Close relationship researchers have known for years that couples who cohabitate before marriage (and are not engaged) are more likely to divorce or, if they remain together, experience poor marital quality.
The “cohabitation effect,” as it’s called, occurs because many people who live together before getting engaged slide into marriage through a process of inertia.
Rather than going through the process of critically evaluating whether the relationship is right for them, they make the decision to marry out of factors such as convenience, economics, or—the sex.
Falling head over heels in love means, to many couples, having sex as soon as possible.
The rush of infatuation leads people to take the next steps in their relationship without looking objectively at the odds of the relationship succeeding.
Before they know it, they’re making plans to move in together.
Unfortunately, many of these hurried unions lead to disappointment as the relationships falls apart before it’s even had time to take shape.
In an online study of nearly 600 married and cohabitating couples in which the female partner was less than 45 years old, Sassler and colleagues examined measures of relationship quality, sexual satisfaction, communication, and conflict.
Respondents indicated relationship tempo by saying how long the couple waited, after they started dating, to have sex.
Controlling for a number of important other variables (age, number of prior marriages, children, education, income, and financial strain), the researchers then compared the relationship quality of couples who waited less than a month, 1-6 months, and 6 months or more.
The breakup takes its emotional, if not financial, toll on both partners.
Ever hopeful that the next time will be better, however, many people find themselves almost instantly in a new and similarly passionate relationship.
Chaotic and impulsive these series of entries and exits into relationships, called “churning,” take their toll.
Relationships that form under these circumstances, should they lead to marriage, are more likely to suffer in terms of quality.