Just Living With Your Partner (No Marriage Required) Is Good For You, Says Science
Moving in with your significant other because one of your leases is up or you want to save money on rent probably isn't the best reason for cohabitation. What does make sense, though, is if you're looking to be more emotionally healthy.
A recent study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, found that young couples who live together get the same emotional benefits as they would from getting married, especially the women in these relationships.
Starting in 1997, researchers at the University of Ohio collected data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a study that included 8,700 people who were born between 1980 and 1984. The researchers then interviewed these people every other year from 2000 to 2010, asking them about their relationship status and levels of emotional distress with questions like whether they were "feeling downhearted and blue."
Not surprisingly, the results revealed several gender differences when it came emotional health benefits from moving in together versus getting married. (Men are from mars, women are from venus, right?)
For women, the emotional benefits were the same whether their first serious relationships resulted in marriage or just living together. "There's no additional boost from getting married," said Sara Mernitz, co-author of the study. Men, on the other hand, only saw a significant emotional boost if they married their first serious partner.
When it came to participants' second major relationships, however, the gender differences disappeared: Men and women reported the same emotional benefits from moving in with or getting married to those partners, meaning both groups experienced drops in emotional distress when they moved from a first relationship into cohabitating OR marriage with a second partner.
According to co-author Claire Kamp Dush, "The young people in our study may be selecting better partners for themselves the second time around, which is why they are seeing a drop in emotional distress.
She continued, "At one time, marriage may have been seen as the only way for young couples to get the social support and companionship that is important for emotional health ... [But] it's not that way anymore. We're finding that marriage isn't necessary to reap the benefits of living together."
According the US Census Data from 2012, 7.8 million couples were living together without being married (compared to 2.9 million in 1996). That same year, two-thirds of married couples reported living together for at least two years before tying the knot.
So the next time you're about to lose it because your boyfriend ate all the food in the fridge or your girlfriend's hair clogged the shower drain again, take a deep breath and remember that living together is actually good for your mental health.