Cohabiting to try
Video: A superstition without a real base that damages couples

The problems of cohabiting before marriage.

Author: Pablo J Ginés | Source: Religion in Freedom

Cohabiting to try
Video: A superstition without a real base that damages couples

By: Pablo J Ginés | Source: Religion in Freedom

In the 21st century, the idea of getting married without first living with the couple (with sexual activity, it is understood) is absolutely a minority among young Spaniards: according to the surveys of the Santa María Foundation (1,250 interviews of young people between 15 and 24 years old), only one in ten young people declared this intention (or less: in 2016 it declared 7.4%). To these must be added to 1.5% or 2% who state that they are already married and have not lived with their partner. [The full study here].

On the contrary, according to the latest data (2016 surveys), one in three states "I intend to marry, but first, live with my partner." The idea of living as a couple without any plan to get married is one in five (20%). And a great change is noticeable in the undecided: almost 30% who declare "I do not know what I will do", while ten years earlier those undecided were 17%.

The liberal ("I think forming an open couple with total sexual freedom") are in theory less than 2% ... but in practice, it is clear that sexual partners can be happening one after another where there is no clear will of exclusivity and indissoluble union "until death do us part".

Cohabiting to "prove": a popular superstition
In Spain, as in other countries, many young people (and their parents) believe in a superstition contrary to the scientific data collected over decades: the superstition that it is good and prudent to cohabit before marriage "to prove our cohabitation" or "to Test compatibility. "

Thus, we have seen that one in 3 young people under 25 years of age wants to cohabit with the idea of moving on to marriage. And according to this survey by Fundación Santa María, 31% of all young people declare that they would cohabitate "to prove how is living together", almost 19% do it to save paperwork in case of breakage and 16% do it because they do not feel safe with the couple you have chosen.

Economic problems? They do not declare it that way

The economic reasons, do they weigh a lot? Keep in mind that while in Sweden young people leave home shortly before the age of 20, in Spain they do not leave until they are 29 years old (men well past the age of 30). And, of those who "become independent", one in 4 receives constant financial support from their parents and relatives.

The Emancipation Observatory of the Youth Council estimates that a young Spaniard must earn at least 1,809 euros per month to become independent "without risks", but of the young Spaniards who work, 75% have only temporary or partial employment.

Is this complicated economic situation the reason why young people postpone the wedding and dedicate themselves to live together?

They do not declare it this way: only 7.6% declare that they cohabit (or cohabitate) "because we can not pay for the wedding".

But what do those who already cohabitate say?
One thing is what they say about cohabiting those who are still in their parents' house and another thing that those who are already cohabiting say. Why did they take the step? We do not have this data in Spain and we took it from the North American study of Stanley and Rhoades, which they investigated by following up from 2007 to 2012 the case of 1,294 couples of adults who cohabited "in a serious romantic relationship" (more data here in English).

When asked the reason why they decided to live together, in their specific case, only 10% of men and 4.5% of women said they wanted to "try conviviality before getting married". What they wanted more than 40% - both men and women - was, simply "to spend more time together".

Another 20% declared that it was "convenient" (for practical and economic reasons). 13% of women and 6% of men declared that they took the step to educate a child together. And approximately 14% thought that this way they gave "one more step in their commitment".

Cohabiting for "need"
The young people surveyed by the Santamaría Foundation do not declare to cohabit "by necessity" ... perhaps because the immense majority is still in their parents' house and will leave it at the age of 29.

But Stanley and Rhoades believe that many young people, in the US, do not cohabit for enthusiastic love, but for a kind of practical fatalism: they feel it is necessary.

"There are people with few options, and it's easier for them to end up in difficult relationships where cohabiting would probably not be their first choice ... at least with 'this' couple," writes Scott M. Stanley of the Center for Family of the University of Denver.

Stanley's thesis is this: "It's easy to slide into cohabitation without even discussing it seriously or without a real decision ... and there you get hooked."

The almost 19% of young Spaniards who think about cohabiting "to save paperwork in case of rupture" is already an indicator of fragility, as well as the almost 17% who admit that they are not very safe with the person with whom they cohabit.

"Women who reported cohabiting for reasons of convenience also reported lower levels of trust in their relationships, less commitment and a higher level of negative dynamics with their partners," Stanley writes.

That is to say: the relationship is fragile and is maintained, above all, for some practical or logistical reason ... for a while.

Those who cohabitate "to try": they do badly
The study by Stanley and Rhoades focused on analyzing how well those who declared that they cohabited "to prove coexistence" (different from those who do so "for convenience").

The results suggest (as in many other studies and countries) that this "testing" does not help the couple at all.

- men who cohabited "to try" had higher rates of depressive symptoms, generalized anxiety, problems depending on others and anxiety due to fear of abandonment

- women who declared "testing" had a greater fear of abandonment

- both men and women declared a lower level of trust in the relationship, worse interaction and more psychological aggression

- among males who "tested" it was detected more physical aggression and fewer levels of dedication to the relationship

Stanley admits that many of these negative factors were there before they began to cohabit ... but the cohabitants are "hooked" on them, accept them and think that cohabiting more "will improve" (or, rather, that "the other will improve" ).

Cohabiting blind and difficult to cut when it would be necessary to cut
"What people see less in cohabiting is that it makes it harder to break," he insists. It is not that it breaks less: it breaks more than in the couples who only stay and leave. But, in addition, it breaks later and worse.

Sociologists call this "the inertia of cohabitation." That inertia not only implies that you can extend a toxic or bad relationship due to the difficulty of "starting again out of this house", but that there are couples who go from cohabiting to marrying "by inertia". The break will come later.

There are no sociological studies that show that cohabiting before marriage reduces the risk of rupture. Nor that those who cohabitate break less than those who marry. Studies always show the opposite.

Only recently some studies indicate that cohabiting does not worsen (although it does not improve either) the rates of marriage breakdown, and it occurs only when these factors are added:

- Having cohabited only with whoever is your spouse
- Having started to cohabit having both of them very clear, and having declared it, that the goal was then to marry
- Start that cohabitation with more than 23 years of age

But "cohabiting with the firm and declared goal of getting married later" is not very common. Normally, one of the couple wants it, or waits, or would like ... and the other prefers not to think much about it, until, perhaps, "slips".

Do both of you have a stated and firm will to grow old together?

Stanley insists that this declared will to compromise, to always want to live together, expressed, is what gives strength to the rupture. That declared and firm will is what must be in a courtship. And the ritual of a wedding and the public support of the community has, then, real effectiveness and gives a real strength in those cases to the couple.

The worst thing is that in cohabitation one is "hooked" and delays in seeing those things and take the step to leave it. Cohabiting makes both things difficult: detecting problems and cutting the relationship: a flat to pay, a carpool, maybe even children, etc ...

"There are many better ways to prove a relationship than to do something that makes it hard to break because you have imagined everything." It is better to take a course on relationships (for example, previous premarital courses, even to be promised in marriage), to talk about what the relationship will be like. future together and see if you are compatible dating, take the time to see your partner in different social environments, "proposes Stanley.

Several things chained to those who cohabited: the pet, the floor, the car, bills ... and make a break that should come, while time passes

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