Reasons Not to Live Together Before Marriage

Various studies have shown something called “The Cohabitation Effect.” This includes:

  • More negative communication in marriage
  • Lower levels of marital satisfaction
  • Higher marital instability
  • Lower levels of male commitment to spouse
  • Greater likelihood of divorce

Cohabitation – the studies

There have actually been numerous studies that have examined whether living together before marriage is a good idea. The data shows that people who have multiple cohabiting relationships before marriage are more likely to experience more negative communication in marriage,1 lower levels of marital satisfaction,2 the erosion over time of the perceived value of marriage,3 higher perceived marital instability,4 lower levels of male commitment to spouse,5 and greater likelihood of divorce6 than people who do not cohabit before marriage. Although some of these effects might be due to the characteristics of people who cohabit (e.g., they tend to move from one relationship to another), recent studies suggest that selection is not involved,7 but that the cohabitation experience itself contributes to problems in marriage.

The reason why cohabitation may setup couples for failure in marriage is because cohabitation is just a test. Since all couples suffer from some incompatibility, when the other partner “fails” the test, the person moves on to the next partner. A succession of cohabitation failures results in an inability to maintain commitment – the most important part of a marriage relationship. Recent research shows that most couples who cohabit do not do so as a trial marriage, but just slide into it without any particular intent.8

Abuse and Murder

A nation-wide study of over 400,000 homicides committed between 1976 and 1994 calculated the rate of murders of women by her romantic partner.9 It was found that the incidence of was nine times higher in women who cohabited with men than those who were married.

There are a number of factors that predict success or failure in marriage. When considering a potential marriage partner, these factors greatly impact the average success rate for marriage (although there will obviously be exceptions to the trends). Some of these factors predict a more than twice the likelihood of divorce.

Divorce

According to a new research study, living together before marriage increases the chance of divorce. Cohabitation is a positive factor for divorce, which sounds good, but actually means that couples who live together are more likely to split up after marriage.

This information is based upon a 5-year study by Scott Stanley, a psychologist at the University of Denver. Stanley has been interested in the subject of cohabitation for the past 15 years, after he read a 1995 report on the subject.

In the control group who did not live together, only 10 percent had brought up divorce. This means that twice as many people who cohabitated had wanted a divorce enough to tell their partner. Dr. Stanley concludes that many people, who lived together, are less dedicated to making the marriage succeed than those who never had the same premarital address.

These studies are a great reminder that God’s way is the best way.   It’s better to marry, as the God’s word says, than to live together.

