Thinking of moving in with the person you’re dating? You may want to think again, preferably after reading the findings of a new study from sociologists at the RAND Population Research Center. The research found that cohabiting adults, in particular the males, have significantly lower levels of commitment than their married peers.

In other words, cohabiting couples do not see their relationship as permanently as you’d think. 52 per cent of cohabiting men between ages 18 and 26 are not “almost certain” that their relationship is permanent, compared to 39 per cent of women in the same situation. And 41 per cent of men report that they are not “completely committed” to their live-in girlfriends, compared to a much smaller 26 per cent of women. When married couples were asked these questions, all figures were below 20 per cent.

You’re probably thinking that it’s obvious for married people to be more committed than cohabiting couples. True, but that’s not the point. The point here is the vast difference in expectations between a man and woman before they move in together.

In terms of the way that men and women work, it all makes sense. When a woman moves in with her boyfriend, this is one step closer to the picture in her head that includes a beautiful wedding and painting the nursery for their first baby. For a man however, this seems like the way to keep his woman happy while delaying the perceived onslaught of marriage and children. (Yes, these are generalisations, but you must admit that they hold some truth!)

The fact is, with such different expectations and cohabitation nevertheless, it’s no wonder so many marriages are failing. Women who cohabit before marriage are 41 per cent more likely to experience divorce, which is kind of a massive indicator!

So what should be done? Well personally I’d say that if you’re serious about making your relationship work, avoid the risk and move in only once you’re married. But if you are considering cohabitation, Bradford Wilcox points out three cautionary notes in his article. First, talk genuinely about the future and your expectations. Next, make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to the important issues. And lastly, whatever you do, don’t just “slide” into a marriage just because it seems the next or easiest thing to do! Because after all, a marriage breakup is so much worse than a “cohabitation breakup”.

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.