However, there’s also evidence that cohabitation itself is not good for some relationships. According to the author of a study at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, living together before marriage is something that, for many couples, “just sort of happens.” The author, Dr. Scott Stanley, believes that some couples end up living together out of convenience, without a clear vision of their future. People may think that it will be easy to get out of the relationship, but once finances are mingled and lives are combined, couples in a less-than-stellar relationship are less likely to break up, because of the hassle involved. They’re likely to slide into marriage the same way they slid into cohabitation. “Some people get trapped by that,” Dr. Stanley told the Washington Post. “Cohabitation may not be making some relationships more risky,” he said. “What it may be doing is making some risky relationships more likely to continue.”
Real Couples, Real Risks
This theory aligns with studies showing that there’s no difference between couples who move in together after their wedding and those who move in together after engagement. There’s also no increased risk for couples who decide to live together with a clear plan for a shared future. The couples that show an increased risk of divorce are those who decide to move in together purely for reasons of financial benefit or convenience, or because one partner wants the relationship to progress faster.
Cohabitation may not significantly raise the divorce risk for most couples, but it does have its risks. A study at Cornell University found that the divorce rate for women who live with someone more than once is more than twice as high as it is for women who live exclusively with their future husbands. Multiple studies have also found that when women with children cohabit between marriages, their risk of divorce increases. Interestingly, men who have children and live with someone don’t experience the same risk. The 2002 National Survey of Family Growth even found that women who lived only with their eventual husbands had lower divorce rates than women who cohabited multiple times, and even lower divorce rates than those who had never lived with anyone.
Living with someone before marriage may have some slightly elevated risks, but there are several marriage situations that are far more risky. According to an Australian study: