Official figures reveal that the percentage of married people aged 16 and over in England and Wales has sharply fallen since 2002.
Data revealed by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports that only 50.6% of the population was married in 2015 as compared to 54.8% in 2002. The single category (that is people who never civil partnered or married) grew from 29.6% to 34.5% during these years.
The ONS reports: “Cohabitation has become more common as an alternative to marriage, especially at younger ages,”
People choosing cohabitation
Stark decline in the number of marriages and the rising trend of cohabitation is evident from the figures and facts presented above. It clearly indicates a shift in preference from marriage to cohabitation. Cohabitation really, is a convenient arrangement where couples can cherish an intimate relationship without promising any long term commitments.
Is cohabitation really replacing marriage?
The answer is No! Though more and more couples are choosing to cohabitate, most of them are not ruling out the possibility of getting married in the future. They view their period of cohabitation as a test of their companionship. When couples reside under a single roof for a long span of time, only then can they tell if they really are compatible to live with their partners forever. Hence cohabitation can be seen as preliminary step for getting married.
The concept of cohabitation is no replacement of the concept of marriage. It however, has emerged as an alternative to marriage as the first form of union.
The impact of cohabitation on the number of marriages
Couples are choosing to cohabitate before getting married. But all relationships do not work out during that time. Numerous couples choose to part ways rather than getting hitched. This has a negative impact on the number of marriages. Few years ago when cohabitation was not deemed as an acceptable social practice, many couples who are cohabitating currently, would have got married. The percentage of married people therefore, has decreased due to cohabitation.
Cohabitation and marriages are not mutually exclusive concepts. Couples choosing cohabitation does not indicate that they are not choosing marriage. But couples choosing to cohabitate is causing a negative impact on the number of marriages. Therefore, the percentage of marriages are witnessing a decline.