(CN) – American attitudes toward the practice of what used to be called “living in sin” have shifted, according to a study released by the Pew Research Center on Wednesday.
More than two-thirds of Americans (69%) find cohabitation without marriage acceptable, even for couples with no plans to get married in the future, the study found.
Researchers at Pew also explored the rise in cohabitation, with polling data that show more and more people don’t see marriage as a necessary element in a sustainable long-term relationship.
“As more U.S. adults are delaying marriage – or forgoing it altogether – the share who have ever lived with an unmarried partner has been on the rise,” the Pew researchers said in the study published Wednesday.
Nevertheless, a slender majority of the public (53%) still believe it is better for couples to get married for the long-term health of their relationship.
The numbers correlating overall happiness and trust in marriage versus cohabitation appear to bear this out.
“Majorities of married and cohabiting adults express at least a fair amount of trust in their spouse or partner to be faithful to them, act in their best interest, always tell them the truth and handle money responsibly, but by double digits, married adults are more likely than those who are cohabiting to express a great deal of trust in their spouse or partner in each of these areas,” the study said.
For instance, 84% of married adults expressed a high degree of trust in their partner’s ability to be faithful to them, compared to 71% of cohabitating adults. A similar discrepancy was discovered in respondents expression of trust in their partner to act in their best interest and always tell the truth (14 percentage points in favor of married couples) or to hand money responsibly (16 percentage points in favor of married couples).
Married adults also expressed a high degree of satisfaction with their relationship, with 58% of married respondents saying things are going very well compared to 41% of cohabitators expressing the same degree of satisfaction.
Many currently see cohabitation as a necessary step before marriage, with 66% of married adults saying they lived with their partners before tying the knot. Increasingly, however, marriage is being delayed by young adults due to economic reasons.
Cohabitators were more likely than married people to enter into the arrangement for financial reasons (38% to 13%). Also, two-thirds of cohabitators who said they wanted to marry someday said the main reason for the delay was the current financial status of themselves or their partner.
Perhaps it’s why younger adults are far more accepting of cohabitation (78%). However, most Americans in all age groups say cohabitation is acceptable even if the couple is unlikely to get married.
Also, younger people are more likely to see cohabitation prior to getting married as a necessary ingredient to a successful marriage (63%), while people 65 or older mostly say it makes no difference (45%).
Finally, only a very slender portion of the American public believe a successful marriage is necessary to lead a fulfilling life, with about 16% of the public saying its necessary for a man and 17% saying marriage is necessary for a woman’s sense of well-being.