This article is based on information from The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, and is part of the Relationships Debate "Should you live together before marriage?" Read on, then share your opinion in the debate!
Some call it living in sin, others call it living in bliss, but these days it's almost expected that a couple will live together before tying the knot. Only 40 short years ago, this wasn't the case. According to the U.S. Census, less than 500,000 unmarried couples were "shacking up" in 1960. (In fact, it was actually illegal in many states at the time.) But by 2000, cohabitation had lost its outlaw status -- and nine times as many people were doing it.
What's behind this sweeping social change? "I would never commit to spending my life with a man without living with him first," explains iVillage member lucy4980. "You get to know a person's private face this way, rather than the public face that he presents to the world." Besides testing the waters, other couples say the benefits include sharing expenses and the reassuring thought that breaking up is easier than getting divorced.
But despite the rise in cohabitation and its growing acceptability in our society, studies show that living together before marriage holds risks to the longevity and stability of the relationship, and to the happiness and welfare of those in it. Read on to find out what two researchers at the Rutgers University Marriage Project found when they put all the facts together, then decide for yourself.
3 Warnings: Living Together Might Not Be Smart
1. Higher Divorce Rate
Perhaps the most compelling and widespread argument against living together before marriage is that several researchers say it increases the risk of breaking up. Virtually all studies of this topic have shown that the chance of divorce is significantly greater for married couples who lived together first. And in 1992, the National Survey of Families and Households found that, in 3,300 families, married couples who had lived together first were judged to be 46 percent more likely to get divorced.
2. Lower Quality of Life
When it comes to living together, more research suggests that the quality of life for unmarried couples is far lower than for married couples. Researchers David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead say cohabiting couples report lower levels of happiness, lower levels of sexual exclusivity and sexual satisfaction, and poorer relationships with their parents. Annual rates of depression are more than three times higher. And, finally, cohabiting women are more likely than married women to suffer physical and sexual abuse.
3. Living Together Doesn't Necessarily Lead to Marriage
After five to seven years, 21 percent of most cohabitating couples are still doing just that -- cohabitating, without getting married. In a new study by Popenoe and Whitehead, one of the top 10 reasons why men said that they are reluctant to get married at all is because they can simply live with a woman -- and enjoy the same benefits.
What do you think? Should couples live together before marriage? Read tips for couples who want to live together and secrets to a happy healthy marriage.