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The Risks of Moving in Together Before Marriage

Society's Old-School Disapproval May Make Modern Women Unhappy

In big — and expensive — cities like San Francisco and New York, it's completely socially acceptable to live with your partner if you're not married. In fact, people might give you an inquisitive look if they find out you did not cohabitate before marriage. But US society in general still holds a traditional view of marriage, and a new study of 22,000 people shows that strident collective views on marriage could lead to low self-esteem in women who buck convention by "shacking up."

The correlation between cohabitation and unhappiness was highest in places like America, Bulgaria, Brazil, and Mexico. Cohabiting British women also saw a drop in their self-esteem. The study suggests that unmarried women who live with a partner were less happy than married women because they had violated "normal" behavior, had to endure disapproving glances from neighbors or hotel staff, and others pitied them "for failing to persuade their man down the aisle." In the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries, which take a looser view of marriage, cohabiting and married women were just as likely to be happy.

While the study found women are treated like line cutters, people who don't get up for the elderly on the bus, or other social-norm breakers, men's self-esteem was not impacted by living with a woman out of wedlock. This sort of collective disapproval of women based on personal decisions seems so very retro to me. Maybe the new wave of public figures, like Kate Middleton — who not only lived with Prince William before marriage but also overcame the unspoken royal bride virginity role — will help end it once and for all.

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
Pistil Pistil 6 years
wtf. Insightful, though I suppose that could have been a citation. I've recently come to the realization that I work with three perfectly normal women with families who have all been happily not married to their partners for 10+ years.
lickety-split lickety-split 6 years
as if marriages result in such grand situations for women! please, the reason women have low self esteem is that society wants to keep them in their "place". you get married, you have kids, you MIGHT get to have a job w/o issue, but not one that is TOO awfully important or one that makes more than your husband. YOU do the majority of parenting (even if you work more hours) and you are the one that takes off when the kids are sick, have appointments during school hours, when theres a parent-teacher conference, etc. you should be married by 35, but not before 20 (omg, knocked up?). you should have children (fertility issues sweetie?). and if you have "just the one" you will forever be asked if you're being selfish. if you have another and its the same sex as the first you will hear, "don't you want a boy/girl???" if you have a 3rd child you will hear "have many kids are you PLANNING on having??" your partner will NEVER be asked any of these questions. as far as society is concerned he is just along for the ride. society will pigeon hole who ever allows it. i am raising my girls to do what THEY want to do. i don't care if they get married. i do care that they are with loving, supportive partners.
bryseana bryseana 6 years
I've been living in sin with my boyfriend since 2005. It's great.
Pistil Pistil 6 years
Thank you, Sean, for your inciteful spam.
myhousemd myhousemd 6 years
I'm not a fan of cohabitation before marriage, but if you're gonna do it maybe you should be happy about it. I think people just need to stop caring so much about societal pressures and what others are thinking. I think the men have got it right on this one.
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