At 33, my friend (I'll call her Shannon) had little to show for her five-year relationship with her live-in boyfriend. No ring. No baby. No future. So she finally decided to break up with him.
Back when Shannon and her (younger) boyfriend moved in together, things had looked a lot brighter. They shared a love of indie music and the Charlottesville arts scene. She thought they both wanted a future together. But over time, her boyfriend turned aside her queries about their shared future--queries that started off subtle and became more explicit as the years passed by. Finally, when she turned 33, Shannon told him she wanted a wedding date, to which he responded that he was not ready for marriage.
Shannon's experience with a live-in boyfriend with commitment issues, it seems, is not all that unusual. According to a new paper from RAND by sociologists Michael Pollard and Kathleen Mullan Harris, cohabiting young adults have significantly lower levels of commitment than their married peers. This aversion to commitment is particularly prevalent among young men who live with their partners.
Pollard and Harris found that the majority of cohabiting young men do not endorse the maximum indicator of relationship permanence: 52 percent of cohabiting men between ages 18 and 26 are not "almost certain" that their relationship is permanent. Moreover, a large minority (41 percent) of men report that they are not "completely committed" to their live-in girlfriends. By contrast, only 39 percent of cohabiting women in the same age group are not "almost certain" their relationship will go the distance, and only 26 percent say they are not "completely committed". Not surprisingly, the figures above and below also indicate that married women and men are much less likely to exhibit the low levels of commitment characteristic of many cohabiting relationships today.