Darrell

For more on the series, Marriage Dilemma, go to www.ridgefellowship.com

  1. Cohan, C.L. and S. Kleinbaum. 2004. Toward a Greater Understanding of the Cohabitation Effect: Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Communication. Journal of Marriage and Family 64: 180-192.
    Kline, G. H., Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., Olmos-Gallo, P. A., St. Peters, M., Whitton, S. W., & Prado, L. M. 2004. Timing is everything: Pre-engagement cohabitation and increased risk for poor marital outcomes. Journal of Family Psychology 18: 311-318.
    Stanley, S. M., Whitton, S. W., S Markman, H. J. 2004. Maybe I do: Interpersonal commitment and premarital or nonmarital cohabitation. Journal of Family Issues 25: 490-519.
    Thomson, E. and U. Colella. 1992. Cohabitation and marital stability: Quality or commitment? Journal of Marriage and the Family 54: 259-267.
  2. Nock, S.L. 1995. A Comparison of Marriages and Cohabiting Relationships.  Journal of Family Issues 16: 53-76.
    Stafford, L., Kline, S.L, & Rankin, C.T. 2004. Married Individuals, Cohabiters, and Cohabiters Who Marry: A Longitudinal Study of Relational and Individual Well-Being. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 21: 231-248.
    Stanley, S. M., Whitton, S. W., S Markman, H. J. 2004. Maybe I do: Interpersonal commitment and premarital or nonmarital cohabitation. Journal of Family Issues 25: 490-519.
  3. Axinn, W. G. and J. S. Barber. 1997. Living Arrangements and Family Formation Attitudes in Early Adulthood. Journal of Marriage and the Family 59:595-611.
    Axinn, W., and A. Thornton. 1992. The Relationship between Cohabitation and Divorce: Selectivity or Causal Influence? Demography 29: 357-374.
  4. Kamp Dush, C. M., Cohan, C. L., and Amato, P. R. 2003. The relationship between cohabitation and marital quality and stability: Changes across cohorts? Journal of Marriage and Family 65: 539-549.
    Stafford, L., Kline, S.L, & Rankin, C.T. 2004. Married Individuals, Cohabiters, and Cohabiters Who Marry: A Longitudinal Study of Relational and Individual Well-Being. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 21: 231-248.
    Thomson, E. and U. Colella. 1992. Cohabitation and marital stability: Quality or commitment? Journal of Marriage and the Family 54: 259-267.
  5. Rhoades, G. K., Petrella, J. N., Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. 2006. Premarital cohabitation, husbands’ commitment, and wives’ satisfaction with the division of household contributions. Marriage and Family Review 40: 5–22.
  6. DeMaris, A., Rao, K. V. 1992. Premarital Cohabitation and Subsequent Marital Stability in the United States: A Reassessment. Journal of Marriage and the Family 54: 178-190.
    Kamp Dush, C. M., Cohan, C. L., & Amato, P. R. 2003. The relationship between cohabitation and marital quality and stability: Changes across cohorts? Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 539-549.
    Phillips, J. A. and M. M. Sweeney. 2005. Premarital Cohabitation and the Risk of Marital Disruption among White, Black, and Mexican American Women. Journal of Marriage and Family 67:296-314.
    J. Teachman.  2003.  Premarital Sex, Premarital Cohabitation, and the Risk of Subsequent Marital Dissolution Among Women. Journal of Marriage and Family 65: 444-455.
    Stanley, S. M., Amato, P. R., Johnson, C. A., & Markman, H. J. 2006. Premarital education, marital quality, and marital stability: Findings from a large, random, household survey. Journal of Family Psychology 20: 117-126.
    Paik, A. 2011. Adolescent Sexuality and the Risk of Marital Dissolution. Journal of Marriage and Family 73: 472 DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00819.x.
  7. Cohan, C.L. and S. Kleinbaum. 2004. Toward a Greater Understanding of the Cohabitation Effect: Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Communication. Journal of Marriage and Family 64: 180-192.
    Kamp Dush, C. M., Cohan, C. L., and Amato, P. R. 2003. The relationship between cohabitation and marital quality and stability: Changes across cohorts? Journal of Marriage and Family 65: 539-549.
    Kline, G. H., Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., Olmos-Gallo, P. A., St Peters, M., Whitton, S. W., S Prado, L. 2004. Timing is everything: Pre-engagement cohabitation and increased risk for poor marital outcomes. Journal of Family Psychology 18: 311-318.
    Stanley, S. M., Whitton, S. W., S Markman, H. J. 2004. Maybe I do: Interpersonal commitment and premarital or nonmarital cohabitation. Journal of Family Issues 25: 490-519.
    Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J. 2000. Pre-engagement cohabitation and gender asymmetry in marital commitment. Journal of Family Psychology 20: 553-500.
  8. Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., S Markman, H. J. 2009. Couples’ reasons for cohabitation: Associations with individual well-being and relationship quality. Journal of Family Issues 30: 233-258.
    Stanley, S. M., Rhoades, G. K, & Markman, H. J. (2006). Sliding vs. Deciding: Inertia and the premarital cohabitation effect. Family Relations 55: 499-509.
  9. Todd K. Shackelford. 2001. Cohabitation, Marriage, and Murder: Woman-Killing by Male Romantic Partners Aggr. Behav. 27:284–291.

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander, Jarrell & Taylor, TX
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