Another Study on Living Together

The New York Times reports yet another study showing that cohabitation increases the chances of divorce. The likelihood of divorce within ten years increases by six percent if the couple first lived together. Only half of couples who live together get married within three years–most of the others split–and if they do get married their chances of divorce are higher. Nonetheless,an increasing majority of couples follow the path of living together first. Why? Maybe because you don’t have to make a decision.


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4 Responses to “Another Study on Living Together”

  1. Dana Ames Says:

    Hi Tim, Dana from Ukiah. Met you several years ago when you came to First Presbyterian here for the morning parenting seminar.

    Not wanting to make a decision could be part of it. Both my daughters have been living with their boyfriends, one for more than two years. In every way I have been able to observe how they relate, the boys are not taking advantage of them, and they all express that they’ll get married “someday”. From what I have been able to gather from talking with them and other people, and from doing some reading, it’s not that the Millenials don’t care about marriage- quite the opposite. They hold marriage in such high regard that the don’t want to enter into it and then somehow blow it and end up divorcing (like their parents…), which they see as somehow a much worse break-up than if you have to break up if you’re not married. This of course is hyper-idealistic and seriously misguided, but somehow strikes me as sweet.

    Although very loyal to each other and to their friends, there’s also no notion of how we exist in community in terms of social structure/contract, whether one is married or not, whether we see and acknowledge those connections/structures or not. This is one aspect of the dark side of our individualistic culture.

    Appreciate your blog.

    • timstafford Says:

      Hi Dana,
      I like what you say. There’s unreality in a lot of contemporary thinking (or not thinking) about sexual relations–a willful ignorance of the ways in which our living choices shape us and shape our future. Living together is as constructed and committed a lifestyle as marriage–it’s just that the commitments are to different things. And though the intention is usually not anti-marriage–in fact, as you write, just the opposite–the experience does shape people, often in ways that work against their chances of getting married or staying married.

  2. LaVonne Says:

    However, USA Today ( ) put an entirely different spin on the same study: cohabiting is now almost the same as non-cohabiting in terms of the effect on future divorce. In some European countries, I’ve read, cohabiting increases the chance of marital success, while in others it does not. Sounds like it all depends on the couple…

    • timstafford Says:

      It’s true that a six percent difference is not as great as some other studies have shown. But it’s still a significant negative. And that goes against the standard rationale for living together: let’s test it out to see whether we’re compatible. Since half of those relationships don’t lead to marriage, the remaining half should show considerably better results, if it were any kind of “test” at all. Instead, they show worse results. Lesson: this is not a good test of compatibility.

      I don’t know a lot about Europe, but I do know it’s very different from America in its marital habits. Especially in some Scandinavian countries, living together is less a precursor to marriage than an alternative lifestyle, adopted by (some say) a majority. So the statistical results are bound to be quite unrelated to ours. Americans still believe in marriage, strongly.

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