Cohabitation – the politically correct term for what used to be called “shacking up” – has become very common in our day. Nearly 8 million opposite-sex couples live together today, compared to less than 1 million 30 years ago. Nearly 10% of all opposite-sex couples are cohabiting, and over half of all first marriages are preceded by a period of cohabitation.
How did we get here?
How did cohabitation go from being illegal in all states prior to 1970 and held in moral contempt by society at large to being so ubiquitous and accepted today? There are several reasons:
- The sexual revolution removed the moral stigma of premarital sex.
- Our culture has moved from a culture of traditions and social conformity to a culture of individualism and personal gratification.
- We shifted from a deontological view of morality to a pragmatic and relativistic view of morality in which any activity that does not cause harm to others is morally permissible.
- The recognition of the fragility of marriage, and a corresponding fear of divorce.
- The rise of feminism which rejected the traditional roles played by married women. Cohabitation promised personal autonomy and more relationship equity.
- The increasing economic independence of women made marriage less necessary for them. And men, who are generally more fearful of commitment, supported the arrangement since it still provided for their needs of sexual gratification and domestic support.
Cohabitation is not what it seems