Does Living Together Prevent Divorce? 

Thinking about living together before marriage?

Thinking about living together before marriage?

Many young people want to live with their intended before marriage, in hopes of avoiding divorce.

Like Ben, a 22-year-old from Pennsylvania:

I think if you do end up marrying that person, you can understand their habits better. You can be more sure.

Or Carri, a twenty one-year-old from Virginia:

I think anybody that’s going to get married should live together before… You find out how that person really is… and you learn whether you really want to live the rest of your life with them.

In fact, cohabitation ushers in about two-thirds of marriages.

But does a trial run prevent future divorce?

After looking over data for their book, Premarital Sex in America, sociologists, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker (who had spoken with Carri and Ben) learned that the answer is:

Not so much.

As a general rule, people who live together before wedding are more likely to get divorced – although that’s less true today than it had been in the past.

Living together doesn’t cause the problem. It’s just that people who insist on wedding first tend to value marriage more. So they work harder to save troubled relationships.

But the reason for living together also affects the divorce rate. Couples who are engaged, or who plan to marry, are no more likely to divorce than those who insist on marriage vows before moving in.

Interestingly, relationships last longer when couples move in together “as a step toward marriage” versus, “testing the relationship.” Maybe that’s because one view is positive while the other seems skeptical —  perhaps creating worries, stress, and self-fulfilling prophecies — in a bad way.

For people who want to know…

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on November 24, 2014, in relationships and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. Gabriela Valdez Pacheco

    Like a couple of comments that I read, I also agree that it is the relationship that makes a marriage and not the marriage that makes the relationship. In my culture it is encouraged to move in with a significant other once they wed. However, I am seeing in many people how this has changed. My oldest sister moved out with her new husband the night they got married. My older sister moved in with her boyfriend without being married. I am still living at home. I have been with my boyfriend for about 5 years and yes, we have discussed things like moving in together and having children in the future. Before we spoke about this, I assumed I would only move in with him if we were to ever get married. He mentioned how moving in would be sort of like a test for the relationship before deciding we would spend the rest of our lives together.
    I can see where he’s coming from. It seems like a good idea to get to know your partner’s living habits before settling in. My concern is, what would happen if it turned out that living with each other made the relationship diminish? Would I have to move back in with my parents? Would I move in with friends? Would I feel as though I lost my independence by having to resort to moving back home? I haven’t experienced enough to say whether or not living together before marriage affects the relationship, but I believe perspective and effort play a major role.

  2. Christine Cortez

    In my personal experience I don’t believe that living together before marriage causes a higher divorce rate. My fiancée and I met 3 1/2 years ago and have been living together for 3. Although we do live with my parents, he moved in shortly after we met because of issues with his family and he didn’t have anywhere to go. We were only 19 when he moved in. I feel like it’s the best thing that has happened to us. Although we aren’t getting married for another 2 years, living together has helped us figure out financial situations together, we understand each other living habits, and it makes it a lot easier to see each other with different work and school schedules. He learned that I don’t really have time to cook as the typical house wife would and I learned that he isn’t very affectionate. I later understood it was due to his upbringing that his family doesn’t show him affection there for it is normal for him not to. We’ve also been there for each other when we are sick and things go wrong. I feel that for us living together before marriage was the best thing that happened even if it was unplanned because we have been able to grow together and experience how we work together especially living under one roof.

    • Personal experience often differs from the dominant pattern. We are looking at social patterns here. And the social pattern shows that not everyone is headed for divorce just because they lived together. They just are more likely to separate.

  3. I don’t think if a couple moves in before they get married can cause a divorce later on in their future. I don’t think this because before getting married to your partner and deciding to move in together, you can really learn a lot. You’ll be seeing them daily and seeing their good and bad habits. This can give you the opportunity to see if you’ll be capable with living with your partner for the rest of your life. But I believe being in a relationship is about sacrifice you give and take. Moving in before getting married to your partner won’t cause a divorce later in your future, it will actually help your relationship because you will get a feel on what to expect. Also communication is a key to always have. If you are having problems you should always talk it out to prevent a divorce.

  4. I believe that marriage is a big thing and living together before marriage has its advantages and disadvantages. The good part being that you get to know the person better and learn about all their funny and cute quirks. On the other hand, you might get to know the person a little too much and some quirks might just be plain annoying. But like you said, every relationship is different and while it may benefit some relationships, it can also ruin others.

