Shacking up before popping the question is no longer a "bad omen," a new government study finds, but it's not exactly a predictor of marital success, either. In the 1960s, the 10 percent of couples who lived together before marriage experienced higher divorce rates. But now, to the dismay of your grandparents and Patti Stanger, about 60 percent of couples live together before they marry, and it ain't no big thing. "It's becoming so common, it's not surprising it no longer negatively affects marital stability," Wendy Manning, co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research, told the AP.
However, there's a catch: it's only engaged couples who enjoy the same long-term marriage rates as those who follow more traditional advice. Both engaged couples who live together before marriage and couples who don't live together before marriage have a 60 percent chance of staying married for fifteen years. But couples who move in together without a "firm marriage commitment" only have a 50 percent chance of staying together that long. Patti Stanger says, "told you so!"
According to the study, potential explanations include "more lax attitudes about commitment, lower education levels or family histories that made these couples more pessimistic about marriage." Which are all demographics that aren't statistically proven to have long-term marriages, anyway. And nearly half of first marriages still break up after 20 years — what happens in those last five years that not even an early engagement can fix, pray tell? Well, women (oddly, no men were interviewed) who were able to stay married to their husbands for two decades said a "firm belief in a future together" was what kept them going. "I sort of knew he would be part of my life long-term.... I wasn't thinking,`He's moving in with me, is he ever going to marry me?'" said one woman who "secretly" moved in with her future husband in 1985 while they were studying together in Boston — whenever her Californian parents called and her beau picked up the phone, she would tell them he was stuck in her apartment due to a snowstorm. Silly Californians and their weather ignorance!
Also of note: nearly 70 percent of Asian women stay in their first marriage for at least 20 years, compared to 54 percent of white women, 53 percent of Hispanic women and 37 percent of black women. 62 percent of Hispanic men stay married for at least 20 years, compared to 54 percent of whites and 53 percent of blacks. (The study did not have statistics for Asian men.) To summarize: if you want to be married FOREVER AND EVER, get engaged before you move in with your significant other, firmly believe in your future, and preferably be an Asian woman. Hmm. Is it weird to anyone else that the phrases "learn to compromise" and "are you actually happy?" never came up once in this analysis?
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