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Cohabitation

SHARON L. SASSLER and AMANDA JAYNE MILLER


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The past few decades have brought dramatic changes in the residential arrangements of romantically involved unmarried adults. As sexual activity became uncoupled from marriage, growing numbers of young couples began sharing a home and a bed without the legal contract of marriage. Cohabitation, as this type of living arrangement is commonly known, has become a normative part of the adult life course. Determining the prevalence of cohabitation is a challenging task. Given the nature of today's dating and mating patterns, measuring trends in cohabitation is a highly subjective undertaking. Legal marriages are officially recorded via state licenses; no such formality is imposed on cohabiting couples. The process of entering into cohabiting unions can be rather indeterminate. Some couples may first spend a night or two together, but then find themselves staying overnight several times a week before ultimately acknowledging that they live together. During this process, individuals may retain their separate addresses, even if they rarely sleep there, yet remain unwilling to tell family and friends that they cohabit. Other romantic couples proceed quickly and consciously into coresidential relationships but without specific marriage plans. For others, living together serves as a stepping stone to marriage – a way to test for compatibility or cement their relationship. The indeterminacy ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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