  5. Spending more time together can give the couples more opportunity to find new things about each other. They sometimes find what they don’t like or, what they more like about the partner. I’m not sure that is the best thing to do before getting married because if they know about each other too much before the marriage, it should be less interesting and less exciting after they become family. They must find more and more things as they spend the time together as husband and wife but they may have less opportunity to enjoy together because they do so many things before they get married.
    The couple should work hard to stimulate their love to each other by doing new things. They should never stop thinking about those new events to share.

  6. I think that its all in the couple and the relationship. I personally believe that a couple does what they have to do if they truly want to be together married or not. But in my culture it is not good at all to stay together before marriage people get talked about and looked down up. But i think that everyone has a right to do what they please. a realtionship is not ment for different mouths in it just two if it ends they should know it hasnt ended because of outside causes or them not being married it should be because of them PERSONALLY.

  7. I think that even though living together before getting married does not guarantee that the couple won’t divorce after their marriage, it sure helps to get to know some habits.For me, marriage is not a light thing and should be taken seriously, Before getting married you have to know good and bad habits of your partner and be ease somehow. You have ti understand each other to find the right balance. Concerning divorce I don’t think of any guarantee to stay far from it but I think that if both concerned try as hard as they can to preserve their marriage , there would only be a light possibility of divorce. To tell the truth most people tend to divorce because the new generation does not know how to sit down to solve issues and jump direectly to divorce.

  8. People who want to live with their intended before marriages are mostly in their early 20s and not so mature. So to me, it sounds like an excuse. An excuse to have fun, to spend more time with someone they love and to make their lives more exciting. But they would instead tell people they are doing it for their future, to prevent divorce if they do get married.
    There is no doubt that they will get to know the person more if they live together, but people usually pretend to be better, pretend to be someone that their beloved want them to be. They will not show how they really are because they don’t want to screw up their relationship. And living together is simply not the only way to know someone thoroughly. Therefore I would say it’s pretty pointless to try to prevent divorce by living together before marriage.

  9. The idea of living together before getting married seams like it would work because partners would get to experience living together and hopefully sort out the problems they find. The reason it wont work is because it’s a safety net that a person builds to help them progress with a relationship but not fully getting their feet wet. Depending on the situation and on the people, moving in might be the best step in their relationship for beneficial reasons. As long as marriage is hopefully in the picture because marriage gives people the necessary push they need to make a relationship work at times. If living together is the only plan set, then the relationship is just going with the flow and probably won’t reach marriage because of the lack of effort. It’s also important to note that a number isn’t given to those who lived with someone else before getting married. How many marriages came to be, because partners experienced what they didn’t want in their marriage in a previous living arrangement.
    At the end of the day a relationship needs effort in both big and small ways in order to succeed.

  10. Divorce is inevitable if two people are not in a healthy relationship, where they are working towards making each other happy, working with one another to achieve similar life goals; living with a partner before considering marriage, does not guarantee that the marriage will be a success, but it does assist when working to see if you are compatible. When dating and casually staying at a partners house, it is easy to hide certain parts of your personality and characteristics, but when that person is living with you they have access to everything that is you. I believe it is foolish to enter marriage without truly experiencing what life with your potential partner is like; granite people change over time and emotions shift, but more times than not the person you marry is the same person you dated.
    Marriage is intimidating. The thought of giving yourself to one person for the rest of your life is not something to be take lightly. Like anything else in life, it will behoove you to do your research and find out if the situation could potentially work for you. Search for the person you have the most in common with and someone you can build a family with in the future; never settle, regardless of your living situation prior to marriage, the people in the relationship will be the demise of the marriage, not the home that houses them.

  11. I totally agree with this blog. The traditional way of marriage is not moving with your partner until after marriage or living in sin. Living together with your partner can have its ups and downs regardless whether you all are married or not. Some people rush into relationships and decide to get married right away and some rush into moving in together. I really think it just depends on the couple because if you truly love your significant other you will work out any issues whether you’re married or just living together. I’ve been in a relationship for about 6 years now and have lived together about 4 years, and there are things that as an individual you have to get prepared for when living with someone. Sometimes I am a neat freak and he can be a messy person and it sometimes drives me crazy but over the years I have learned and spoke with him on how we can keep the mess clean and work it out together. So I think a marriage can work whether you live with a person before marriage or marry before living together.

