How to View Cohabitation Before Marriage? Is It Necessary to Cohabit Before Getting Married? — A Chinese Perspective

Alex Lew, CFA
3 min readMar 25, 2023

In China, the concept of cohabitation before marriage has been gaining acceptance in recent years, especially among young people. This trend reflects the changing attitudes towards relationships and marriage in Chinese society. While traditional values still hold sway in some parts of China, the rise of individualism, economic development, and exposure to Western culture have led to a shift in the perception of premarital cohabitation.

According to a survey conducted by the Chinese Marriage and Family Counseling Center in 2019, over 70% of respondents said they would accept premarital cohabitation. This is a significant increase from the 1980s, when cohabitation was largely considered taboo and could lead to social ostracism.

The reasons for this shift are complex and varied. Some experts believe that the one-child policy, which was in effect from 1979 to 2015, has contributed to the rise of cohabitation. With fewer siblings to rely on for emotional and financial support, young people are seeking alternative ways to form close relationships and build a sense of belonging.

Additionally, the rise of social media and online dating apps has made it easier for people to connect and establish romantic relationships outside of traditional social networks. This has led to a more open and fluid approach to dating and relationships, where individuals have greater control over their own lives and choices.

However, despite the growing acceptance of cohabitation before marriage, there are still some who hold onto traditional beliefs and oppose it. They argue that cohabitation before marriage undermines the sanctity of marriage and can lead to a decline in moral standards. Some people believe that living together before marriage can cause women to lose their value and bargaining power in the relationship, making them more vulnerable to being taken advantage of.

In reality, there are pros and cons to cohabitation before marriage. On the one hand, cohabitation can provide a more accurate understanding of each other’s daily habits, living conditions, and emotional stability. It can also help to identify potential issues and conflicts that may arise after marriage, and allow couples to address these issues before they become bigger problems. Additionally, living together can deepen the emotional bond between two people, and help to build a stronger foundation for a long-term relationship.

On the other hand, cohabitation before marriage can also bring some challenges and risks. For example, it can create the illusion of a stable relationship without the formal commitment of marriage, leading to a sense of uncertainty and instability. Cohabitation can also lead to financial conflicts, as well as sexual and emotional entanglements that may be difficult to disentangle if the relationship ends. Furthermore, cohabitation before marriage can sometimes lead to unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections, which can have serious consequences for both parties involved.

One significant factor that contributes to the acceptance of cohabitation in China is the high cost of weddings and the pressure to buy a house. In China, weddings are expensive affairs that can cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. This financial burden can be a significant barrier for young couples who are just starting out in their careers and may not have the resources to afford a lavish wedding. Additionally, in many parts of China, owning a house is seen as a prerequisite for getting married. This puts further financial pressure on young couples and can make it difficult for them to establish a stable and happy relationship.

Cohabitation before marriage can be seen as a way to bypass these financial obstacles and establish a closer and more intimate relationship without the added burden of wedding costs or the pressure to buy a house. For many young couples, cohabitation is a practical solution that allows them to test the waters of their relationship

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