Should couples live together before marriage?

MarriageMany couples choose to move in together before getting married. For some, the move makes financial sense, for others, it arises from a desire to spend more time together. But is there a long-term impact of premarital cohabitation? Although it depends on the timing of the move, one study found that living together before marriage is linked to reduced marital satisfaction over the long term.

Galena Rhoades and her colleagues at the University of Denver surveyed over 1000 couples who had been married for 10 years or less. Forty-three percent lived together before becoming engaged, 16% moved in together after becoming engaged, and 40% did not live with their spouse before getting married.

The researchers found no differences between couples who waited until marriage before living together and those who cohabitated after becoming engaged. But the 43% of participants who moved in together before their engagement were more likely to report marital dissatisfaction, more negative communication with their spouse, and a greater potential for divorce. This difference was small but significant, even after controlling for education, length of marriage, and religiousness. Rhoades and her colleagues clarified that the results did not indicate improved satisfaction related to waiting until marriage to cohabitate, but an increased risk associated with moving in together before agreeing to marriage. The researchers theorized that some cohabiting couples might marry due to social pressure; this motivation might contribute to the reduced stability in their relationship.

Although these findings are significant, the link between cohabitation, lower satisfaction, and higher divorce potential doesn’t necessarily mean that living together caused the relationship difficulties. However, even though the difference between the groups was small, the results suggest that couples should carefully consider the decision to live together before deciding to marry. It might be worth talking about these kinds of findings in pre-marital education classes.

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