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Why living together is just as good as marriage for your relationship

By Brett Smith

In past generations, moving in with a romantic partner before marriage was generally frowned upon, but now young people are cohabitating as a natural progression of the modern dating process.

According to a new study in the Journal of Family Psychology, the practice actually provides the same emotional boost as marriage — particularly for women.

Based on information gathered in the 2000s, the study scientists discovered that single young women enjoyed the same decrease in emotional stress when they moved in with a romantic partner or when they got married for the first time.

Men reported a drop in emotional stress only when they went straight to marriage, not when they cohabitated with a romantic partner the very first time. However, for young adults who went on from that initial relationship, both women and men obtained very similar emotional boosts if they moved in with their second partner or got married to them.

Times are a-changin’

The study team said their findings validate the changing attitude toward cohabitation.

“Now it appears that young people, especially women, get the same emotional boost from moving in together as they do from going directly to marriage,” study author Sara Mernitz, a doctoral student in human sciences at The Ohio State University, said in a statement. “There’s no additional boost from getting married.”

Co-author Claire Kamp Dush, an associate professor of human sciences at Ohio State, noted that approximately two-thirds of couples live together before getting married.

“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,” Kamp Dush said. “It’s not that way anymore. We’re finding that marriage isn’t necessary to reap the benefits of living together, at least when it comes to emotional health.”

To reach their conclusion, researchers looked at date from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, which included people who were born between 1980 and 1984. Participants were interviewed every other year from 2000 to 2010.

“We are able to look at people over a 10-year period and see what happens to them individually as they make these various transitions in their relationships,” Mernitz said.

The study said they also found that volunteers who had a child showed marked decreases in emotional stress compared to those who did not have a child. Kamp Dush said that result may be surprising, given the stress connected with having a child.

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