Does premarital cohabitation lead to divorce? In other words, if a couple lives together before marriage, are they more likely to file for divorce than if they never lived together prior to getting married? This is certainly not a new question, but a recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family revisits it and comes to a new conclusion than a similar study conducted about 10 years ago. A recent article in Psychology Today-written by the authors of that study-discusses the new research, which contends that premarital cohabitation, in large part, does tend to be a predictor of divorce. The study is of particular interest because it refutes a 2007 study that suggests cohabitation before marriage does not increase the risk of divorce.
Previous Studies on Cohabitation and Divorce
As the article points out, the question of whether there is a causal connection between cohabitation and divorce is one that researchers have been studying for quite some time. Yet they have not always come to the same conclusions. Before in-depth studies of the topic were conducted, many researchers believed that living together prior to marriage could be a good thing for the future of the relationship. Thinking logically, researchers assumed that living together would allow two people to see if they could thrive in a close relationship under the same roof.
However, when detailed studies of the topic got underway, researchers came to an opposite conclusion. As the article explains, it was confusing to have scientific evidence that living together prior to marriage might contribute to the struggles of a married couple. But in 2007, a group of social scientists found that living together before marriage might not contribute to the likelihood a couple divorces after all. How do the researchers of the current study explain their findings in relation to those that have come before? In short, as they clarify, the association of cohabitation and divorce had not disappeared so much as it got weaker. Researchers also believe we now understand the findings a bit better and with a bit more nuance.
What do we know and understand now about cohabitation that researchers did not know in 2007?
Level of Commitment Impacts Risk of Divorce
While a key finding of the recent study is that cohabitation before marriage largely increases a couple’s likelihood of getting divorced, the researchers’ conclusion is more nuanced than that. More specifically, they determined that the bigger predictor of divorce concerns commitment during cohabitation: “An important part of the story had to do with whether or not a couple started living together before or after having come to a clear commitment to marry.”
In other words, there is not necessarily a higher divorce risk for couples who make a decision to be committed to one another, decide to share a home, and then get married. However, the authors of the study found that many people cohabitate for reasons other than feeling entirely committed to their partner-such as financial reasons. It is in the latter situations that cohabitation before marriage can signal a higher likelihood of divorce.
Contact a Divorce Lawyer in Michigan