Living Together Before Marriage Doesn’t Affect Odds of Divorce

March 22, 2012  |  

Today about 60 percent of couples live together before they get married for the first time, as the idea that you better make sure you can actually stand the person you plan to spend the rest of your life with has caught on like wildfire. For the remaining 40 percent, religious reasons or fear that living together before marriage will somehow doom their union causes them to maintain separate quarters. But a new study shows that couples who live together before walking down the aisle have no greater chance of their marriage lasting 15 years than couples who don’t.

Wendy Manning, co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, isn’t shocked. “It’s becoming so common, it’s not surprising it no longer negatively affects marital stability,” she said.

Overall, from interviews of men and women ages 15 to 44 during the years 2006 to 2010, the researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly half of first marriages break up within 20 years. There was about a 60 percent likelihood a marriage would survive 15 years if the couple either hadn’t lived together before the wedding or were engaged while they shacked up. But if no firm marriage commitment was made before the move in, the likelihood the marriage would last 15 years fell to 53 percent.

Casey Copen, lead author of the study, said lax attitudes about commitment, lower education levels, or family histories that made these couples more pessimistic about marriage could explain the drop in marriage survival. That basically adds up to a lack of communication about expectations and goals for the relationship and family unit.

The CDC also found a few other interesting statistics on marriage and relationships in general:

  • The percentage of young women currently living with a male partner grew from 3 percent in 1982 to 11 percent recently.
  • Women and men with bachelor’s degrees were more likely to delay marriage but also more likely to eventually get married and stay married for at least 20 years.
  • At 20 years, nearly 70 percent of Asian women were still in their first marriage, compared to 54 percent of white women, 53 percent of Hispanic women and 37 percent of black women.
  • For men, 62 percent of Hispanics were still in their first marriage at 20 years, compared to 54 percent of whites and 53 percent of blacks. (There were no statistics for Asian men.)

Where do you stand on cohabitation before marriage? Do you think it’s a good or a bad idea?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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  • Anon.

    The only reasons there are divorces are because many people just give up too easily and/or they foolishly rush into things. “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” Moving in together first or not has nothing to do with it, we all know we HAVE to date a person long enough to know how they truly are. Divorces are for idiots. Unless, of course, a person were to suddenly find themselves in an abusive relationship and other exceptions similar. In most cases, we all choose our relationship paths. End of story.

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  • Cutiepie

    If we’re only dating, I wouldn’t live with the guy but if we’re engaged then I would consider it.

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  • ChloeRayne516

    I don’t knock anyone who so chooses to cohabitate before marriage but as for me personally I wouldn’t do it – because I feel like by giving your BF — Husband privilges due to living together (cooking/cleaning/nightly s.exing/co-mingling and splitting bills) where is the incentive for him to put a ring on it… NONE.AT.ALL, and from what I’ve seen what usually happens the wedding date starts getting pushed back further and further due to whatever excuses he may now start conjuring up.

    To Each His or Her Own Though.

    • sholla21

      Exactly. I agree with you. And why would you want wife headaches on a girlfriend/roomate’s status? No guy who’s simply your boyfriend should have the kind of access to you only a husband deserves. My opinion.

      • L-Boogie

        You are so funny for “wife headaches on a girlfriend/roommate’s status?”  LOL!

        • sholla21


    • Toya Sharee

      I understand what you’re saying, but as far as the incentivthing, I wouldn’t want any man to marry me because he’s looking forward to all of the cooking, cleaning and bill paying I’m going to do.  IMO, if a man wants to really marry you, he’ll do it regardless off all of the stuff you are already doing or not doing.

  • Pivyque

    Of course it doesn’t. They either break up or stay together just like any other couple. At any rate, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Personally, I just think there should be a difference between marriage and dating. I understand some people want a “test drive” and there is nothing wrong with that and there are people that don’t care to be married, but living with someone I am just dating is not for me.

  • Entyce986

    What people don’t realize is not everyone marries for the right reasons. I know several couples who are married and are very miserable with each other. They have excuses as to why they stay such as for the children, financial gain, life insurance, fear of what others may think, and etc. I think these reasons are beyond pathetic. Where are the statistics on happy marriages? (If the results aren’t flawed by folks in “a perfect marriage”.) As far as the shacking up thing, if you are intimate with that person in any shape or form, then you are already living in sin (If you are looking at it from a religious aspect). Besides, who can judge anyone. No one is perfect. There is not one man/woman who hasn’t so much as had an impure thought at some point.

    • Entyce986

      As far as Im concerned, if you are unhappily married, you are living in sin as well.

    • Pivyque

      That is true. A lot of people marry and just stay married to be married. My reasons for being against cohabitation aren’t religious though. From what i’ve seen, most people get pregnant within a year of living together. I just think that kids, living together, sex and sharing finances should come with being married. Dating is a time to check out your options and build up your resume lol I’m not judging people that do it, I just couldn’t do it because I wouldn’t be comfortable with it.

  • NameRedacted

    The article states that 50% of marriages end in divorce. Those who do not live together before marriage have a 60% chance of survival while those who do live together before marriage have a 53% chance of survival. Looks like the first set still has the upper hand to me, even if its only by 7%. 

    EVERY single couple I know that lived together before marriage divorced before the 10 year mark. Period point blank. This is one study. I’d like to see several other studies that come up with the same results- because I don’t believe the gap is that small.

    • Toya Sharee

      Keep in mind that the statistic “50% of ALL marriages end in divorce” which includes people who are on their second and third marriages, which are the marriages that truly account for the statistic.  In all actuality, many first time marriages end up lasting, it’s subsequent marriages that are more than likely to end in divorce.

  • Lotion4thatAsh

    Co on az z site trying to get people to live in sin so they can add another black idiot to their statistics and report on it to feel good about yourselves. Madame noire should be called Ditsy sell out noire bishes who enjoy adding to stereotypes. Sure has a ring to it.

    • L-Boogie

      You sound so bitter for no reason.  Why continue to come to a site if you do not like its content or commentary? You MAD?!?!?!

  • Smacks_hoes

    I don’t particulary believe in it…not only did god make it clear that you shouldn’t but That’s something I would like to do once I’m married. Like the full marriage experience. No judgement here. To each it’s own.

  • No way hose

    Naw I’m still good #teamnoshacking