I got into a thing with a reader on Facebook a few weeks ago. I was saying some version of what I’ve been saying for 10 years – that while it’s nice to feel that you “just know” when it’s right and rush to the altar, science reveals that it’s usually a bad idea.
This upset her terribly, because I was suggesting that she was “wrong” and nobody likes it when someone makes them wrong. But there are certain issues where it’s not about opinions or feelings; it’s about facts and figures. And since we have data on what works and what doesn’t, I think we’d be remiss to ignore the data.
Believe me, I understand her contention: she has a friend who met her husband at a bar, got married in two months and they’re still together thirty years later. That’s lovely, but it’s not a compelling argument, especially when studies show us that people who get married within the first year are more likely to get divorced. My reader wanted her feelings to be true, because it would justify her decisions to dive into passionate relationships. It was much harder to hear that her methodology for choosing partners (“being in love”) is not always the best way.
Living together doesn’t guarantee a great marriage, but it is a smart precursor for people to figure out if they can live together in peace.
A similar argument takes place around cohabitation. For years, people have said that living together was a bad idea and that people did so were more likely to get divorced. Those are old numbers, according to this study reported in The Atlantic.
Moving in together without a diamond ring involved didn’t, on its own, lead to divorce. Instead…the longer couples waited to make that first serious commitment, the better their chances for marital success…Individuals who committed to cohabitation or marriage at the age of 18 saw a 60 percent rate of divorce. Whereas individuals who waited until 23 to commit saw a divorce rate that hovered more around 30 percent.
“For so long, the link between cohabitation and divorce was one of these great mysteries in research,” Kuperberg says. “What I found was that it was the age you settled down with someone, not whether you had a marriage license, that was the biggest indicator of a relationship’s future success.”
Cohabitation has increased by nearly 900 percent over the last 50 years. More and more, couples are testing the waters before diving into marriage. Census data from 2012 shows that 7.8 million couples are living together without walking down the aisle, compared to 2.9 million in 1996. And two-thirds of couples married in 2012 shared a home together for more than two years before they ever waltzed down an aisle.
Living together doesn’t guarantee a great marriage, but it is a smart precursor for people to figure out if they can live together in peace. The dangers of living together are mostly about inertia: couples stay in relationships longer than they should because once they live with someone, it can be harder to find the escape hatch.
Your thoughts, below, are appreciated.