Gender and Life

Does living together before marriage increase the risk of divorce?
Answered by Science Channel
  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. Many couples today choose to live together before they're married, some because they want to spend more time together, and others because it just makes financial sense. But can this have negative consequences once the couple does get married? In some cases, it can. According to a recent University of Denver study, couples that had lived together before getting married contemplated divorce at higher rates than couples that either moved in after getting engaged or couples that began to live together only after getting married [source: Bryner]. The study also found that couples that had cohabitated before marriage were less satisfied with their marriages than the other two groups surveyed.

    One estimate shows that as many as 60 to 70 percent of couples today will cohabit before they're married [source: McCarthy]. This number includes millions of couples, compared to only about 500,000 couples who lived together pre-marriage in the 1970s [source: Wartik]. There are several explanations for the fact that couples who have lived together before marriage are more likely to consider divorce -- a phenomenon that holds up in more than one study. One theory is that cohabitating couples tend to slide into marriage because it's the convenient thing to do [source: University of Denver]. On the other hand, couples that only move in together after either getting engaged or married have made a clear commitment about living together as a couple forever. Couples that live together before marrying can also use this cohabitation period to see if the relationship has a future; however, if someone feels a relationship has to pass a trial period, that could be a bad omen.

    Another reason to tie the knot before moving in? Studies show that married couples are generally happier than cohabitating couples in some ways -- they enjoy better health, more money and even more satisfying sex [source: Steinhauer].

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