Living together before marriage increases chances of divorce? True or false?

I got into a conversation with a friend about this. She said she heard the research was “solid” but that complicating factors were ignored. When I heard that, it made me think that such a conclusion stemmed from a similar type of causality thinking that a journalist uses when they headline an article with “Teen commits murder after playing <insert contemporary violent video game here>”.

Is there any truth to this? Has anyone heard of the aforementioned research? What about married (and divorced) Dopers? Did you live together first?

It seems to me that living together first would either help or have no effect. I can’t see how knowing what home life with a person will be like before entering into marriage could actually hurt your chances of the marriage working.

I’m not currently in a relationship, but I’m terrified of marrying the wrong person. I certainly want to avoid anything that might increase my chances of divorce.

I don’t know, but my first thought is that people who live together before marriage are unlikely to have strongly traditional attitudes about sexual morality, which might make them more willing to get divorced, on the average, than people who don’t live together before marriage. Note that this doesn’t say anything about the relative happiness of the marriages concerned.

My guess on this would be that many couples who don’t live together before marriage come from a religious tradition that considers marriage sacred. If you consider marriage a sacrament and divorce a moral failing, then you’re going to be less likely to divorce, though you may remain unhappily married for decades. So that factor alone would skew the numbers.

My personal experience: my husband and I lived together for almost 2 years before we got married. We’ve been married for four years and, though we’re not religious, we both take marriage very, very seriously. We said “as long as we both shall live” in our vows and we meant it. In our case, living together strengthened our commitment to each other in a “we can do this” way.

Since we are in IMHO, one possible explanation (I think I read it in a Christian publication) was that people who live together may tend to have a lower reverence for the union of marriage in general rather than the actual living together causing a divorce.

Just a thought, but it seems to me that living together can give people a false sense of confidence about marriage. “We’re getting along great, we never fight, this is easy!”-- Then they get married, only to discover that the financial and emotional commitment is a lot more complicated and intense than they imagined, and the person who made an awesome roommate doesn’t necessarily make a good spouse. Again, I don’t have data to back this up, it’s just my personal take. YMMV.

I was married once.

We didn’t live together beforehand and once we got married and lived together we couldn’t get along.

The division of labor was what divided us. And it was all her fault. :wink:

She refused to take out the trash because it was gross yet she would bitch at me when it got full.

She refused to do the dishes because it was gross yet she would bitch at me if I let the dishes sit too long.

She refused to clean the bathroom because it was gross yet she would bitch at me if I hadn’t cleaned it in a couple of weeks.

She wanted to get a dog so we did and she refused to pick up after her because it was gross yet she would bitch at me if the back yard smelled.

We canstantly argued about those four topics. Six months into the marriage we were in counseling. We quit counseling three months later, too expensive, and two months later we filed for divorce.

If I had known she was like that via living together beforehand I would not have asked her to marry me.

That was six years ago. I promised myself that I would not get married again unless I have lived with a girl for at least a year and we have all the household and money issues worked out.

We lived together before getting married. Our tenth anniversary is in a little over 3 weeks and we’re still crazy in love with each other. My conservative religious family still doesn’t understand it. :smiley:

I always thought it was bad, bad, bad to not live with your SO before getting married. How else would one know if they are a complete slob etc…etc…

However, as to whether or not it has any baring on if they get divorced or not I don’t know. I’d think and hope people contemplate long and hard before saying ‘I do’ - -> Dang ain’t that a perfect world if that were true.

The points made so far all point towards the basic logical fallacy your friend’s claim (or, more precisely, the article your friend read) makes, which is to assume that correlation means causality.

It’s quite likely that people who live together before getting married are likelier to divorce than people who do not. However, it does not logically follow that living together makes divorce likely. Truth be told, it’s now the norm for couples to live together before marriage - I don’t know anyone in my circle of friends who did otherwise - and those who do not are disproportionately likely to be members of religious or ethnic groups who frown upon living together before marriage and divorce, creating a statistical correlation.

To know if living together causes more divorces, you would have to adjust for all those differences. It strikes me as being absurd on its face that living together woulde cause divorce; it seems to me it would REDUCE the divorce rate, at least just in that any couple that finds themselves incompatible before marriage may break up before they count as a divorce.

Personally, I would strongly advise all couples to live together before getting married. We lived together first and probably would be divorced now if we hadn’t; living together enabled us to find and resolve problems before we had to get lawyers involved. Instead we’re now happy as clams.

Social scientists are aware of the difference between the types of people who cohabit and who don’t, but the practicalities of controlling for prior attitudes are a challenge. And of course, religious zealots and journalists don’t care. The summaries in this link are kind of slanted, but the bibliography looks like it would be useful to someone who wants to satisfy him/herself that other factors have or have not been controlled for:

http://www.stcdio.org/OMF/marriage-ministry/7ReasonWhy.htm

There does seem to be a glaring lack of evidence that living together beforehand has a positive effect on making marriage successful.

