01/09/2012 05:16 pm ET Updated Jan 12, 2012

Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis Split Rumor: Why Cohabitation Doesn't Always Work

Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, his partner of 14 years and the mother of their two children, are rumored to be splitting up, according to multiple sources including Hello Magazine. Depp once explained that he chose not to marry Paradis because "I never found myself needing that piece of paper. Marriage is really from soul to soul, heart to heart. You don't need somebody to say, OK you're married," he told Extra.

Depp and Paradis are not alone in opting for cohabitation over marriage, and given the decline of U.S. marriage rates -- they hit all-time low of 51 percent according to a December report released by the PEW Research Center and dropped five percent between 2009 and 2010 alone -- it's not terribly surprising that co-habitation has become more and more popular. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that a full 45 percent of U.S. households were unmarried in 2010. The results of a new survey examining the reasons people give for living together show that popular reasons vary from fear of divorce to financial risk -- reasons that, upon closer examination, don't make a lot of sense.

The survey, conducted by researchers from Cornell and The University of Central Oklahoma, polled 61 cohabitating couples between the ages of 18 and 36 in Columbus, Ohio, about why they chose not to marry. Sixty-seven percent of the women surveyed cited a fear of divorce and the emotional and social fallout as a reason they weren't married, TIME reported, with the most popular specific fears being a desire to "do it right" and marry only once, living together being a "test drive" for the real thing (Depp's reasoning, that marriage is "from soul to soul." didn’t make the list). The study also found a correlation between income level and marriage fears: the lower a woman’s income level, the more likely she was to be averse to marriage:

Since working-class women are often the main breadwinners, they were more likely to worry that marriages would be harder and costly to exit. So they preferred to regard their relationship as impermanent.

But if other studies on couples practicing cohabitation are to be believed, living together without marrying is not necessarily the cure-all to their breakup, happiness or financial fears. As HuffPost blogger Vicki Larson points out:

So what's so wrong with living with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Let's forget the studies pointing out the booze (cohabitors drink more), weight (they're heavier) and happiness (they're not quite as happy as married couples but they aren't more miserable, either), because those aren't the issues. Nor are the results of the latest NMP study, "Why Marriage Matters," which predicts doom and gloom for the children of cohabiting couples. .. [a recent] Pew Study finds similar results, at least when it comes to cohabiting couples' economic well-being; they're poorer, and that puts stress on a relationship. A lot of stress.

Cohabitating couples are poorer? That seems to cut into the economic fears participants expressed. Also, government tax incentives to get hitched provide an additional reason to go ahead and tie the knot. Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis’s rumored split shows that cohabitating doesn’t keep you from breaking up, either.

The study results make a great case for educating people about other forms committed relationships can take. Lisa Haisha, who blogs for The Huffington Post and is in a self-proclaimed "unconventional marriage," advocates living apart from your spouse as the secret to relationship bliss -- and one million Australian couples (both married and unmarried) would agree with her, according to a 2011 study.

The biggest takeaway from the new Cornell/U.C.O. research is that the majority of reasons expressed for cohabitation were a reaction to fears about failing at marriage. Some suggest that the best solution to happier, more fulfilling relationships is not to place so much emphasis on marriage. As The Gloss's Jessica Pauline Ogilvie said: "If the very idea of it causes fear and stress for a significant portion of people, maybe it should be relegated to something a little more like ... totally optional, rather than the one thing that society says we should all want."

If you are considering moving in with your significant other or have already made that decision, what were your motivations for doing so?