The Science Behind Cohabitation: Why It Doesn't Always Lead to Long-Term Relationships

in StemSocial5 months ago


People illustrations by Storyset

Cohabitation has been one of the most fascinating findings among psychological studies that I have ever heard being analyzed. At first glance, I always assumed that those who cohabitated were more likely to end up in long-term marriages or relationships, but it was a shock to me to find out that this was the opposite.

Many psychologists have tried to give their explanation for this statistical observation, and I would like to have a go at it too.

For those who are oblivious to what cohabitation means, it is a living arrangement where two people who are not married or in a civil relationship with each other live with each other, sharing a house and dividing home economics and other aspects of their lives.

There are different forms through which this can exist in terms of the length of the relationships, and the reasons why people choose this form of settlement include reasons such as to test compatibility before they get married, because of the financial responsibilities of a wedding, or to avoid the state being involved in their union and thereby avoiding the implications of a breakup.

If all these reasons seem very sound and logical, then why is there a high divorce rate among those who eventually practice this lifestyle?

Testing Relationships

People illustrations by Storyset

In a relatively small study that was done on cohabiting couples, they tried to ascertain the extent to which individuals reported cohabiting as a means to check for compatibility was related to the well-being of both people and the quality of the relationship.

They found that among women, it was more likely that those who had had more cohabitation partners were less likely to see cohabitation as a means of testing the relationship, and, in fact, they did not believe in marriage as a whole.

The relationships where there was a partner with more negative interaction and physical aggression were the ones where people reported more incidences of testing the relationship through cohabitation.

There was very little relationship between couples or individuals' behavior and cohabitation when considering time together or out of convenience.

Half of the couples in this small study were cohabiting for the same primary reason on the rank order item, and correlation showed some similarity to the extent to which these partners' endorsement for cohabitation as a means to spend time together, test the relationship, or out of convenience.



People illustrations by Storyset
Several studies have associated religiousness in individuals with longer marital length. Most religions are based on moral codes of conduct and for this reason, cohabitation is discouraged if not prohibited and premarital sex is a sin.

In this small study that I am referencing, what was found among those who cohabitated and ranked themselves highly in terms of religion on a scale of one to seven was that men reported lower rates of cohabitation for the purpose of spending time and women who reported that they did not do it out of convenience.

Apparently, those who are religious do not seem to see the cohabitation process as a means to have a longer time and reduce the cost of this time, from my inference.

Overall, men and women who spend more time together and are more intimate show a higher commitment to the future and better confidence, but this was not seen as a measure of relationship adjustment or relationship quality.

The main problem with this study was its small sample size.

Men, Women, and Children


People illustrations by Storyset
In another study published on the Frontier titled:

Cohabitation, Relationship Stability, Relationship Adjustment, and Children’s Mental Health Over 10 Years

In this article, they highlighted the effect cohabitation had on non-married parents and saw that those who were unmarried were more likely to end their relationship when compared to married parents.

The study highlighted the reason for this as a lack of marital security and was associated with externalizing symptoms(ADHD, conduct disorder) in the children.

This study was done among German parents (in Germany where cohabitation is more accepted) over 10 years, but it, too, was done on a relatively small sample of people.

This study recommended that cohabitating parents are a subset of parents who may benefit from relationship education programs.

My inference

People illustrations by Storyset

After talking to so many people about this topic, I recognize the discomfort in going about it because for so many, they either are cohabitating or they know a couple they are rooting for who is.

I do not mean in any sense that these relationships are doomed to fail, but with the standing and as it is, it is not a reliable form of union for a man and a woman.

The reason why I think it does not work is because of the risk avoidance associated with it. The two parties are afraid to take a leap of faith, and it shows how little their faith in marriage or the relationship.

Psychologist Jordan Peterson explained that there are some elements of externalization associated with the union itself, and as the presentation of antisocial behavior typically presents sexually in women and exploitatively in men.

One other psychologist explained that it's a matter of values and that those who are more likely to be together are the ones who value marriage and family.

What do you think is the reason for this?
You can send me a message on WhatsApp at +2348134530293, and we can have a conversation, or you can speak with a licensed therapist.



In conclusion, cohabitation is a complex and fascinating topic that has been studied extensively by psychologists. Despite the many reasons why couples may choose to cohabit, such as to test compatibility, reduce the cost of time spent together, or avoid the state's involvement in their union, studies have shown that cohabitation is associated with a higher divorce rate and lower relationship quality.

Several factors may contribute to this, including religious beliefs, partner compatibility, and the lack of marital security. Research has shown that those who value marriage and family are more likely to have successful long-term relationships.

While cohabitation is not inherently doomed to fail, couples who choose this form of union may benefit from relationship education programs and careful consideration of their values and goals for the future. Overall, it is important for individuals to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of cohabitation before making a decision, and to seek professional help if they experience relationship problems.


What was your initial impression of cohabitation and its impact on long-term relationships? Do you think that cohabitation can be an effective way to test the compatibility of a relationship before getting married? Why or why not?

How important do you think religious beliefs are in shaping people's attitudes towards cohabitation and marriage? Have you or anyone you know ever lived with a partner before getting married? What was your experience like?

What do you think are some of the pros and cons of cohabitation versus marriage?



Interesting read, I really feel people have reasons why they do what they do, either they are cohabiting or not, sometimes we cannot say for a fact, the survival of a relationship based on study, but speaking based on religion, it is not healthy for us to cohabit.

Thank you for going through my work.

The truth of the matter is that you are right about the fact that you can not base any relationship on a study because each relationship is unique...but what you are wrong about is that most people are acting out of reason...most times people have act out on their feelings and then try to rationalise those feelings with a reason.

I wrote about it in one of my posts, I will leave the link for you here.

Here is how people behave, they will begin to smoke, then they will come up with arguments about people they know who are smokers and are living long lives or they will say that a long life is not a prerequisite for success in life and many people live short fulfilling lives.

Also, the people who smoke are the same people who are more likely to be drinkers too...increasing their risk for heart disease...they also do not exercise and are likely to eat unhealthy.

They usually lack the discipline to follow through with a healthy life but will have a lot of justifications for it.

Most people (not all) who choose cohabitation are on this spectrum of behavior, not of smokers/drinkers/unhealthy eating/heart disease but of the type of behaviors that tend to lead to shorter marriages/relationships.

Thanks for your contribution to the STEMsocial community. Feel free to join us on discord to get to know the rest of us!

Please consider delegating to the @stemsocial account (85% of the curation rewards are returned).

You may also include @stemsocial as a beneficiary of the rewards of this post to get a stronger support.