cohabitation, marital beliefs, attitudes, romantic relationships, marriage


The aim of this study was to expand on previous studies of cohabitation to understand the relationship between marital orientations and the relationship well-being of cohabiting couples with a particular focus on using dyadic analyses to understand within-couple patterns. Results from a sample of 1,837 couples provided evidence that an intent to delay marriage and a lower importance placed on marriage for 1 partner was related to lower relationship well-being assessments for both partners in the areas of couple satisfaction, stability, and communication. Greater differences between partners in the intent to delay marriage and importance placed on marriage were also found to be associated with some outcomes. When female partners had a greater intention to marry or a greater importance placed on marriage than male partners, couples began to report lower assessments of couple well-being. Finally, whether or not a couple was engaged at the time of cohabitation moderated some of the findings, suggesting that some associations were stronger or only present among cohabiters that were not engaged. The findings of the study provide further evidence that cohabiting couples are not all the same and that marital orientations and engagement status are important indicators of relationship well-being for many such couples.

Original Publication Citation

Willoughby, B. J., & Belt, D.* (2016). Marital orientation and relationship well-being among cohabiting couples. Journal of Family Psychology, 30, 181-192.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Family Psychology




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor