Rethinking cohabitation

The number of Irish couples who cohabit has soared by 400 per cent in just 10 years to about a quarter of a million people in total. Cohabitation is mostly a prelude to getting married. Most of those who don’t marry break up instead. Very few people cohabit as a long-term alternative to marriage, not in Ireland at any rate.

A new study from the United States shows that most American couples who live together first do not regard what they are doing as a ‘trial marriage’, not consciously anyway. It’s probably just as well they don’t because various studies have shown that couples who cohabit are more likely to divorce than couples who don’t cohabit first.

In addition, the results of a survey of married couples in the US released last week show that those who first cohabited are twice as likely to have considered divorce as those who didn’t cohabit. 

This is the opposite of the conventional wisdom which suggests that people who ‘successfully’ cohabit are more likely to have successful marriages, and those who don’t first cohabit are taking a leap in the dark. 

In fact, those who cohabit are quite likely to be commitment-shy and to be individualistic in their outlook. This makes them the sort of people who will consider getting divorced. 

On the other hand, those who simply take the plunge are likely to less individualistic, more commitment-prone, and therefore more likely to make their marriages work.

It’s obvious we need to rethink the wisdom of cohabitation.