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It appears that cohabitation is a kind of deluxe test, a test with less commitment and less challenges.One reason for the low commitment in cohabitation is that cohabitation is an ambiguous state—it is not clear yet which direction it will take and what the nature of this relationship and its obligations are.We may term this assumption the cohabitation illusion: cohabitation seems like marriage but actually it is not.
Thus, over one half of couples who are living together didn’t talk about it but simply slide into doing so.
Such a process of sliding gives a greater relative weight to the cost (e.g., financial obligations, a shared lease, sharing a pet, pregnancy, loss of perspective on possible alternatives, embarrassment) over love, compared to the weight that such cost is given when cohabitation is absent.
I believe that the nature of the correlation between cohabitation and marital quality depends on both types of factors, and the interaction between these types of factors is complex and dynamic.
All the positive and negative effects mentioned here—that is, the positive learning effects of trial marriage and the negative inertia effects—are indeed present in the transition from cohabitation to marriage.
As a result of these effects people who cohabit will marry even if they might not do so if they had not cohabited.
However, in the case of the learning effect they will do so for the right reasons—that is, reasons that will enhance the quality of their relationship; in the case of the increase in the cost of separation, the decision to marry is taken for the wrong reasons, since these are temporary reasons that have no significant value for long-term marital quality.
The perceived cost has increased but there has been no significant change in the intensity of love.
Stanley and his colleagues further argue that the reduced weight given to love is likely to become problematic after marriage, when the couple will have to face various obstacles together.
It is interesting to note that the negative effects of cohabitation upon marriage are considerably reduced when cohabitation begins after engagement; that is, when the decision to marry is taken before the couple cohabits.
In this case, the decision to get married takes place when the weight of cost, relative to love, was not bigger.