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Does Living Together Before Marriage Predict Divorce?

This guest article from YourTango was written by Susan Dutton Freund.

The Centers for Disease Control recently released a study (PDF) that examines data from first marriages for men and women ages 15 to 44. The data was collected from 2006 to 2010 by the National Survey of Family Growth with 22,682 respondents. The Associated Press promptly released a story with the headline, “Move In Before Marriage No Longer Predicts Divorce.”

But, that’s not exactly what the study shows.

Instead, the study underlined what previous studies have also shown — that moving in together before marriage might or might not predict divorce. The differentiating factor is whether or not you moved in with an expectation of a long-term commitment similar to marriage.

People who are either formally or informally engaged and those who plan to spend the rest of their lives together do not have an increased risk of divorce.

Those who move in for other reasons do face an increased risk.

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At first glance, the risk doesn’t seem so much higher. A woman had a 60 percent chance that her marriage would last fifteen years if she either didn’t cohabit with her husband or was already engaged when they moved in. If no firm marriage commitment was made, the likelihood fell to 53 percent.

No big deal, right? Think about it. Do all couples who move in together go on to get married? Usually not. In fact, according to one researcher at The Ohio State University, only about 40 percent of cohabiting couples ever marry.

Another interesting tidbit from the new Centers for Disease Control study is, “If entry into any type of union, marriage or cohabitation is taken into account then the timing of a first union occurs at roughly the same point in the life course as marriage did in the past.”

In other words, we’re hooking up at the same age, just not marrying. Some follow the old-fashioned course and don’t live with anyone until marriage. Their risk of divorce in the first fifteen years is 40%. It’s the same for those who only live together with their intended spouse and then enter into their first marriage.

But of all those who live together, only 40 percent will marry. And, if their philosophy going into it is to just test the waters, their risk of divorce in the first fifteen years is 47 percent.

It seems like it comes back to the same lesson we often teach in our relationship classes. Decide! Don’t slide.

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Does Living Together Before Marriage Predict Divorce?

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APA Reference
Experts, Y. (2018). Does Living Together Before Marriage Predict Divorce?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 26 Apr 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.