A new study shows living happily ever after does not necessarily equate to marriage.
Men and women in committed relationships more frequently are opting to live together without marital vows, the Pew Research Center found.
The reasons for eschewing the altar vary, but a basic fear of divorce is the central theme.
The study found that marriage rates are at their lowest ever, with about half of American adults currently married. When people do get married, they are doing so at an older age, according to the survey.
Researchers interviewed 122 subjects in the Columbus, Ohio, area between 2004 and 2006. The subjects each lived with their partners. The men and women were categorized into two groups: middle-class and working-class.
The middle-class group reportedly was more optimistic about tying the knot.
“The most common refrain among our respondents was their strong desire to ensure that when they wed, they ‘did it right’ and only married once,” the researchers wrote in the December issue of the journal Family Relations.
“Included in this perspective are those who asserted their intentions to defer marriage until they were ready to take their vows seriously, those who referenced strong religious strictures against divorce, and those who felt that preparing themselves personally, financially, and emotionally for marriage would ensure that they made good marital decisions.
“Respondents expressed concerns about the legal, financial, social, and / or emotional consequences of leaving a marriage, not to mention the consequences of divorce for children,” the researchers wrote. “For these respondents, these potential pitfalls of divorce made them question whether marriage itself was worth it.”