Friday, November 13, 2009

Living Together Pre-Marriage May Lead to Divorce

Taking a little bloom off millions of Valentine's Day roses, researchers have found that couples who live together before marriage are more likely to have communication problems that could lead to divorce.

"We found that those people who live together were more negative and less positive when resolving a marital problem and when providing support to their partner," Dr. Catherine L. Cohan, of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, told Reuters Health.

Cohan and colleague Stacey Kleinbaum interviewed 92 couples who had been married for less than 2 years. The couples were primarily white and college-educated, and none had children. Some of the couples had cohabited--before marriage with their current spouse or with others--while some had not.

The investigators found that husbands and wives who had lived together before marriage were more verbally aggressive, less supportive of one another and more generally hostile than the spouses who had not lived together, according to the report published in the February issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The researchers based their findings on the participants' reports of marital satisfaction, as well as their views on religion and their history of depression, alcohol use and use of physical aggression when solving disagreements with their spouse.

In addition, the couples were asked to engage in a discussion that involved solving a marital problem together and offering support to one another for concerns not related to the health of their marriage.

According to the authors, it is possible that people who live together before marriage enter the relationship with lower commitment. "The open-ended nature of the relationship," they note, "may cause them to be less motivated to develop their conflict resolution and support skills."

Cohan and Kleinbaum emphasized, however, that although those spouses who had lived together demonstrated greater negativity when communicating they were not irreparably doomed to divorce--but rather more vulnerable to heading down that road.

"We just know that people who lived together first had poorer communication skills," Cohan said. "They were poorer, but they weren't failing. They just were not as good. And we don't know over time whether these poorer skills erode more quickly compared to people who didn't live together."

Cohan said that offering practical advice to couples based on these findings is a tricky matter, given that there are always exceptions to the rule and that further research is needed involving a more diverse group of couples.

"I can say, however, that there's nothing in the research that says that living together helps people in the long-run," Cohan said. "So a firm bit of advice would be to focus on communication. This is sometimes too difficult to do on your own. You might need a third party--a clergy member or a counselor. But don't wait until you have a serious communication problem before you start to work on them, because then it's too late."

An estimated 4 million opposite-sex couples currently live together in the US.

Taken from, written by Excerpt By Alan Mozes, Reuters Health


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