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This research summary suggests that the reason/s for couples moving in
together before marriage may promote later breakups.
.See my comments after the report. -
Peter Gerlach, MSW,
+ + +
Couples who shack up before tying
the knot are more likely
to get divorced than their counterparts who don't move in together
until marriage, a new study suggests.
Upwards of 70 percent of U.S.
couples are cohabiting these days before marrying, the researchers
estimate. The study, published in the February issue of the Journal of Family Psychology,
indicates that such move-ins might not be wise.
And it's not because you start
to get on one another's nerves. Rather, the researchers figure
the shared abode could lead to
marriage for all the wrong reasons.
"We think that
some couples who move in together without a clear commitment to marriage may wind up
sliding into marriage partly because they are already cohabiting," said lead
researcher Galena Rhoades of the University of Denver.
Couples might also be nudged
into nuptials because of a joint lease or shared ownership of Fido - along
with other practicalities.
Rhoades and her colleagues did telephone surveys with more than 1,000
married men and women between the ages of 18 and 34, who had been married 10
years or fewer. Survey questions included measures of relationship
satisfaction, dedication to one another, level of negative communication and
sexual satisfaction. To measure the potential of a couple to divorce,
participants were asked "Have you or your spouse ever seriously suggested
the idea of divorce?"
Overall, about 40 percent of participants reported they didn't live together
before marriage, 43 percent did so before engagement, and about 16 percent
cohabited only after getting engaged.
Those who moved in with a mate
before engagement or marriage reported significantly lower quality marriages
and a greater potential for split-ups than other couples. For
instance, about 19 percent of those who cohabited before getting engaged
had ever suggested divorce compared with just 12 percent of those who only
moved in together after getting engaged and 10 percent of participants who
did not cohabit prior to the wedding bells.
"We think there might be a subset of people who live together before they
got engaged who might have decided to get married really based on other
things in their relationship," Rhoades told LiveScience, "because they were
already living together and less because they really wanted and had decided
they wanted a future together."
So a joint lease or shared ownership of pets could nudge the nuptials for
these folks, more than a lifelong commitment to one another.
Why move in?
While this research suggests cohabitation in itself can result in lousier
marriages, the initial reasons for
moving in together could impact the relationship quality.
In another study led by Rhoades published in the February issue of the Journal of Family Issues,
cohabiting couples ranked a list of reasons for cohabitation. More than 60
percent of participants ranked spending more time together as the number-one
reason for moving in, followed by nearly 19 percent who put "it made most
sense financially" at the top of their list, and 14 percent ranking "I
wanted to test out our relationship before marriage" highest.
Those who listed "testing" as the primary move-in reason were more likely
than others to score high on measures of negative communication, such as,
"My partner criticizes or belittles my opinions, feelings, or desires."
Such testers also had lower confidence in the quality and stability of their
Overall, those who want to test the
commitment might want to think again, according to the February
"Cohabiting to test a relationship
turns out to be associated with the most problems in relationships,"
Rhoades said. "Perhaps if a person is feeling a need to test the
relationship, he or she already knows some important information about how a
relationship may go over time."
Copyright © 2009 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
This research summary was available to millions of people thru
LiveScience.com and Yahoo News. Casual readers risk coming away with a false
conclusion: "...cohabitation itself can result in lousier marriages."
article avoids the complex subjects of what "marriage" is, and what makes a
"good marriage." The main value of this report (as I see it) is to
illustrate how shallow thinking and superficial journalism can significantly
mislead the reading public.
Imagine a typical cohabiting couple's reaction to reading this research
summary. My guess is it would cause some anxiety ("does this mean we're
going to break up?"). It may cause more discerning couples to clarify why
they choose to live together, and whether to commit to each other or not.
The unremarked American divorce epidemic
suggests most typical couples aren't discerning. They choose
to commit to, for the
at the wrong
in this non-profit Web site offer resources to help couples make
three wise courtship choices together.
For more perspective, see these articles on
marriage, divorce, and
family mergers, and this related
research summary on unmarried couples.
Peter K. Gerlach, MSW