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Study: Couples Who Live Together Before Marriage Face Higher Divorce Risk

Nowadays, half of all couples live together before marrying each other. Many believe cohabiting before walking down the aisle will decrease their likelihood of experiencing a painful, costly divorce. However, a new study reveals the exact opposite.

A study completed by Michael Rosenfeld and Katharina Roesler and published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that the “premarital cohabitation effect” is real. The researchers discovered that those who live together before reciting their wedding vows are more likely to struggle in marriage.

Rosenfeld and Roesler’s findings contrast other recent studies focusing on cohabitation before marriage. The new research suggests previous studies contained a bias toward short-term versus long-term outcomes. The twosome discovered that living together does indeed decrease a couple’s chances of divorcing during the first year of marriage. But, Rosenfeld and Roesler contend that cohabitation increases the odds of a divorce in all other years examined. Remarkably, this result remains constant across decades of data.

The researchers believe couples who live together before wedding have an advantage during the first year of marriage because they’re already used to all of the changes that take place when living together. They argue that people who don’t cohabitate before marrying have a larger immediate shock to negotiate after saying their vows. Therefore, they have a greater short-term risk of divorce than couples who were living together before marriage.

The Institute of Family Studies’ Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades support Rosenfeld and Roesler’s research.

“For starters, it’s counterintuitive that living together before marriage would not improve one’s odds for a successful marriage,” they said. “And yet, whatever else is true, there is very scant evidence to support this belief in a positive effect.” Stanley and Rhoades believe three dominant theories are to blame for the negative outcomes living together before marrying causes. These theories include: selection, the experience of cohabitating changing things, and inertia.

The theory of selection takes into consideration the numerous factors linked with who cohabits when and why, and with whom, and that these issues are also linked with how unions turn out regardless of cohabitating experience. For instance, couples who are more economically challenged are more likely to cohabitate outside of marriage, have a kid with a cohabitating partner before getting married, cohabitate with more than one partner, and struggle in marriage. Family history and religiousness are other factors associated with the theory of selection. Selection explains that people who cohabitate in riskier ways were already facing a greater risk of divorce before walking down the aisle.

Besides selection, Stanley and Rhoades also agree with older research maintaining that living together alters attitudes about marriage and divorce. For example, cohabitating might lower a couple’s esteem for marriage and enhance their acceptance for divorce. Living with someone before marriage may also cause one to become less religious. The inertia theory of cohabitation asserts that moving in together makes breaking up harder. Therefore, couples who would not have married otherwise may end up doing so only to divorce later.

According to Marriage Today, couples should enter marriage with a covenant mentality. Marriage is a covenant relationship similar to every important relationship God has created with man. When saying their vows, couples should make a total sacrifice and commitment to each other like Jesus brought to fruition the New Covenant with Christians on the cross. With flawed cohabitation, the covenant is missing. Marriage Today argues that the spirit that drives couples to live together is the opposite of covenant. It stems from people’s desire to see how well someone will take care of them before making a commitment. From the beginning, selfishness takes center stage in the relationship.

Genesis 2:24 states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” God ordained for couples to marry before living together and engaging in sexual relations. And, despite ever changing social norms, His way is still best.

~ 1776 Christian


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