Why They Cohabit: Couples’ Reasons for Cohabitation and Relationship Quality

Laura M. Tach, Cornell University
Sarah Halpern-Meekin, University of Wisconsin-Madison

There is limited research on why couples choose to cohabit and how these reasons are related to relationship quality, as existing studies are constrained by small, non-representative samples. The present study uses a national sample of cohabiting couples to examine reasons for cohabiting and associations with union quality. In contrast with previous research, we found that partners were largely in agreement about why they chose to cohabit, and there were no gender differences in reasons for cohabiting. Relationship quality was similar for couples who cohabited to test compatibility, who were not ready to commit to marriage, or who wanted independence. In contrast, couples who cohabited because it required less faithfulness than marriage or in order to raise children reported the lowest quality unions. We discuss implications of these findings for existing cohabitation typologies—as an alternative to dating, a trial marriage, a precursor to marriage, and an alternative to marriage.

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Presented in Session 212: Cohabitation and Marriage