Most cohabiting couples who hope to marry see their arrangement as a good test run, a way to make sure that they are compatible before tying the knot. After all, who wants to go through a divorce?
Aside from all the spiritual factors regarding premarital sex, we should take a look at what researchers have found about living together before marriage. Two researchers summarized the findings of numerous studies by stating that “expectation of a positive relationship between cohabitation and marital stability . . . has been shattered in recent years by studies conducted in several Western countries.” What the studies discovered is this: If you do not want to get divorced, do not move in until after the wedding.
Why is that? Consider the following facts about cohabitation: Most couples who live together never end up getting married, but those who do tie the knot have a divorce rate nearly 80 percent higher than those who waited until after the wedding to move in together. Couples who cohabited prior to marriage also have greater marital conflict and poorer communication, and they made more frequent visits to marriage counselors. Women who cohabited before marriage are more than three times as likely to cheat on their husbands within marriage. The U.S. Justice Department found that women who cohabit are sixty-two times more likely to be assaulted by a live-in boyfriend than by a husband. They were also more than three times as likely to be depressed as married women, and the couples were less sexually satisfied than those who waited for marriage.
From a standpoint of marital duration, marital peace, marital fidelity, physical safety, emotional well-being, and sexual satisfaction, cohabitation is not exactly a recipe for happiness. Even USA Today reported, “Could this be true love? Test it with courtship, not cohabitation.” Even if you do not think that your boyfriend would be abusive or that you would get depressed, the divorce rate speaks for itself.
Like all of us, you dream of a lasting love. If you are serious about making this relationship work, save your marriage before it starts and do not move in until after the wedding.
. William G. Axinn and Arland Thornton, “The Relation Between Cohabitation and Divorce: Selectivity or Casual Influence?” Demography 29 (1992), 357–374.
. Cf. Bennett, et al., “Commitment and the Modern Union: Assessing the Link Between Premarital Cohabitation and Subsequent Marital Stability,” American Sociological Review 53:1 (February 1988), 127–138.
. Elizabeth Thompson and Ugo Colella, “Cohabitation and Marital Stability: Quality or Commitment?” Journal of Marriage and the Family 54 (1992), 263; John D. Cunningham and John K. Antill, “Cohabitation and Marriage: Retrospective and Predictive Consequences,” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 11 (1994), 90.
. Koray Tanfer and Renata Forste, “Sexual Exclusivity Among Dating, Cohabiting, and Married Women,” Journal of Marriage and Family (February 1996), 33–47.
. Chuck Colson, “Trial Marriages on Trial: Why They Don’t Work,” Breakpoint, March 20, 1995.
. Lee Robins and Darrell Regier, Psychiatric Disorders in America: The Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study (New York: Free Press, 1991), 64.
. Marianne K. Hering, “Believe Well, Live Well,” Focus on the Family, September 1994, 4.
. William Mattox, Jr., “Could This be True Love? Test It with Courtship, Not Cohabitation,” USA Today, February 10, 2000, 15A (usatoday.com).