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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