Prenuptial Cohabiting Can Spoil Marriage
14 July 2009 01:01 pm ET
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 life-long 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 relationships.
Overall, those who want to test the commitment might want to think again, according to the February study.
"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."
June 2021 May 2021 April 2021 March 2021 February 2021 January 2021 December 2020 November 2020 October 2020 September 2020 August 2020 July 2020 June 2020 May 2020 April 2020 March 2020 February 2020 January 2020 December 2019 November 2019 October 2019 September 2019 August 2019 July 2019 June 2019 May 2019 April 2019 March 2019 February 2019 January 2019 December 2018 November 2018 October 2018 September 2018 August 2018 July 2018 June 2018 May 2018 April 2018 March 2018 February 2018 January 2018 December 2017 November 2017 October 2017 September 2017 August 2017 July 2017 June 2017 May 2017 April 2017 March 2017 February 2017 January 2017 December 2016 November 2016 October 2016 September 2016 August 2016 July 2016 June 2016 May 2016 April 2016 March 2016 February 2016 January 2016 December 2015 November 2015 October 2015 September 2015 August 2015 July 2015 June 2015 May 2015 April 2015 March 2015 February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008