Q.I graduated from college about four years ago and have been working full-time about three years now. I’ve been seeing someone for about two years and my parents have recently begun asking about our future plans. I know what they are really asking is how soon we’re planning to marry. Many of our friends who were married in the past three years have already divorced. My boyfriend’s parents are also divorced and one of them is in a pretty rocky second marriage. So, we don’t see the point. We’re actually thinking about moving in together and would like to know what you think about our situation.
A. In last month’s column we answered your question from a biblical perspective. In this month’s column we share a social scientific assessment on marriage and premarital cohabitation.
About 25 years ago we met and trained with Dr. Scott M. Stanley—a psychologist, researcher, and co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. Since then we have remained engaged with Dr. Stanley’s work, reading many of his books and his ongoing study “Sliding vs. Deciding,” which he shares in a blog you can search for online and sign up to receive.
In a recent report (April 26, 2023) written for the Institute for Family Studies titled “What’s the Plan? Cohabitation, Engagement, and Divorce,”[i] Dr. Stanley and Galena Rhoades offer the following statistics:
65 percent of Americans believe living together before marriage will improve their odds of relationship success. Younger Americans are especially likely to believe in the beneficial affects of cohabitation, and to view living together as providing a valuable test of a relationship ahead of marriage. Yet living together before marriage has long been associated with a higher risk for divorce, contradicting the common belief that cohabitation will improve the odds of a marriage lasting.
Using a new national sample of Americans who married for the first time in the years 2010 to 2019, we examined the stability of these marriages as of 2022 based on whether or not, and when, people had lived together prior to marriage. Consistent with prior research, couples who cohabited before marriage were more likely to see their marriages end than those who did not cohabit before marriage.
In her book, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier,and Better off Financially,[ii]Linda Waite, sociologist, demographer and the George Herbert Meade distinguished professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, and Maggie Gallagher propose:
By a broad range of indices, being married is actually better for you physically, materially, and spiritually than being single or divorced. Married people live longer, have better health, earn more money and accumulate more wealth, feel more fulfilled in their lives, enjoy more satisfying sexual relationships, and have happier and more successful children than those who remain single, cohabit, or get divorced.
We pray this information is helpful to you and others, as you carefully plan for your life in the days ahead. You remain in our prayers.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, family sociologist and certified family life educator, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. OliverW@gc.adventist.org
Elaine Oliver, PhDc, LCPC, CFLE a licensed clinical professional counselor, educational psychologist and certified family life educator, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. OliverE@gc.adventist.org