The Cohabitation Curse - Does Moving-in Together Before Marriage Lead To Divorce?
Updated: Aug 24, 2019
“Should we just move-in together?”...the milestone question that every couple dreams of.
It's a sign of stability, love, trust, and confirmation that your relationship is headed in the right direction --------- until you share your big news and someone asks the questions that you’ve, up until this point, tried to force out of your mind.
“What if you break up?”
“Don’t they say that couples who move in-together before marriage are more likely to never make it down the aisle?”
“Don’t they say that couples who live together before they’re at least engaged, are more likely to get divorced?”
Those questions are hurled at you from every direction. Friends, parents, grandparents, strangers, the media --- everyone quoting the notorious “they”, stamping your relationship with the words “doomed to fail”...
...reinforcing all of your preexisting fears.
Couples who live together before marriage are more likely to get divorced.
Growing up, I was always told you should never live with your significant other (S.O.) before marriage for a wide variety of, not-very-well justified, albeit creative, reasons ------ like, the age-old adage “Why would he buy the cow, if the milk's already free?"
While there's a whole BUCKET-load of things wrong with using a metaphor that casts women as livestock, the idea that my future boyfriend wouldn't want to marry me because he was already "playing house" and getting all the benefits of marriage without the commitment, was something I kind of just ignored ------ after all it was just an old wives tale....
That is, until that statement started to get followed by one that seemed a lot more permanent.
"You know, even if they actually make it to the alter, couples who live together before marriage are more likely to get divorced...."
HUH? That couldn't possibly be true...... right?
I started to wonder if my family was just trying to scare me. Could living together before marriage ACTUALLY doom your relationship? As it turned out, there were studies that said it could.
After that realization, my perspective changed and for years, I opted to avoid even entertaining the fantasy of living together until there was a ring on my finger.
Fast forward to a year after I finished university.
My boyfriend and I had been dating for 3 years at this point, and after going to different schools (doing long distance) for the majority of our relationship, we were finally in the same city — permanently.
Although we toyed with the idea of living apart, ultimately we decided that moving-in together was the best thing for us... and our wallets. So, in May 2018, he packed up his room in his crappy, shared university apartment by the seaside, and we road tripped 18 hours to move into my tiny, and equally crappy, one bedroom apartment in the city.
Looking back, I can honestly say I have absolutely no regrets because moving-in together was probably one of the best decisions for us -- emotionally and financially. Still, despite my confidence in our choice, for the last 365 days, the words of warning I had heard my whole life stuck with me. At the back of my mind, I was haunted by the thought of our relationship failing because we chose to live together before we got married.
Like me, for decades women have been warned against "shacking up" by our parents, society and the media. There was this belief that cohabitation before marriage was linked to relationship failure; that even if you were lucky enough to make it down the aisle after "playing house," ultimately your choice to cohabit would cause you to end up alone. Researchers and psychologists, like Meg Jay (in an article published in the New York Times), further perpetuated this association between “cohabitation” and “spinsterhood” by releasing statements like “Couples who live together before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages—and more likely to divorce—than couples who do not.” As a result, women steered away from living with their partners before marriage because...I mean who really wants to end up alone.
Well, for those share-space hopefuls, I have good news.
Living together does not cause any particular outcome -- your choice of partner does.
In her article, “Age at Co-residence, Premarital Cohabitation, and Marriage Dissolution: 1985–2009”, Arielle Kuperberg sought to prove that cohabitation did not directly link to divorce; but rather the age at which you choose to move in together. Her hypothesis was, by factoring in the external influences that researchers ignored, she would in turn provide context for why it appeared that cohabitation prior to marriage led to divorce.
With a focus on factors like age, through her research, she attempted to answer the question, “Does the age at which premarital cohabitors moved in together, explain why they have been found to have an increased risk of marital dissolution?”.
Using data from the U.S. governments’ 1995, 2002, and 2006 National Surveys of Family and Growth, Kuperberg analyzed more than 7,000 individuals who had been married; and through her research, she discovered that it was those who committed to cohabitation or marriage at the age of 18 who saw a 60 percent rate of divorce.
Individuals who waited until at least 23 to cohabit, saw a divorce rate that hovered more around 30 percent.
Age impacts divorce... NOT your living situation
People who moved in together OR married younger, ultimately lacked the maturity and experience needed to pick an appropriate partner; thus, when they decided to join households, and the harsh realities of the relationship set in, their foundations fell apart.
This means that pre-marital living is not a direct cause of failed relationships; but rather, your age, wisdom, and own ability to choose a suitable match.
Where you choose to live prior to marriage does not directly affect your ability to maintain a solid and fruitful union.
So, if you are currently debating moving in with your S.O. OR you have moved in together, but are struggling with the fear that it will cost you your relationship, now or in the future, just know that:
Moving in together does not define the outcome of your relationship -- you and your partner do.
The next time someone insists that you've made a mistake or warns against the dangers of your pre-marital living situation, just remember that your relationship is not doomed to fail because of it. Only you and your partner can decide the fate of your relationship; so, choose the path that's best for you!
At the end of the day your relationship is what both you and your partner make it. Whether you choose to move in together before marriage or opt to wait -- the decision is entirely yours and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!
Keep on living your own #champlife.