Monday, March 26, 2012

Living together before marriage? Don't. Unless you're engaged.

I've always been a believer, but have had to be careful/tactful as to who I'd impart the following to:

If you live together before you're married, you have a higher chance of divorce, than those who don't live together before marriage.

I was taught this during my psych degree - and the explanation was (in quick, abrupt summary format) that those living together before marriage are more likely to see marriage as 'just the next step', therefore when marital conflict occurred, they'd work less hard at resolving it (because marriage wasn't seen as that big of a deal).

Sounds bloody harsh, but the stats gave it merit.

Now, a new study has just come out of the US estimating that almost 1 in 2 marriages are over, before 20 years is up, and that cohabiting together beforehand, doesn't make THAT much of a difference...

Specifically, the study found that:

Couples who live together before they get married have a 53% chance of making it past 15 years of a first marriage.

Engaged couples, or, those not living together, have a 60% chance.

With such shitty marriage success odds (nearly one in two ending), I'd still opt for the not living together/engaged arrangement. Whatever helps!

Others have made, and will continue to make the argument "Oh, but you don't know what someone is REALLY like until you live together."

Come on. As the relationship progresses I'm sure you'll have sleepovers. I'm sure you'll visit each others' places and see how they live. I'm sure you'll notice their annoying habits. You can't hide yourself for THAT long.

And if you really want to know what someone is like - go camping with them. 

Or, take note of Maya Angelou's advice: “I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”



  1. It would be interesting to see the stats where children are involved, financial pressures, working arrangmenets, the parents relationship, the individual's beliefs about what they expect from their partner, the individuals attitudes - are control freaks more likely to get divorced because of the demands they put on their partner or are their laid back counterparts because of their perceived lack of care/attention to things the other person thinks matters.

    There are so many more aspects about being married than whether or not they pick up their dirty washing, help with the dishes, etc.

  2. You're right - there are lots more things at work, but this study was just looking at the 'living arrangement' as a predictor. x

  3. That conclusion seems to be at odds with the Australian study I found:

    The authors of this report on Diversity and Change in Australia Families agree that the divorce rate is higher for couples that live together beforehand, but they attribute this to the attributes of the couple, not the fact that they lived together before marriage.
    "Living together before marrying is associated
    with an enhanced risk of subsequent marriage
    breakdown. However, this enhanced risk is not
    due to premarital cohabitation but to the characteristics of those who cohabit"

    See Page 220 on for their reasoning.

    1. Here's an example of previous studies (US-based)

  4. Thanks Ken for this - where is the quote in the article? I must be a touch clueless. Also the stats they've used in the attachment,are quite old - 2001 was its most recent. I attended uni from 2001-2004, and was referring to what i was taught then (it too might be a touch old). This new research, as I've pointed out, is USA-based, so that too might explain the differences.

  5. Quote is on the last page of the study, under highlights (Bottom half of the first column)

    1. Thanks Ken! How do you feel though about the study taking data from a minimum of 11 years ago though?

      There has been plenty of research undertaken since then (and I've assumed what I was taught during my psych degree was from the more recent findings.)

      Regardless - thanks so much for sending this through :)

    2. I guess I'm OK with 11 year old data - I haven't found any newer from Australia, and my (laymans) feeling is that its still more relevant for Australians than newer US studies. The NPR article you linked does mention similar factors to the Australian study "Potential explanations include more lax attitudes about commitment, lower education levels or family histories that made these couples more pessimistic about marriage"

    3. Hi again Ken - i think you and i are dancing around a quite similar rationale/explanation - the lax attitudes about commitment part :)

    4. So all in all - causation/correlation. I'm all for being cautious though :)

  6. What if the couple is engaged for a long period of time? A number of people get engaged with plans to not get married for years.

    These studies also seem a bit inadequate. It's like trying to determine a precise cause of Cancer. How can you come to the conclusion that living together prior to being engaged or married was the cause of your divorce, or shortened the length of your marriage?