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Though cohabitation has gained popularity in many people in recent years, I would encourage the above pair to desist from doing so. This is because research indicates that those who reside with someone prior to marriage have a lower quality marriage and are more likely to divorce than those who do not cohabit prior to marriage (Helgeson, 2012, p.337). Cohabitation, even after divorce, leads to poorer happiness and less stable marriages upon remarriage (Helgeson, 2012, p.337). Furthermore, persons who cohabit to test a relationship have the most relationship troubles (Helgeson, 2012, p.337).It, however, should be noted that the adverse effects of cohabitation on marital quality and divorce disappear when the subject people cohabit with the future marriage partner (Helgeson, 2012, p.337).
There are several reasons why cohabitation has an adverse impact on the wedding. First, there seemed to be a selection bias when comparing marriages among people who did and did not cohabit (Helgeson, 2012, p.338). Individuals who enter into cohabiting relationships have a high predisposition to divorce. According to Helgeson (2102), these people have less traditional views of marriage. They are also more accepting of divorce and are less religious, factors which all contribute to divorce. Men who cohabit before marriage are less committed to marital relationships as compared to those who do not (Helgeson, 2012, p.338). Men who cohabit before engagement are less committed than those who cohabit after engagement (Helgeson, 2012, p.338). Women, however, do not show these differences.
A second reason why cohabitation is unhealthy for marriage is that commitment levels in cohabiting and marriage relationships are qualitatively different. Helgeson (2012) states that cohabiting heterosexual couples are less committed to their relationship. They are also less satisfied with their relationships and have more marital problems than their married counterparts.
People who cohabit before marriage show more negative interactions decreased supportive behavior, and poorer problem-solving skills compared to those who do not (Helgeson, 2012, p.338). Cohabiting is also associated with higher cases of domestic violence and child abuse (Helgeson, 2012, p.338).
In addition to the above reasons, cohabitation may alter a relationship making it less viable after marriage (Helgeson, 2012, p.338). Equal division of labor practiced in cohabitation may not be extended in marriage life as the couples seek a more traditional-oriented setting. The freedom associated with cohabiting relationships brings about difficulties if extended to marriage.
Following the above reasons, I would advise Alex and Meredith to refrain from cohabiting unless they are sure they will marry each other.
Helgeson, V.S. (2012). Psychology of gender. 4th Ed. Pearson. Pp. 335-339.
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