First comes love, then comes marriage is not so the case anymore.
According to the most recent statistics by the CDC, for 68% of relationships the United States, their first union as a couple is not marriage—it’s moving in together.
Instead of going shopping for rings, couples are often depicted exchanging key rings as a sign of taking the next step in their relationship together. Whereas as once grandma may have raised her eyebrows at her granddaughter sleeping in the same room together, according to the statistics, living together before marriage is quite the norm. In fact, many people think of living together as almost necessary, a way to “test-drive” the relationship for marriage.
But is it a good idea?
An article in the July 2013 issue of Time reports that couples who live together before tying the knot “are more likely to have poor confidence in their union, more negative interactions (like withdrawal) and a greater risk of filing for divorce (The Pursuit of Happiness, p. 43).
And last year, an opinion piece in the New York Times covered the debated topic of cohabitation, saying, that, “Researchers originally attributed the cohabitation effect to selection, or the idea that cohabitors were less conventional about marriage and thus more open to divorce. As cohabitation has become a norm, however, studies have shown that the effect is not entirely explained by individual characteristics like religion, education or politics. Research suggests that at least some of the risks may lie in cohabitation itself.”
One possible cause may lie in the difference between the sexes’ thinking when it comes to living together; women are more likely to think of living together as a logical step before marriage, while men are more likely to think of living together as a “test run.”
Another contributing factor might be the ease of living together in the first place—unlike most marriages, which require some sort of planning and discussion about the future, living together might be a fairly quick and easy decision based more on the desire to split rent than share lives.
And for some couples, jumping in to a cohabiting situation that quickly gets sucked down by bills, household chores, and walking the dog before assessing the relationship ends up to be love kill. As psychologist Dr. Rachel Needle explains, “Using living together as a stepping stone to deciding if you want to get married is sometimes a positive thing but not always. And the relationship may be harder to get out of once you are sharing bills, a dog, etc.”
So what do the numbers show?
The CDC reports that from 2006-2010, 40% of women living with their partner ended up getting married within 3 years,while over a quarter of the relationships broke up.
The CDC’s 2012 study (the most recent study of its kind done) shows that women who never lived with their husbands before getting married actually showed a higher probability of having a lasting marriage, while the menfolk didn’t display that much of a difference.
Oh, and something else to consider?
Nearly 1 in 5 cohabiting women become pregnant in their first year of living together, a number that surprisingly, has increased since statistics were first taken in 1995. The findings also showed that the surprise pregnancy actually led to a decreased chance of the couple getting married.
What do you think? Is living together before marriage a good idea?
Photo credit: Flickr/Prinsole Hotels