Cohabitation and a Healthy Marriage: Fact or Fiction?

Does living together before marriage increase the chances for a successful marriage? An informal poll suggests that most singles expect to live together before marriage because they assume it will provide assurance of compatibility and commitment.  Research shows that more and more couples choose to live together before marriage, so one would assume that with all this premarital cohabitation, there’d be fewer divorces.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

In the first 5 years of marriage, the divorce rates between cohabitating and non-cohabitating couples is virtually the same. And, among couples married over 20 years, the divorce rate is much higher among couples who’ve lived together before marriage.  So is there any benefit to cohabitation or have we just slid into a new norm that provides few tangible benefits for the marital relationship?

When couples reach the point of making a commitment to marry, they are facing increasing demands and the possibilities for conflict that are not replicated in the premarital living arrangement. Miscommunication, false expectations and role responsibilities occur in marriage whether or not the couple has lived together first.

To help couples prepare for marriage, I developed the Emotional Prenuptial Agreement which encourages couples to lay the groundwork for a healthy and long lasting marriage before they enter into it, whether or not they have lived together first.  It is a spin on a traditional legal prenup, but this one is not binding nor does it address tangible possessions or finances.  It deals with the emotional needs, vulnerabilites and expectations each brings into the marriage and an honest assessment of what each learned about themselves from past relationships. Resolution of the issues is not the point. It is the communication and promise to work together that prepares them for marriage.

Cohabitation is all romance, divorce is all business. An emotional prenup prepares the couple for married life, which benefits best by maintaining a bit of both.

More posts about weddings, marriage, and pre-nups:
Are you prepared for a marriage, or for a wedding? (October 28, 2012)
Saying ‘I Do’ to a Prenup (October 1, 2012)
Buddymoons (July 14, 2012)
The Emotional Prenup (June 14, 2012)
Does Couples Therapy Work? (March 21, 2012)
Marital Pre Nup (February 8, 2012)
What makes a marriage viable—or not? In a word: trust. (February 6, 2012)