Engaged

“I Do” is Complicated

A focus group of millennial women who were currently living with their boyfriends were recently interviewed regarding their relationship, their thoughts about marriage and how cohabitation differs from marriage.

Only one of the six women had been previously married. Some had children with their current boyfriend; others brought children into the relationship. They discussed questions like: “Do you believe living together and marriage are pretty much the same thing?” “Are there any ways that marriage is different from cohabitation?” “If your boyfriend asked you to marry him, would you?”

In response to the first question, most agreed that living together and marriage were practically the same thing — that it really boiled down to commitment to the relationship — and they wondered why someone would need a piece of paper to show commitment to each other.

They also wondered out loud if they could make a marriage work. Only one of the women came from a family where her parents were still married. She commented that everyone in her family had been successful at marriage so far except her.

When asked about the differences in cohabitation and marriage, the discussion centered on the absence of benefits because they weren’t legally married, even though they thought of themselves as married. They also said people treated them differently when they discovered they weren’t married.

Recent information from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research indicates that 41 percent of cohabitors express pessimism about marriage. More than half (64 percent) of Gen-Xers and Millennials agree that living together before marriage may help prevent divorce. Interestingly, only about 35 percent of individuals who married without cohabitating believe that cohabitation may help prevent breakups.

When the women in the focus group were asked, “If your boyfriend asked you to marry him, would you?” surprisingly, all but one enthusiastically said yes despite saying they believed there was really no difference in cohabitation and marriage. While these women and many like them believe cohabitation and marriage are basically one in the same, consider these statistics:

Most of the women in the focus group said they were trying to avoid the pain of divorce. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand that relationship dynamics without relationship structure increases the risk for experiencing exactly what they are trying to avoid.

If you are in a serious relationship and are wondering if you should take your relationship to the next level, instead of moving in together, consider taking a class that will help you know if you have learned all of the different skills you will need to help your relationship last a lifetime.

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