever been married. Compared to 2002, 60% of adults in this age range were married and 54% had ever lived together. The majority of cohabiting adults between the ages of 18 and 44 (62%) have only ever shared a home with one partner, however 38% have had two or more partners overall.
According to data from the Current Population Survey, only 53% of persons ages 18 and older are now married, down from 58% in 1995. The percentage of Americans who live with an unmarried partner has increased from 3% to 7% within the same time frame.
The majority of Americans believe that cohabitation is acceptable.
The majority of Americans (69%) believe that cohabitation is acceptable even when a couple does not intend to wed. Another 16% agree, but only if they want to wed, and 14% believe it is never acceptable for unmarried people to cohabitate.
Younger folks are more likely than older adults to find an unmarried couple living together tolerable. About 80% of people under the age of 30 (78%) believe that cohabitation is acceptable even if the pair does not want to get married, compared to 71% of people in the 30–49, 50–64, and 65–plus age groups.
While most Americans believe cohabitation is appropriate, many also believe marriage has advantages for society. A slim majority of Americans (53%) believe that long-term relationships benefit society when couples finally get married, while 46% believe that relationships benefit society equally whether or not couples choose to wed.
Adults who are married report higher levels of relationship satisfaction and trust than those who cohabit.
Adults who are married are more likely than those who live with a partner to think their relationship is going very well (58% vs. 41%). They also express higher levels of satisfaction with particular facets of their relationship, such as how they and their spouse or partner divide household duties, how successfully their spouse or partner balances work and personal life, how well they communicate with one another, and how their spouse or partner approaches parenting (among those with children younger than 18 in the household). However, equal percentages of married and cohabiting adults (about a third) claim they are highly satisfied with their sexual life.
Adults who are married are also more likely to report they have a high level of trust in their partner to be loyal to them, behave in their best interests, always speak the truth, and handle money properly than those who are cohabiting.
Even after accounting for demographic differences between married and cohabiting adults, there is still a correlation between marriage and better measures of relationship satisfaction and trust (such as gender, age, race, religious affiliation and educational attainment).
Many adults who live together consider it as a first step toward marriage.
Sixty-six percent of married individuals who moved in together before getting married and who were not yet engaged claim to have seen cohabitation as a step toward marriage. 44% of cohabiting people who were single at the time they moved in together say they saw living together as a first step toward marriage.
Half of those with a bachelor’s degree or more education and 43% of those with some college experience say they considered moving in with their spouse as a step toward marriage among cohabitors who are not currently engaged. Less people (28%) with only a high school diploma or less say the same.
When asked whether living together before marriage would have an effect on a couple’s ability to have a good marriage, approximately half of U.S. adults (48%) believe that couples who live together initially have a higher probability of doing so than those who don’t. Another 13% claim they have a worse probability, while 38% claim it doesn’t really matter. Younger adults are more likely than older adults to view cohabitation as a successful marriage path: Couples who live together prior to marriage have a better likelihood of having a good marriage, according to 63% of those under the age of 30, compared to 52% of those in the 30 to 49, 50 to 64, and 37% of those 65 and older age groups.
Convenience and Economics Plays a Role
About four out of ten cohabiting individuals identify convenience (37%) and economics (38%) as their top motivations for relocating in together. Comparatively, only 13% of married adults cite money, and 10% cite convenience, as their top reasons for getting married.
Adults who are married or living with their spouse cite love and companionship as their top reasons for taking those steps. 73% of those who live in a cohabitation and 90% of married people think that love played a significant role in their decision. The majority of cohabiting people (61%) and married adults (almost two-thirds) cite companionship as a significant component.
Cohabiting women are more likely than cohabiting males to claim that moving in with their partner was primarily motivated by love and a desire to one day have children. For instance, 80% of cohabiting women, compared to 63% of cohabiting males, mention love as a primary motivation. When married adults are asked this question, there are no obvious gender differences.
Financial Concerns Deter Marriage
Financial concerns are frequently cited by non-married cohabiters as a reason why they haven’t been married or engaged. The lack of financial preparation on the part of either the cohabiting adult’s partner (29%) or the cohabiting adult’s own (27%) is cited as a major reason why the cohabiting adult is not engaged or married to their current spouse. A quarter (24%) of respondents believe their partner’s lack of financial readiness is a small deterrent, and 29% say the same about their own financial situation.
Almost four out of ten people (44%) claim that not being advanced enough in their profession or career is at least a minor deterrent to getting engaged or married to their spouse. In order to get married someday, cohabiting couples are more likely to blame their partner’s lack of readiness (26% of the time) than their own lack of readiness (14% of the time).
Surely, a prenuptial agreement is one way to alleviate financial concerns and stress by ensuring you and your fiance are on the same page prior to marriage. Check out How it works for more information on HelloPrenup.
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]