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Why More Parents Are Choosing Cohabitation Over Marriage


Okay, so more families are choosing to live ring-free. Is this a good thing? Common sense tells us that a happily unmarried parental unit is certainly better than an unhappily married one, but research says that cohabitation is much less stable than marriage. The National Marriage Project report found two-thirds of kids will see their cohabitating parents break up by age 12, while only one-quarter of married-before-children parents will divorce. “Cohabiting parents tend to be more ambivalent, which can lead to instability in the relationship,” says Margaret Owen, Ph.D., director of the Center for Children and Families at the University of Texas, Dallas. “Perhaps this ambivalence is a factor in their decision to live together rather than get married in the first place.”

Realistically, marriage is not always the most attractive option. “We live in a low-commitment culture that’s focused on instant gratification,” says Wilcox.” He likens marriage to the effort of maintaining a healthy diet. “Of course, your health is going to improve over the long-term, but in the moment, that salad may be less appealing than a stop at the McDonald’s drive-thru.”

But Wilcox does concede that “any relationship built on love and respect will thrive. And while the odds may be stacked more in favor of marriage, plenty of cohabitating couples live happily ever after without tying the knot.” Or should we say, “tying the not”?