Sex + Dating

Living With Your Significant Other Seriously Impacts Your Chances of Marriage


Have you moved in with your significant other? Are you thinking about moving in with your significant other? Have you even entertained the idea of moving in together? You might want to read on because there are some things you need to know; things that might scare the shit out of you.

In a recent study, Kelly Raley, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, investigated cohabitation and marriage trends from the National Study of Family Growth data from 1990-1995 and 2006-2010. What she found was fucking startling. Couples who lived together before marriage were less likely to get married, even in these modern-ass, liberal times.

You can now join me in my misery.

Pre-marriage cohabitation may seem like the best way to be sure about someone

I freaked out about moving in with my boyfriend for six months before we took the plunge. I guess moving in together was so scary because it meant that we really were in it for the long haul. Once you sign a lease with someone you're dating, you're locked into something that's as close to marriage as you can imagine in your 20s.

The move turned out to be a super-fabulous idea. I'm obsessed with living together. It's so easy and comfortable. For the last two months, I've had no complaints. It's just been easygoing -- and the dividing of chores, bills, and so on has been a breeze.

Everything was F-ing great... until I heard about this little Kelly Raley study. And I had to wonder what it was that stopped some couples from getting married, once they made the obvious progression to move in together? It all seems rather systematic to me.

You live together, you get engaged, get married, have kids, etc. It seems like the obvious move. In fact, moving in together feels more intense than a piece of paper declaring you man and wife, IMHO.

Why does this even happen?

According to the brief, "... Even while social ideas about the necessity of marriage are changing over time, structural barriers may be preventing some people who want to get married from securing resources for stable family life."

I found myself scratching my head on this one. What does living together have to do with structural barriers? If the barriers we're talking about are financial, wouldn't the consolidation of resources into one household make it easier to get married?

"Low-income and unstable employment are a big part of the answer," Professor Raley tells Thrillist. "For example, some couples might decide to get married when they feel that they are able to buy a house. Those who can't scrape together a down payment or who are unsure they'll be able to pay the mortgage every month might continue to wait. The couples who aren't sure they can maintain a lease will be even more hesitant to commit to marriage."

So, those who don't make enough money and are living from paycheck to paycheck will be less likely to move on to marriage from living together. Interesting...

This BS doesn't affect all women

You don't have to freak out yet. You may not have to worry about this news… unless you didn't go to university. Thank you, Fordham, for both my crippling debt and my increased chance of marriage. Silver lining.

"Women without a college degree are less likely than college-educated women to see their cohabiting relationships turn into marriages," Professor Raley says. Indeed, the study shows that not all women will be affected by this depressing trend, but rather women who don't have a secondary degree.

chart couple who live together before marriage
Oren Aks/Thrillist


According to the brief: "In recent years, less than 20% of women with just a high school education marry their cohabiting partners within three years, down from over 40% in 1990-95. Among college-educated women who began a cohabiting relationship between 2005 and 2010, 46% married by the end of the third year, unchanged from 1990-95."

More money = more marriages

This social trend is indicative of bigger problems with society as a whole. The research shows that it isn't a decline in the attractiveness of marriage that is causing this downward trend, but rather, there are so few employment options for those who don't hold college degrees, that the financial ability to marry inevitably lessens.

"Most hope to marry someday and, in fact, most women expect to marry their cohabiting partners eventually," says Professor Raley. "Also, college-educated women aren't seeing declines in marriage. So, it doesn't seem likely that declines in marriage are because people find marriage less attractive. We must look to something else for an explanation."  

While Professor Raley tells us that she doesn't have an opinion on whether a couple should live together before marriage, she does offer this: "I do think that as a society we need to figure out ways to improve job opportunities for men and women without college degrees."

Amen.

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Gigi is Thrillist's Sex and Dating staff writer. She lives with her boyfriend so this is awkward. Follow her lovable crazy on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @GigiEngle.