For many years, relationship experts have been looking at the many elements that could make a couple more likely to divorce. Demographics, of course, have always been high on the list, as researchers examined marriage age, race, socioeconomic backgrounds, and religion in an effort to understand divorce trends. Other social factors as well have been in focus, often including generational and cultural influences, family history of divorce, and, lately, unmarried cohabitation. Obviously, no single factor is, on its own, a true predictor of marital success or failure; divorce is nearly always the result of a combination of interdependent factors, which are even more complex to analyze.
One such analysis looked at the possible impact of cohabitation on the likelihood of divorce, but with a twist. It also took into account the age at which participants first entered a committed relationship, including cohabitation or marriage. The results suggest that when looked at together, the age at first commitment may be more of a factor than living together prior to getting married.
Putting It All Together
Arielle Kuperberg, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, looked at more than 7,000 individuals who had been married, analyzing data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the National Survey of Family Growth. Kuperberg examined the age and living arrangements leading up to the marriage, and whether or not the person ultimately ended up divorced.
Her findings led her to conclude that the decision to live with a partner before marriage was not as telling as the age at which the individual chose his or her committed partner. She found that those who entered a cohabiting relationship or a marriage at age 18 divorced at a rate of about 60 percent. By contrast, waiting to enter a committed relationship until 23 dropped the likelihood of divorce by half, down to about 30 percent.
Step Toward Marriage
Attitudes toward cohabitation have changed drastically over the last several decades, and recent estimates indicate the number of cohabiting couples is near 8 million in the U.S. This marks an increase of almost 900 percent in the last 50 years. Only about a quarter of Americans hold a disapproving view of the practice today, and more and more see cohabitation as a “precursor, not an alternative, to wedded bliss.”
If you decide to move in with your partner prior to marriage, though, you may want to consider a cohabitation agreement. Similar to a prenuptial agreement, a cohabitation agreement can address various financial, property, and legal concerns that might be helpful in the absence of a legal marriage. To learn more about protecting yourself in a cohabiting situation, contact an experienced St. Charles family law attorney today. We will help you explore your options and will work with you to ensure your rights are never compromised.