Science Daily: Co-habiting before marriage is a bad idea

Story from Science Daily. This is old news, but maybe it will be new news to some of my readers.


University of Denver (DU) researchers find that couples who live together before they are engaged have a higher chance of getting divorced than those who wait until they are married to live together, or at least wait until they are engaged. In addition, couples who lived together before engagement and then married, reported a lower satisfaction in their marriages.

…”Cohabiting to test a relationship turns out to be associated with the most problems in relationships,” Rhoades says. “Perhaps if a person is feeling a need to test the relationship, he or she already knows some important information about how a relationship may go over time.”

This is why I love chastity. Chastity is like the fine-tuning argument – you can’t lose the argument because you have all the evidence. Your opponent has unobservables hopes and dreams. And these moral rules like chastity are not just there to protect you from harm. Chastity allows you to relate to the opposite sex in ways you’d never dreamed of. And it works on people you aren’t even attracted to, as well!

Isn’t it interesting how disdainful we seem to have become of traditional wisdom in regards to sexual matters? As if  civilization worked one way for thousands of years, and then all of a sudden the feminists tell us how human nature really works.

Check out this article from Focus on the Family.


Researchers from Pennsylvania State University find “it has been consistently shown that, compared to spouses who did not cohabit, spouses who cohabit before marriage have higher rates of marital separation and divorce.”3 Sociologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison report, “Recent national studies in Canada, Sweden, and the United States found that cohabitation increased, rather than decreased, the risk of marital dissolution.”4 This was also found to be true in the Netherlands.5

A leading researcher on cohabitation from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, reports:

Contrary to conventional wisdom that living together before marriage will screen out poor matches and therefore improve subsequent marital stability, there is considerable empirical evidence demonstrating that premarital cohabitation is associated with lowered marital stability.6

Additional researchers found, “cohabitation is not related to marital happiness, but is related to lower levels of marital interaction, higher levels of marital disagreement and marital instability.”7 They conclude, “On the basis of the analysis provided so far, we must reject that argument that cohabitation provides superior training for marriage or improves mate-selection.”8

Research conducted at Yale and Columbia University and published in American Sociological Review found:

The overall association between premarital cohabitation and subsequent marital stability is striking. The dissolution rate of women who cohabit premaritally with their future spouse is, on average, nearly 80 percent higher than the rate of those who do not.

Other studies show that those who have any type of pre-marital cohabiting experience have a 50 to 100 percent greater likelihood of divorce than those who do not cohabit premaritally.10 This data has led researchers to conclude that the enhanced chance of divorce after cohabitation “is beginning to take on the status of an empirical generalization.”11

Marriage is not for people who are “in love”. And having things in common is not the most important thing either. What you need are two people who are trained and experienced in making commitments to do arduous, long-running tasks. People who come into a marriage thinking it will solve all their problems are crazy. And children make it even more stressful!

UPDATE: Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse podcast on the subject is here. (11 minutes)

5 thoughts on “Science Daily: Co-habiting before marriage is a bad idea”

  1. I have doubts that cohabitation is the cause and I will explain why. Most couples that are willing to co-habitate are probably less religious, more liberal, and in the case of the women, more feminist. Add all of this up and you’re more likely to have a couple that doesn’t see the value of marriage and more than likely to take the road that leads to greatest pleasure – what’s best for me. Add on top of that divorce And child support laws that can make it profitable to leave the marriage and why wouldn’t you?


    1. Great comment. I think the Focus on the Family article mentioned the selection effect – that couples that marry are exactly the ones willing to make the commitment, regardless of feelings. I just had a friend pay his wife of just a few years tens of thousands of dollars to get out of a marriage. Unbelievable. He thought it was for life and was totally taken by surprise. Good thing they had no kids.


    2. There is definitely a selection effect: in general, the type of person that is willing to shack up with someone rather than publically commit to a marriage is more likely to bail out of the marriage when things get tough.

      Note, however, that cohabitation is supposed to “test drive” a relationship by leaving the “back door” open to bail out if things don’t work out easily. Cohabitation therefore tests everything EXCEPT what is REALLY required to sustain a marriage: the commitment to stay together through difficult times.

      Also note that a new study was released yesterday confirming Wintery Knight’s post:

      WASHINGTON, July 15, 2009 – A new study published in the Journal of Family Psychology shows that couples who live together before getting engaged and/or married are more likely to get divorced than those who don’t move in together until engagement or marriage, and that couples who live together before engagement report lower satisfaction in their marriages…[follow this link to read more:


  2. The article that wintery is referencing is the one from the Journal of Psychology (it states that in the first or second paragraph on – so you are talking about the same article that wintery is.

    I disagree with the following:
    “Cohabitation therefore tests everything EXCEPT what is REALLY required to sustain a marriage: the commitment to stay together through difficult times.”
    Just browsing through the link has links to plenty of good studies – the main things that are required for a couple to stay together (and hence the major causes of divorce) are time, sex, and money. It doesn’t matter what your commitment is, an imbalance in any of the three issues I mentioned and you’re going to get divorced or stay together extremely unhappy as has been the case up until no-fault divorce.

    Cohabitation is suppose to expose problems in those areas ahead of time (though many studies have discovered it doesn’t). But even when you look at non-cohabitators and the very religious, divorce rates are shooting up, so it’s not a problem of the very liberal. and I have theories on why this is. I think it starts with parents – they don’t want to talk to their kids about issues like sex and how to approach it. They don’t teach their kids budgeting skills or any type of personal monetary strategies. And what I believe to be the biggest: most parents won’t teach their kids humility – my daughter’s a princess is becoming so common (I see it in my friends). So why should a princess compromise – they shouldn’t, they should have it their way and who cares about anyone else; I’ll keep it short and stop here.

    so it doesn’t matter if you co-habitate or not, if you don’t want to talk to your kids about tough issues, they’re gonna learn about them as they fight their way to a divorce.


    1. Here’s a story for you about the Princess effect.

      This is well-known and common. There is a lot of narcissism going around with young people today – guilty parents dropping piles of money on them because they don’t spend any time with them and are unwilling to give up some greed in order to form the children’s character. I love capitalism, but consumption is voluntary. People need to stop spending and start saving. Then they’ll have more time for children.


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