  12. Within my religion we believe that you are not allowed to move in together until you get married. I grew up with the perfect picture of my wedding the immediately after moving into my brand new house with my perfect husband. Now that I has separated myself from the church I have seen how perfectly successful marriages are even if you live together before marriage. I even believe that it is healthier to learn how to live with the person you are in love with to work out some differences before the big commitment.

  13. This happens to be a very common subject amongst my friends and I. So many within our generation are moving in with significant others, even right out of high school because they intended to eventually get married. However, there are some downfalls to moving in together, especially at such young ages in which we all need to learn how to become independent and self sufficient. Many of my peers who have moved in with their significant other, where they have been in the relationships past a year. The girls typically become very dependent of the men, and shape their lives around them; whereas my peers that have waited to move in actually became more independent which helped their relationship prosper as the needs were all met 50/50. Guess it all comes down to timing and more importantly maturity.

  14. That’s a really interesting question that I think a lot of people don’t entirely consider before moving in together. Couples move in together for all sorts of reasons, whether it be making that step forward towards an eventual discussed marriage possibility, moving in together to support a child, or just moving in together “because its time”. I wonder if couples planning to move in consider it a “trial run”, because I know that personally when i think about moving in with a significant other I definitely think of it as a trial run. That may be a bad sign, but I think its good to see how they live, and whether or not you can cope with their style of living compared to yours. But after all isn’t marriage about sacrifice; give and take, and working together to solve problems? Its just an interesting thought, because I feel like now people get married and just try to prevent divorce, when before the 50’s people in the United States got married and stayed together, it was a lifelong commitment, not a relationship that takes more effort to break off.

  15. Couples that live together before they get married should have a higher success rate than couples who do not. The odds are about the same which I find to be interesting since the couples that live together should know how each other function. There are many couples out there that do move in together thinking that it will save their relationship instead of realizing that they already do not work as a couple. Also, many couples move in together way too soon since financially it works for them, they have children too soon together, and/or they are just in a rush to live with each other. At that point, those couples will try hard to stay together since they live together but they might get fed up quicker than one or both the parties are looking to find a new place to live. The couples who choose not to live together before they get married may work harder to make their marriages work because they knew all along they love each other but also many of them come from a religious background that might keep them for living together beforehand and also divorce is generally out of the question.

  16. This is an interesting topic and I always fight my mother about this. I’m Latino and in my culture and religion we are supposed to marry before moving in or being sexually active with our partner. We are expected to marry by church before moving in. One we marry we have to stay with our partner whether the relationship work or not because we make vows for life. In my culture the woman is there to please the man and be in change of the household and kids if the man is violent or a bad husband the woman is supposed to please him no matter what. Now day’s things have changed. I have family who has moved in together with our marriage and they have kids. Some have divorced and my family sees this as bad. I like many other young adults believe that moving in before marriage is important. I think trying it out and also to learn the habits of your loved one is important before marriage like Carrie mentioned This way you realize if the relationship is going to work out. I do think that getting married before moving in together does make the couple works a little harder to save their relationship. Now people move in to try it out and also to save money before marriage. I plan to move in before marriage because whether you get married or not your with your partner and you have trouble in your relationship and things are not going to work out after all separation is inevitable.

  17. I think living together before married doesn’t prevent a couple from divorce. This is just an excuse for some people follow the untraditional lifestyle. But I agree that living together before married will bring a lot of benefit to people. I think living together before married is more convenience because couple won’t need to travel to see each other. Couple can learn about other life style and habit before decide to go forward. Couple can reduce cost of living and save time by move in together. If a couple thinks that they can’t work out living together there will be less trouble and fee to divorce. Some people just simply believe in getting marriage will give them a happy life so they only want to live with the one they love and that is the only way for them. I think the number of divorce is not the most importance number to judge about the lifestyle. I think the country with old traditional rule that the couple getting married because their parent wants to will get lower rate of divorce. But the real concern I have is they happy with their married and can they get out of it. Being free to live together before married will increase the opportunity for women to find the best men they want. I also think because we think living together before married is normal so the society no longer look down for lost-virgin girl.

  18. I think its really important to know what type of habits your significant other has at home before you move in and especially before you marry them. knowing this i believe that it depends on the couple to see how moving in will work out. Moving in with someone you are going to start having more co-decision making and being able to communicate very well.

  19. Prior to the 1960s, living together without being married was not socially acceptable. Over time, it has become more common for couples to choose to live together, either as a step before getting married or instead of taking vows.

