Latest from the University of the Bleedin’ Obvious: Couples stay together because women want love and men like sex
March 19, 2011, 2:24 pm
It’s a bit of a cliche that women settle down for love, and men for regular sex. But scientists are claiming it’s true. A study shows that women agree to cohabit because they view it as a stepping stone to marriage. Yet men move in hoping for more sex and to ‘test drive’ the relationship to see if it is worth sticking around.
Crossed purposes? A survey has found couples often move in with one another for differing reason The findings are likely to raise doubts about whether cohabitation carries the same degree of commitment from both partners as marriage.
An estimated four million Britons live together outside marriage. They account for 14 per cent of couples, up from 9 per cent a decade ago, while marriage rates have declined by a third in 30 years.
The study, published in the Journal of Family Issues, showed that men and women agree on many benefits of moving in together – such as spending more time together and sharing the cost of living.
But Professor Penelope Huang, who led the research, said: ‘The notion that cohabitation allows for more frequent opportunities for sex, compared to dating, was emphasised much more by the men in our study than the women.
‘Men also linked living together far less strongly to marriage than women. They tended to view it as a "test drive", without specific connections to marriage, whereas women tended to discuss it as a short interval on the way to marrying their partner.’
Professor Huang and other researchers from the University of California Hastings in San Francisco questioned around 200 men and women in their late 20s on reasons for and against moving in with a partner.
Women volunteered love as a reason to live together three times as often as men. But men mentioned sex four times more often than the women.
When asked about the biggest disadvantages of cohabiting, women said they were concerned it had less legitimacy than marriage.
But men were more worried that it signalled an end to their bachelor lifestyle.
Professor Huang said: ‘Some men expressed remorse over the loss of future sexual opportunities with other women. Men and women may well be entering cohabitation with different levels of commitment. Woman may want marriage and men may just want to "rent" one.’
Dr Pauline Rennie-Peyton, a psychologist specialising in relationship problems, said: ‘Living with someone is not necessarily a commitment. If women think it’s a stepping stone to marriage, then they need to be clear about it from the beginning.’