Premarital Cohabitation’s Influence Upon Stability and Satisfaction in Subsequent Marriages (Part 3)
In addition to the rationale that cohabitation takes time to experience, a delay from informal union into marriage for cohabiting couples is also a factor relative to the coresidential experience. Using data from the 1990 General Social Survey, it becomes evident that cohabitational experience delays the timing of a first marriage by approximately twenty-six percent for women and nineteen percent for men even when selective factors have been controlled for (Wu, 1999). Finally a lack of joint investment as a general mechanism to bind couples together has been proven to be relevant in the experience of cohabitation and subsequent marital dissolution. Economic division of income and resources works against a theory that suggests that through both partners’ joint investment in the relationship, each become increasingly dependent on one another as gain from the current relationship exceeds prospective gains from any alternative (Brines & Joyner, 1999).
Although less research has been conducted pertaining to the thesis of a causal effect of cohabitation upon martial success, significant empirical support emphasizes a generated hypothesis that martial outcome may in fact be due to a combination of the working factors of selectivity in partners for a cohabitating experience. Often partners who enter into a premarital coresidential relationship with previously described personal qualities and individualistic tendencies learn that these functionings of self are well maintained in the constructs of cohabitation through experiences encountered during the relationship, thus further reinforcing this distinctive behavior. In couples where no cohabitation prior to marriage has taken place, the adults may enter into marriage with an independent and individualistic view, but these traits may transition into interdependence as the individual adapts to a more traditional view of marriage due to societal pressures and conformity norms.
Division of Resource
As a result of preselectivity, effects from certain experiences within cohabitation or a combination of both these factors working simultaneously, a variety of contrasts between concrete dynamics in married versus cohabitating relationships may lead to eventual marital termination. In keeping with this argument, Brines and Joyner (1999, p. 339) define a “distinction between the individualistic ethos of cohabitors and the more collectivist orientation of married partners” which contributes to an expression of different patterns in resource management. Couples who share households outside of marriage often do not share joint ownership of these homes or joint bank accounts, thus reducing any risk through avoidance of investment activity in the relationship. Due to a higher degree of emphasis on equality as theorized by selective factors, premaritally cohabitating partners contribute nearly equal earnings into joint purchases and living expenses. Among couples with an employed male, Duvander (1999) found that female cohabitors earned on average ninety percent of their partner’s salary versus a wife’s earnings of just over sixty percent of her husband’s salary. Because the female member of a relationship provides an increased level of income during cohabitation in comparison to her previously married peers, when she herself enters marriage, an expectation for her to continue bringing in this income is apparent. However often times while these women contribute a significant percentage to the overall income, they continue to perceive themselves as being overburdened at home, causing large numbers of women who are no longer economically dependent on men to question the benefits of being legally married (Nicole & Baldwin, 1995). However, some data published by Stafford, Backman, and Dibona (1977) suggests that cohabiting couples share more household tasks than married couples, and thus, this breakdown of tasks may be carried over into marriage. Furthermore, Stafford, Backman, and Dibona (1977) determined that married men without cohabitating experience do less cooking, cleaning and laundry than those who cohabitated prior to marriage. This finding places a high degree of importance on equality of division of tasks for eventual marital success in couples who have previously cohabitated and thus share an equal level of employment.
Perceived Quality of Communication, Satisfaction and Stability
In addition to a reassignment of traditional division of task and resource, premarital cohabitation may also contribute to an eventual decrease of overall satisfaction in many aspects of a relationship following marriage in comparison to those who do not cohabitate prior to wedding. In a study based on the data analysis from the 1987-1988 National Survey of Family and Households measuring relationship quality across the five dimensions of disagreement, fairness, happiness, conflict, management, and interaction, it was determined that those who cohabitate experience disagreement with a higher frequency than their married counterparts, thus providing implications that such disagreement may continue into marriage if this level in relationship is achieved (Brown & Booth, 1996). Also determined from this data, people in marriages that were preceded by cohabitation have significantly lower levels of martial interaction and higher levels of disagreement and instability than those who had never cohabitated outside of the confines of marriage. Such an increase in the frequency of disagreements amongst couples who cohabitated before marriage may be attributed to the fact that, “many couples fail to develop conflict resolution abilities during the early stages of their relationship and encounter trouble later when they face problems that are complex and serious enough to require a high degree of such skill,” (Nicole & Baldwin, 1995, p. 6). Additionally, spouses who cohabitated before marriage reported lower levels of commitment to marriage as an institution, providing further evidence for instability within their individual relationships.
A previous empirical study conducted approximately twelve years prior to the analysis of the National Survey of Family and Households revealed similar results, finding that premarital cohabitation was associated with significantly lower perceived quality of communication for wives and significantly lower marital satisfaction for both spouses after controlling for sex-role traditionalism, church attendance, and other significant sociocultural factors (DeMaris & Gerald, 1984).