A new study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family says that cohabitation before marriage does not lead to as high a divorce risk as was previously claimed. Data culled from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were used to come to this finding. What’s more, living together before marriage is more popular today than in the past. 50% of women in the U.S. between the ages of 15 and 44 have cohabitated before marriage. Though many young couples have been attempted to be scared into marriage by an often quoted high divorce rate for those who shack up first, research actually points to a slightly higher risk. Earlier studies measured when couples moved in together. But these couples who cohabitated tended to be younger. Younger marriages are more likely to fall apart, ergo the study was off. This is why the assistant professor of Sociology and study author Arielle Kuperberg, Ph.D., at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro attempted this research. She wanted to get a more accurate measure of whether or not cohabitating couples were at higher risk for divorce. She studied data from the National Survey of Family Growth looking at the years 1995, 2002, and 2006 to 2010. Moving in together is of course a much bigger step in a romantic relationship and she was sure her data then would be more accurate.
What she found was that the difference was so slight it was almost nonexistent. There is a little increase in the divorce rate of cohabitators. But according to Kuperberg, this can be due to other factors. Those who cohabitate have been shown to have a lower education level, had lived with another partner before, have a lower chance of having lived in a dual parent household and these also put them at risk for divorce. According to Kuperberg, “Cohabitation itself doesn’t cause divorce. But the types of people who cohabitate may be more likely to divorce.” So if you want to move in together, don’t think that it will increase your risk of divorce. It won’t. Just remember a few things so that everything goes smoothly. First, just because you are moving in together doesn’t necessarily mean you will get married at some point. They are still two different things. So don’t assume your partner wants to get married if you do. Instead talk about it. Discuss it. It may be a conversation that you find at first a little bit uncomfortable. But it’s better than helplessly hoping something will happen and never saying anything about it. Next, realize that living with anyone will sooner or later make them get on your nerves. That’s understandable and reasonable. It shouldn’t be all the time but occasionally. Remember, now it isn’t just about you but your relationship and it isn’t your place but both of yours. To learn more about the phenomenon of cohabitation read, Not Just Roommates: Cohabitation after the Sexual Revolution by Elizabeth H. Pleck.