Does Living Together Increase The Likelihood Of Divorce?


divorce ringsIt seems like a good idea to “test out the waters” and live together before getting married-right? The idea would be that you can see how you and your partner would relate and get along while living together before you make the big leap and get married.

If you ask “sister so and so” from church, she may not share that opinion and is more likely to start preaching to you about “how sinful” you are or that “you will burn in hell” if you live with your man before you get married. So what gives?

Premarital cohabitation has increased significantly, and more than 70% of US couples now cohabit before marriage. The major reason supporting premarital cohabitation is that it enables the couple to get know each better and to see whether they get along well enough to embark on marriage. However, counter-intuitively, many studies have found that premarital cohabitation is associated with increased risk of divorce, a lower quality of marriage, poorer marital communication, and higher levels of domestic violence. But there are also studies (although less in number) that refute the negative correlation between premarital cohabitation and divorces.

When a couple enters a marital relationship after having cohabitated, their passion is not at its peak, as frequency of sexual activity declines steadily as the relationship lengthens, reaching roughly half the frequency after one year of marriage compared to the first month of marriage, and declining more gradually thereafter. If people have reached their peak of passion during cohabitation, they come to the challenging years of marriage without the drive that passion gives the relationship and that provides the energy to overcome the challenges of that they will need to face in a marital framework. It is also possible that after cohabitation, people take divorce more lightly as in cohabitation you experience and consider separation as more natural.

In contrast to the above considerations, there are scholars who emphasize the value of premarital cohabitation as a kind of “trial marriage,” which enables the couple to get better acquainted with each other before committing themselves to marriage. The supporters of this theory claim that those who cohabit prior to marriage tend to have a greater risk of marital dissolution, not because they cohabited, but for other intrinsic reasons, some of which lead them to cohabit in the first place. Accordingly, once various personal characteristics are controlled for, the risks of marital dissolution for those who cohabit prior to marriage are significantly lower than for those who marry directly (here).

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