    They may do so for a number of reasons:

    •Testing the relationship to see whether they are compatible
    •Economic reasons
    •Don’t believe in marriage
    •Fear of divorce

  20. I think, like anything in life, it is up to the individual (or couple in this case) how things play out. I personally take relationships very seriously and was not one who dating a lot or moved in with a lot of different people. My husband and i dated many years and lived together for over half our relationship before we married. He was married once before, very young, and wanted everything to go as smoothly as possible if we were going to commit to a life together. We both had different things to overcome, together as well as in our individual lives. I think our living together made us have a stronger relationship and better knowledge of each others needs. We were able to work out a lot of communication issues and while we still work on it, as everyone must, we have a very solid relationship and are happy that we did get married. I too know that other people are just as happy with jumping into marriage and the unknown and that works for them. My best friends sister was engaged two times, yet had not even kissed either “boy” until the day she wed. She is very happy as a Pastors wife now and is expecting her second child. We all have our own way of making a relationship work, i think a lot has to do with many issues in a relationship, not just if you live together before or not.

  21. ah this is very interesting.. It made me think more because in my culture the young woman isn’t allowed to move in with the man unless she is married. My cousin moved in with her boyfriend when they both became engaged. My uncle is very old school and became upset about this. He never dared to visit her new home because he felt that she dishonored the family. I believe this benefited her relationship because when I see them they show the important things in a relationship they communicate with each other and they show affection a lot it is as if moving in got them to know each other more and accept their little defects. I was recently asked by my boyfriend to move in with him but this thought stopped me I feel like I’m not ready. but mainly it is the way my family will react to it. Since my father and uncle are very old school. My mother thinks it is a bad idea. I haven’t come to a decision yet because there is a lot going on right now. I do I agree with most of the people here it all depends on the couple.

  22. In our country, Live in relationship is very rare. People here either believe in love and than marriage or arrange marriage ie your soulmate is found by your parents. For me, if I love someone truly than I would adjust for him and would expect same from him. I would prefer getting married may be because I am brought up in a culture where marriage is most important and an institution of respect . I feel comfortable with that idea only.

  23. Jasmine Lopez Torres

    I feel like cohabitation is a great idea for a couple to participate in because people will always try to keep their most embarrassing things to themselves most of the time. If a person is in love with another person, and it is true, they will ignore these little annoying things but if a person doesn’t really love another person, they may let these little annoyances get in between the relationship between the other person. I know that if I was going to get married, my husband needs to accept me when I’m all messy in the morning with no make-up on. That’s how I’ll know that I should be with that person for a long time. I also think that when two people live together, the strength of the relationship as well as the love, will eventually tell what can happen to two peoples’ relationships. If it’s a strong love, it will be hard for these two people to get into fights or get bored of each other. However, if it’s a strong love, then these two people will always maintain their love’s flame. I feel that cohabitation doesn’t necessarily prevent divorce but it’s just kind of a wake up call for those who are close to ending up with the wrong person.

  24. I think it’s personal for each couple. I do think though that it’s the relationship that makes a marriage and not a marriage that makes a relationship, so if two people decide to live together that shouldn’t necessarily break their marriage if they do that second. It’s all about personal mindset I think. I know people who moved in together before they got married and they said after that adjusting to marriage was easy because they worked out all the kinks that come w/ moving in w/ someone before then. I also know people who were relieved they moved in first and found out that they weren’t the right fit long-term.

    • Sure, it always depends on the couple.

      But at the same time there’s a social pattern that shows that people who live together before marriage are no more likely to stay together — and are often less likely — and those who don’t.

      Thanks for offering examples from your personal experience. Maybe the divorce rate would be even higher if people like them didn’t try living together first.

      That said, I can’t help wondering whether the failed versus successful relationships mirrored the nuances I talk about. But there are always individual exceptions to social patterns.

  25. No!

    In fact, cohabiting rarely even leads to marriage at all! The average duration of most relationships involving cohabitation is less than 3 years.

  26. People who believe in marriage as an institution are normally adjust and co-operate with each other to a greater extent than those who are living together. In our country, surprisingly, living together is looked upon as a relationship without responsibility.

    • I suspect culture may have an influence since here couples who cohabitate with marriage in mind are as likely to make the marriage work as those who just get married.

      So it may not help to live together first as protection from divorce. But non-cohabiting couples have the same divorce rate, yet are willing to work harder — suggesting these marriages are more troubled. So in U.S. cohabiting couples looking to marry may be better off, even though living together may not actually help.

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