New research from The Jubilee Centre shows that cohabitation is a less stable form of relationship than it was 15 years ago. By contrast, marriage is becoming more stable. By the time children are 16 their parents will still be together in 75% of married couples, but just 7% of cohabiting couples.
The stability of marriage must be due in part to the lower numbers of people marrying. But the research also shows that couples who cohabit as a try-out before marriage are then 60% more likely to split up than those who didn’t live together before marriage.
Reports like this make it easy to confuse symptoms and causes. Those who chose not to live together before marrying are likely to do so because of their commitment to the idea of, well… commitment. That they didn’t live together first is generally a symptom of their commitment, not the cause of it.
There is encouragement from our work in schools, where our own surveys show that 88% of Year 10 students consider marriage to be a very special relationship. Lessons we’ve done confirm that the vast majority of young people aspire to an exclusive long term relationship. It seems to be the ideal that people want, even if the world around them, particularly family, is populated by people who live differently.
This survey may not change many minds, but it might encourage some to believe that marriage is the very best way of living out a relationship.