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Cohabitation, Marriage and Divorce

Following in the wake of a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), psychologists and relationship specialists have been churning out articles about the relationship between cohabitation and marriage, and cohabitation and divorce. 

Studies published during the 1990s that showed a strong correlation between living together for more than three years and a higher rate of divorce. The CDC’s study shows that this is no longer the case, and that as more couples cohabit — either to delay marriage or to avoid marriage altogether — that correlation becomes less true. 

More cohabitation than ever before 

The study, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that between 2006 and 2010 nearly half of all women ages 15–44 lived with partners for a period of time. 

The study also concluded that: 

  • Less-educated women are more likely to cohabit than those with college degrees
  • Women without a high school degree are more likely to become pregnant while living with a partner
  • More-educated women are more likely to move into marriage within three years of cohabitation 

Many of the couples interviewed for this and related studies cited financial benefits as a primary reason for choosing cohabitation over marriage. The rise in cohabitation also coincides with a rise in pregnancy during the time a couple is living together. The longer the couple cohabits, the higher the rate of pregnancy. 

Sliding, not deciding 

Clinical Psychologist Meg Jay wrote in a New York Times article entitled "The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage" that the decision to move in is often a progression of events rather than a conscious choice. Many couples slide from dating into frequent sleepovers, and from there into living together. This lack of decision, says Jay, may be to blame for the high rate of marital dissatisfaction and subsequently high rate of divorce. 

Consumer lock-in 

Jay describes one of the pitfalls of cohabitation as the lack of ritual, either for moving in or for breaking up. She compares the situation to a credit card contract that the consumer is unable to breach for years to come. 

Contrary to popular belief, no statistic has ever shown that cohabitation before marriage prevents divorce. All couples that co-mingle their assets, live together and have children together may require legal assistance when dissolving the relationship. A Buffalo area divorce attorney is available to help you with your separation or divorce.

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