Cohabitation before marriage

Many newspapers and broadcasts are spreading the word this week that living with your significant other before marriage won’t really affect the duration of your union once you do take the leap.

When I first saw a story on the nightly news about this new study from the National Center for Health Statistics, I was a bit suspicious considering that conclusion flies in the face of earlier research saying co-habitation before making wedding vows can severely effect a marriage’s longevity.

So I read the report and found that these headlines are leaving out a big part of the picture. What the report actually says is that men and women who are engaged when they begin living together have about the same chance of lasting at least 10 years in marriage as does someone who has never co-habitated.

But men and women who were co-habitating and not engaged had a significantly lower chance of making it to their 10-year wedding anniversary. That little statistic is failing to make the headlines, which seem to say that shacking up with just anyone is A-OK.

The men in the study, for example, had a 71 percent chance of staying married 10 years if they were engaged when co-habitation began. That chance sunk to 53 percent if they were not engaged. Men who never co-habitated had a 69 percent chance of at least a 10-year marriage.

For women, living together while not engaged resulted in a 55 percent chance of a 10-year marriage, while those who were engaged had a 65 percent chance. Women who did not co-habitate had a 66 percent chance.

I thought these statistics were interesting because almost all of my non-LDS friends are now living with their fiancs or lived with them before they were married. Although I never lived with a boyfriend or fianc before marriage, I can see some practical advantages to it. You can basically take a dry-run of marriage to find out if you are compatible housemates, and you can work out any kinks before saying “I do.”

But from a religious perspective, I love knowing that I am the first person my husband has lived with and he is the first person I’ve committed to in that way. And on our wedding day, it was nice to know that our life would be different from that day on and not just because we happened to have rings on our fingers.

What do you think – how does living together before saying “I do” affect a marriage? What do you think of these statistics and the way they are being presented to the public?

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