An interesting study came out recently. Scott Stanley, a psychologist at the University of Delaware, spent the last 15 years finding out why couples who live together before marriage are less satisfied with their marriage and have a greater potential for divorce. This finding flies in the face of the usual positive explanation that living together helps couples get to know each other well.
Co-habitation, or living together, is very common now-a-days with 60 to 70% of couples doing it. One of the findings was that men on average were less dedicated to their relationships if the couple was just living together. When such a couple got married Scott theorizes that the men might not have married their spouse if they had not lived together. He sees the problem as being one of inertia. Once your finances and rest of live are co-mingled it gets harder to break up. Especially if there is also a child involved. Another factor was the desire of one to get married and the other not being so sure.
There however was a significant difference with couples who lived together after they got engaged. The marital satisfaction of these couples was no different from couples who married but did not live together.
The difference appears to be having made a commitment to each other about spending a future together. The people who lived together before marriage without a real commitment to each other were less dedicated to the success of their relationship.
The best predictor for happiness in a living together relationship comes from making a committed decision to each other. What we can conclude from this study is that what matters is on what basis a couple cohabits. Living together open ended with no commitment to each other can lead to staying in the relationship and getting married more out of inertia or habit than by having made a clear decision. The couples who talk openly about their future and make a commitment to each other statistically have a higher level of satisfaction in their marriage. It doesn’t matter if they lived together before marriage or not.
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