A new study has shown that more couples are choosing to live together -- and even have children together -- rather than marry. In fact, for close to half of women, choosing to live together was their "first union" and only 23 percent of women can say the same about marriage. It's startling on paper, but in real life, it's not surprising at all.
I know very few couples who didn't start out living together. The reality is, in this day and age, it's the smart way to go. Of course, it's only as smart as you make it. Very few of the people I know who cohabited moved in together because they were pregnant. There is usually a trajectory to it:
Move in together, get engaged a year later, marry, have kids. Now, it seems many people are diverting from that path. They are choosing to skip the whole marriage part. This can actually be a big mistake.
Oh I know the statistics on marriage are grim. And some might say it's just as easy to leave a marriage as it is to leave a cohabitation union (fact: it's hard either way). But the stats on people who choose not to marry and choose instead to live together don't lie. Education appears to be key.
More educated couples marry before they have kids. Less educated ones don't. More educated women (women with college degrees) marry after cohabitation. Less educated women don't.
Personally, I have lived with two men. One was my college boyfriend and the other my husband of 10 years. I lived with both men while we were unmarried. And I am SO glad I did. I was engaged to my college boyfriend and had we not moved in together, I may not have realized how completely incompatible we were. The same is true of my husband. Had we not lived together for two years before marrying, I may not have known how incredibly compatible we were.
But I wouldn't have had kids that way. No way. No how. I wanted the legal protection of marriage and I wanted the stability for my children. My kids look at our wedding photos and smile, secure in the knowledge that their parents made a lifetime commitment four years before either of them showed up.
It's not necessary. I have an aunt who has been with her now husband 40 years and had two kids who were grown by the time they married. We all know these stories. Hollywood people almost never get married to have children (although they might not be good examples of lasting love). We also know that marriage is no guarantee of a happy ending.
But at least with marriage, there is stability. There is some kind of legal documentation of your union. It won't protect you from divorce, but it will bring respect and a certain measure of comfort to future children.
Cohabitation is great. As long as it's finite. It may be old-fashioned, but it just makes sense.
Would you have kids without getting married?
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