Does Living Together Before Marriage Make Sense?


To live together or not before marriage. That is the $1,000,000 dollar question. Back in the old days, couples did not live together before they were married. It was considered taboo at the time. However, as times changed attitudes did as well. Today, more and more couples live together before they get married. In many people’s eyes it is the next step in a long term relationship before marriage. The logic is simple. It is more convenient, more economical and it is a way to “test drive” your partner in order to avoid a bad marriage. The logic is simple but is it sound?

According to a number of studies, the answer is no. The logic is not sound. Studies show that couples that live together before marriage have a higher divorce rate and lower marriage satisfaction. There even seems to be a correlation between the rise of cohabitation and divorce. As the rate of cohabitation before marriage increased, so did the divorce rate. One study has shown that 53% of all first marriages were preceded by the couple living together first2. This number is eerily similar to the current divorce rate.

Another surprising thing that studies showed was that the more partners a person lives with before getting married, the higher the chance in their marriage ending in divorce. This may all seem counterintuitive but if you think about it my cadets it actually makes sense. Since moving in together is just another part of the relationship, most couples don’t put too much thought to shacking up as opposed to the profound lifelong commitment of moving in together after getting married. Once the relationship starts to go south, the couple splits and starts the process all over again with another partner. With each time the process gets easier and easier. With this pattern being established, people who live with multiple partners before marriage don’t see marriage as much different than cohabitation.

On the flip side there are other couples who cohabitate and then eventually get married not because they want to make a lifelong commitment to each other but because it is the next step in the relationship and it is easier than having to move out. These couples will stay in a bad relationship until it becomes unbearable.

The reason that people who don’t live together before marriage have less divorces and better marriages is because they realize how much of a major step it is two take two lifestyles and mold them into one. Therefore they place a much greater importance on the decision.

Remember Cadets, If you want to live together as Man and Wife forever; don’t start until you get married.

1David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, The State of Our Unions: 2006. (New Brunswick, NJ: The National Marriage Project, Rutgers University, 2006.
2See R. Parker, (2006). Researching married and cohabiting couples. Family Matters, 74, pp. 52-55.