Family Marriage

New study: couples who cohabitate before marriage have higher risk of marital dissolution

When I was in college studying computer science, there was a new idea going around called “design patterns”. Basically, this was a cookbook of component arrangements that were “best practices” for solving certain problems. Depending on your problem, you might try different patterns, like Observer, Visitor, Strategy, etc. And it turns out that there are design patterns for social issues, too.

Cohabition Instability
Cohabition Instability

Here’s a new report from the Institute for Family Studies:

Fifty to 65% of Americans believe that living together before marriage will improve their odds of relationship success. Younger Americans are especially likely to believe in the beneficial effects of cohabitation, and to view living together as providing a valuable test of a relationship ahead of marriage. Yet living together before marriage has long been associated with a higher risk for divorce, contradicting the common belief that cohabitation will improve the odds of a marriage lasting.

[…]Using a new national sample of Americans who married for the first time in the years 2010 to 2019, we examined the stability of these marriages as of 2022 based on whether or not, and when, people had lived together prior to marriage. Consistent with prior research, couples who cohabited before marriage were more likely to see their marriages end than those who did not cohabit before marriage.

Key findings:

  •  34% of marriages ended among those who cohabited before being engaged, compared to 23% of marriages for those who lived together only after being either married or engaged to be married.

And this from the key takeaways was interesting:

  • Reasons for moving in together also matter: People who reported that their top reason for moving in together was either to test the relationship or because it made sense financially were more likely to see their marriages end than those who did so because they wanted to spend more time with their partner.
  • Having a greater number of prior cohabiting partners is associated with a higher likelihood of marriages ending.

I think the key point in these studies is that couples who decide to commit are moving in very different reasons than couples who just slide into cohabitation because it’s convenient.

It’s interesting because it shows that being cautious about commitment is more likely to cause instability. The attitude seems to be “I’ll keep doing this as long as it makes me happy”.

With commitment, the attitude is going to be more like “let’s decide to unite, and then it will be on us to make it work”. The old marriage vows were all about that commitment. I really have to wonder whether people mean it when they say those words today, they are so counter to our hedonistic culture.

I think what people should be looking for is a mate who thinks that the relationship works better if both people work at it. If you have one person who thinks that it is the other person’s job to make them happy, run from that relationship. Like, if you are always doing little things to help the other person do well in their tasks and purposes, and they never do anything to help you, then that’s a bad sign. You don’t want to commit to someone who thinks that relationships should be effortless, that they don’t have to do anything to put gas in your fuel tank in order to make you perform.

Ideally, you want someone who thinks that it’s fun to put fuel in your tank, and thinks that it’s their job to do that for you. Just because they like to see your engine run.

3 thoughts on “New study: couples who cohabitate before marriage have higher risk of marital dissolution”

  1. Thank you for this truth, backed up by statistics. People tell themselves all kinds of lies, including what you wrote: “I’ll keep doing this as long as it makes me happy.” But of course, “happiness” is not the basis for commitment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I did cohabitation until I realized it was not good, but not realizing the why, as Wintry Knight has explained. Multiple shes would have been better off saying no to living with me. But then again, she also would have been better off saying no to premarital sex. Having said all that, its the man’s (my) responsibility for leading a chaste pre-marital relationship because the ladies will do the horizontal rodeo if encouraged. Alas…..

    Liked by 1 person

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