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Is living together before marriage a recipe for divorce?


Living together before marriage? A sure recipe for divorce.

At least, that's what many people have believed for decades, with numerous studies pointing out that couples who co-habit before tying the knot are more likely to break up.

But a sweeping new report suggests that may no longer be the case.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a major report Thursday looking at trends in marital status. The report is based on a survey of more than 12,200 women and 10,400 men aged 15 to 44, conducted from 2006 to 2010. The responses were compared to similar surveys conducted as far back as 1982.

Some of what the researchers found is not entirely surprising: More couples are living together before marriage and men and women are delaying marriage until later ages.

The report also found that half of all marriages never make it to the 20-year mark.

But one of the most intriguing elements is that premarital co-habitation might not be a strong predictor of divorce.

About 60 per cent of survey respondents who had ever been married lived with their spouse before tying the knot.

While the survey suggests that couples who don't co-habit are more likely to have a marriage that survives 20 years (57 per cent for women and 60 per cent for men), the numbers aren't drastically lower for men and women who lived together first. Women who co-habited with their spouses before marriage have about a 45-per-cent likelihood of marriage survival, regardless of whether they were engaged when they moved in together.

For men, the story is different. Those who moved in with their partners while they were engaged were much more likely (57 per cent) to have a marriage that survives than those who lived together but were not engaged (49 per cent).

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Considering how common premarital co-habitation has become, "it's not surprising it no longer negatively affects marital stability," Wendy Manning, co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, told NPR.

Although the report found that half of marriages end before reaching the 20th anniversary, that rate has actually remained fairly consistent since the 1970s, according to the report.

Do you think couples should live together before making the decision to get married?

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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