Study Says Cohabitation Has One Major Advantage Over Marriage

Are cohabitating couples really happier overall than their married peers?

couple sitting by the couch in pajamas tsyhun / Shutterstock

The Journal of Marriage and Family recently conducted a study that found that there are few advantages for married couples as far as psychological well-being, health, or social ties, compared with unmarried couples living together. 

The study shows that while there are great benefits to marriage and cohabitation over a single life, these benefits weaken as couples depart the "honeymoon period."

Marriage is a serious thing, so you know people who do get married are in it for the long haul, and hopefully, for those people, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.


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Cornell University's Dr. Kelly Musick, who conducted the experiment, says: "Marriage has long been an important social institution, but in recent decades western societies have experienced increases in cohabitation, before or instead of marriage, and increases in children born outside of marriage.


These changes have blurred the boundaries of marriage, leading to questions about what difference marriage makes in comparison to alternatives." To a lot of people, marriage is just a piece of paper. And divorce certainly isn't a cheap thing to do.

Seems pretty obvious to us, especially when looking at Hollywood. 

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The experiment took a sample from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) of 2,737 single men and women, 896 of whom married or moved in with a partner over the course of 6 years.

While "results showed a spike in well-being immediately following both marriage and cohabitation as couples experienced a honeymoon period with higher levels of happiness and fewer depressive symptoms compared to singles," these advantages didn't last very long.


In fact, the study showed that both married and cohabitating couples experienced less contact with parents and friends compared to single people, and these effects persisted over time. It's all about balance, people, you need both friendship and romantic relationships.

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"We found that differences between marriage and cohabitation tend to be small and dissipate after a honeymoon period. Also while married couples experienced health gains — likely linked to the formal benefits of marriage such as shared healthcare plans — cohabiting couples experienced greater gains in happiness and self-esteem.

For some, cohabitation may come with fewer unwanted obligations than marriage and allow for more flexibility, autonomy, and personal growth," explained Musick.


Especially with the divorce rate nowadays, it feels like marriage isn't all that worth it to some people. If you simply just date someone and eventually break up, it's much easier than going through a divorce.

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Stefanie Lindenbaum is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news as well as love and relationships.