One way to look at it is that if someone is in a marriage that was preceded by cohabitation, it is X% likely to last. If someone is in a marriage that was not preceded by cohabitation, it is X-Y % likely to last. This takes the “types of people involved” factor as a given, but would still allow, say, the government to plan for how many divorces to expect based on survey data. That would be one reason to do this type of research, even if personal characteristics can’t be controlled for.

With the help of Google, I came up with a page that makes the case against cohabitation before marriage and lists some of the research in favor of that conclusion, which may include the research the OP was referring to.

If I’m understanding it correctly, some of the research actually does attempt to adjust for at least some of those differences:

I’m merely quoting what I found; I have no idea how reputable this or the other studies are.

On the “next page,” the author of that website (about whom I know nothing, so take all of this with a grain of salt) presents his theory as to why marriages are more likely to fail if the couple lives together first:

I think the living-together-or-don’t-live-together debate and its effect on likelihood of divorce is pretty played out. It’s clear that there are cultural and religious factors that have to be accounted for and in my completely unscientific opinion-it doesn’t necessarily help or hinder. I believe that it ultimately boils down to a personal preference. And I am stating this as someone who is moderately religious, does come from a conservative ethnic culture and would likely require an engagement before moving in with someone. IMO it doesn’t make a difference-each to his own.

BUT, I did want to point you towards a very interesting chapter I read in a book called “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. There is a chapter on success rates of marriage in there where one particular psychologist found he could predict the likelihood of divorce between a couple to an EERIE degree. Complex answer made short-it came down to communication. I would highly recommend you read it-it made more sense to me than any argument I have ever read about the living/not living debate.

Marriage increases your chances of divorce by 100%

I think you could control a bit by throwing in some other variables, such as:
(1) did either or both parties live with any one else before marriage?
(2) did the couple have a sexual relationship before marriage without living together?
(3) did the couple think living together was acceptable, but did not in fact live together themselves before marriage?

In the case of my marriage, which has lasted 30 years without divorce, we didn’t live together before marriage, but I had lived with two other girlfriends, we had had a sexual relationship before marriage, and we had no moral objections to living together – just didn’t do it for various reasons.

I only have my experience to go off of, but I am so glad my husband and I lived together before marrying. We would have killed each other otherwise. I think the single thing that has most strained our marriage was having a child. Being sleep deprived for more than a year and trying to do the best thing for a third party when the two of you have different ideas about what that is is not easy.

We’re very happy together and are committed to our marriage and I think living together first was a great idea because I had a big problem getting used to living with someone else who didn’t need the same amount of alone time I do (i.e., he didn’t need any, but I needed quite a lot). But your mileage may vary, of course.

My husband and I lived together for a year and a half before we got married. This allowed us to get to know one another on a much more personal level than living apart and dating would have. We got to know each other’s habits and quirks, and were able to get used to having another person share our space. It’s not that we weren’t committed to one another - hardly! We were very committed and took our relationship seriously.

We will be celebrating our 20th anniversary this October, and are more in love now than ever. Head over heels in love.

Given that this has been my personal experience, when asked whether I support couples living together without being married, I respond in the affirmative.

Heh – I work for that psychologist (well, sort of). I agree that a couple’s likelihood of divorce is going to come down to more complex factors than whether or not they lived together before marriage. After all, statistics don’t really mean much to the individual – let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that couples who don’t cohabitate before marriage are 60% more likely to divorce than couples who do live together beforehand. My husband and I didn’t live together before we were married – does that mean that we’re doomed? No, and the statistic has no direct impact on our relationship; it doesn’t affect how we communicate or how we treat each other every day. I think it’s easy to get caught up in statistics like this, but they don’t have anything to do with what happens to you.

CDC study that says it does increase your chances by a very small amount, which is kinda funny when you think that the Center for Disease Control is doing a study on divorce, but that’s your tax dollars at work ppl.

Of course, there is also the self-selection bias that people who don’t live together are more likely to be from traditional/religious families where divorce is a big no-no and they will be more likely to stay in a bad or even dangerous marriage. The study doesn’t try to distinguish between good and bad divorces.

Are marriages that stay together more or less satisfying for the couple if they cohabitate. i.e. if you are against cohabitation and against divorce (which are probably linked) are you also be more likely to stick around in an unhappy (even abusive) marriage?

Since we are IMHO after all, its my opinion that high divorce rates are better societally than a high incidence of abusive marriages.

If you’re interested in looking further into the question, The case for marriage was one of the books that came out detailing the cohabitation studies.

(Been married 12 years, very happy, did not live together before the wedding.)