Here’s some surprisingly good news for couples who opt to live together before getting engaged and heading down the altar: researchers and their beloved statistics are in your corner.
Contrary to previous research, which held that couples living together prior to getting engaged/married significantly increased their chances of splitting up down the road, a new study by the National Center for Health Statistics, based on 2002’s National Survey of Family Growth, paints a much rosier picture: it really doesn’t matter all that much.
Specifically, researchers surveyed 13,000 men and women between the ages of 15 and 44, and discovered the following:
- 65% of women who moved in with their future husband after getting engaged – but before getting married — made it to the 10-year anniversary mark (compared to 66% who waited until they were married);
- 71% of men who moved in with their future wife after getting engaged — but before getting married — made it to the 10-year anniversary mark (compared to 69% who waited until they were married);
- 55% of couples who moved in together before getting engaged made it to the 10-year anniversary mark.
Obviously, the study found a 10-16% “marriage success gap” between couples who were engaged/married prior to living together, compared to those who shacked up before a marital commitment was made. Yet while the report’s co-author Bill Mosher agrees that a difference exists, he told USA Today that “they are not huge.”
And in statistical lingo, given the expectation that the difference would be much greater – and continue to warn couples that living together before getting engaged or married is a bad idea – the not huge difference is a very big deal.
Big enough, in fact, to create some fresh discussion around what makes a successful marriage, and in particular, what couples would benefit from being aware of from day one of their cohabitation – whether that’s as couple, an engaged couple, or a married couple. As Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver told USA Today: “[t]he nature of commitment at the time of cohabitation is what’s important.”
In other words: couples who go beyond sharing house keys and fridge space – and combine a vision of their shared future – build themselves a sounder marital foundation, and put themselves on a stronger marital path.
(Statistically speaking, of course.)