March 2nd, 2010
05:32 PM ET

Half of all cohabiting couples marry within 3 years

By Caitlin Hagan
CNN Medical Associate Producer

Things are getting pretty serious between John, 30, and Lindsay, 26, a college-educated couple in Boston who have been dating for almost two years. They've been talking about moving in together since September but Lindsay has only recently become comfortable with the idea. Now she's actively searching for someone to sublet her apartment.

"I've lived on my own...for the last four years and I've had eight different roommates, " says Lindsay. "I'm kind of at the point that I'm spending so much time at my boyfriend's house, my apartment is like a closet to me."

It's a question most couples battle with at some point in a serious relationship. Now data from a new CDC report on marriage and cohabitation trends in the United States offer hope for couples like John and Lindsay. The report looked at survey responses from more than 12,000 men and women aged 15-44 living in households in 2002. It found that more than half of all couples who moved in together were married within three years, so long as each partner had at least a college degree. Couples without degrees were likely to stay together for at least three years, but not get married, provided they had never lived with a partner before.

"The more I thought about us living together, it just seemed right, " says Lindsay. "We've talked about this a lot, talked about our future, talked about marriage."

While living together has become an increasingly popular option among couples, there is some evidence that living together before becoming engaged does not always work out for the best. The CDC report found that waiting to live together increased the chances of a couple staying married for 10 years. For example, 71 percent of men and 65 percent of women who were engaged at the time they moved in together were still married after 10 years but couples who moved in before getting engaged only had 55 percent chance of staying married for a decade.

But that's not stopping John or Lindsay from continuing with their plans.

"I see myself with him for the future," says Lindsay. "And he has said he sees his future with me. For us, this is taking our relationship to the next level."

And never living with or being married to someone else before bodes well for John and Lindsay's future. The CDC report also found that roughly two-thirds of first-time marriages lasted a decade while one-third ended in separation before the 10-year mark.

"I'm super excited," says Lindsay. "It's scary as much as it is exciting but it's a life change, too."

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Christine

    Regarding "For example, 71 percent of men and 65 percent of women who were engaged at the time they moved in together were still married after 10 years but couples who moved in before getting engaged only had 55 percent chance of staying married for a decade."...couldn't that difference really be to a different intervening variable, such as that those who don't live together before marriage are more conservative in the first place, and thus less likely to get divorced?

    March 5, 2010 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Calista

    How many of those pre marriage cohabiting couples are still together at the 10 year mark, however? Additionally, what are the numbers like when broken down between 18-25 couples and 26-35 and 36+ couples? I feel as though the young couples that cohabitate and then marry wouldn't stay together but rather shack up and have children which isn't really fair.

    March 5, 2010 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. DMekhi

    Maybe there should be research done on your part Calista so you can see what the statistics are for those pre-marriage cohabitating couples. What is it that is not fair? Who is it not fair to you or them? Each person makes his/her own decision towards cohabitating. I do not think it matters to society who cohabitats and who does not. Each person has to live with his/her decision and only has to answer to the Creator.

    March 6, 2010 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. TLH

    Calista: I cohabit with my partner and we have been together for 12 years.

    March 8, 2010 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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    We have been living in sin for 13 years now!!

    June 28, 2010 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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