Does Cohabitation Before Marriage Lead to Divorce?

Does Cohabitation Before Marriage Lead to Divorce?Up until the 1990s, social researchers associated premarital cohabitation with higher rates of divorce. Both cohabitation and divorce were less socially accepted at the time, and conventional wisdom said that people who committed the taboo of cohabitation would be more willing to commit the taboo of divorce. Society’s views on cohabitation have softened in recent decades, and some divorce studies have concluded that cohabitation can decrease the likelihood of divorce. However, researchers lack a consensus on the effects of cohabitation before marriage.


Cohabitation has become more common for younger couples because:

  • There is less stigma about premarital sex;
  • More people are waiting until they are older before they get married;
  • Some couples do not think marriage is important in their relationship; and
  • Living alone in urban areas is expensive.

A larger sample size makes it less likely that outliers will skew the final results. With cohabitation becoming more normal, the divorce rates for people who lived together before marriage should more closely resemble the average divorce rate.

Preparing for Marriage

Some researchers have concluded that cohabitation before marriage is actually associated with lower rates of divorce. The logic is that cohabitation prepares a couple for married life together. They must learn how to cooperate with each other in handling household expenses and responsibilities. They become familiar with each others’ personalities and what it is like living together. If they discover that they do not get along, they break up before marriage. If they do get married, they are continuing the same lifestyle they already had.

Statistics in Context

A recently published study concluded that couples who cohabitated had a lower-than-average rate of divorce in their first year of marriage but had a higher-than-average rate of divorce by their fifth year of marriage. The findings suggest that prior cohabitation gives spouses only a temporary advantage over spouses who never lived together. However, the data does not explain why cohabitation would ultimately increase divorce rates. An important distinction may be the intentions of a couple when they move in together. Couples who cohabitate with the intention of marriage may be better prepared for marriage than those who did not know whether they would marry before they started living together.

Contact a Kane County Divorce Lawyer

Did your decision to cohabitate before marriage contribute to your divorce? It is possible if it encouraged you to rush into an ill-advised marriage. However, the reasons why your marriage is ending is less important once your divorce has started. A Geneva, Illinois, divorce attorney at Geneva Family Lawyers is here to help you when you have decided to divorce. Schedule a free consultation by calling 331-588-6611.


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