From the New York Times:

“Nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, ‘You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.’ About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce.

But that belief is contradicted by experience. Couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not. These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect.”

That’s a bit counterintuitive. Why would people who tested out the idea of marriage by living together be MORE likely to break up?”

Says the article, “Women are more likely to view cohabitation as a step toward marriage, while men are more likely to see it as a way to test a relationship or postpone commitment, and this gender asymmetry is associated with negative interactions and lower levels of commitment even after the relationship progresses to marriage.”

Which is to say that it’s simple inertia between two people who have way too many sunk costs that is leading people to the altar – not the desire to be married.

This makes sense. After four years together and no proposal, many men relent to marriage, only to find out that their resistance should have been honored. Women stay in dead-end relationships for far too long because it’s too scary to leave. They think the ring will fix the problem, but it doesn’t.

“The unfavorable connection between cohabitation and divorce does seem to be lessening, however, according to a report released last month by the Department of Health and Human Services. More good news is that a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center found that nearly two-thirds of Americans saw cohabitation as a step toward marriage.”

As for me, I’m in favor of cohabiting, despite the statistics. I really think it’s a much more accurate reflection of married life than when you spend weeknights talking on the phone and weekends making love. Living together is reality.

What couples need to do now is realize that if you’re not happy living with someone, you shouldn’t lock it in. Which, apparently, is news to some people.

Read the New York times article here and share your thoughts. Have you lived with someone? Are you married to that person now?