Both the U.S. marriage and divorce rates are dropping while the number of unwed couples living together is rising, according to an annual study of marriage released Monday.
The numbers show a gradual trend in the United States toward the lifestyles in Scandinavia, particularly Sweden, where unmarried cohabitation with children is far more common, said David Popenoe, co-author of “The State of Our Unions” study.
The number of unmarried couples living together in the United States grew to more than 5 million last year, according to the study by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in Piscataway.
More than half of all first U.S. marriages are preceded by living together, it said. The study did not specify whether it meant first marriage for both men and women.
Meanwhile, the U.S. marriage rate fell to 39.9 per 1,000 unmarried women in 2004 from 46.5 in 2000 and 76.5 in 1970, the study said. The ratio of married U.S. adults has fallen to its lowest since 1960, to about 55 percent from 69 percent, it said.
A few notes:
*Why was the ratio of married U.S. adults so low in 1960? Did undue pressure build for people to get married after 1960? Some people are meant to live the single life, either as eccentrics, confirmed bachelors, priests, or 007 special agents who can’t commit because they have to bed a lot of women in the line of duty.
*The article later says that Sweden’s divorce rate is rising. So, it has fewer people marrying and those who do are more inclined to divorce.
*If you think living together is the smart path, think again. Link.
*Related: A good advice column regarding living together before marriage. Link. Excerpt:
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In my experience and in reports I’ve read, the chances of a divorce after living together are huge, much higher than for couples who have not lived together prior to marriage. If living together were a test of marital compatibility, the statistics should show opposite results — couples living together should have stronger marriages. But they don’t. They have weaker marriages.
To understand why this is the case, I suggest that you consider why couples who live together don’t marry. Ask yourself that very question. Why did you choose to live with your boyfriend instead of marrying him?
The answer is that you were not ready to make that commitment to him yet. First, you wanted to see if you still loved him after you cooked meals together, cleaned the apartment together and slept together. In other words, you wanted to see what married life would be like without the commitment of marriage.
But what you don’t seem to realize is that you will never know what married life is like unless you’re married. The commitment of marriage adds a dimension to your relationship that puts everything on its ear. Right now, you are testing each other to see if you are compatible. If either of you slips up, the test is over, and you are out the door. Marriage doesn’t work that way. Slip-ups don’t end the marriage, they just end the love you have for each other.
What, exactly, is the commitment of marriage? It is an agreement that you will take care of each other for life, regardless of life’s ups and downs. You will stick it out together through thick and thin. But the commitment of living together isn’t like that at all. It is simply a month-to-month rental agreement. As long as you behave yourself and keep me happy, I’ll stick around.
Habits are hard to break, and couples that live together before marriage get into the habit of following their month-to-month rental agreement. In fact, they often decide to marry, not because they are willing to make a lifetime commitment to each other, but because the arrangement has worked out so well that they can’t imagine breaking their lease, so to speak. They say the words of the marital agreement, but they still have the terms of their rental agreement in mind.
Couples who have not lived together before marriage, on the other hand, have not lived under the terms of the month-to-month rental agreement. They begin their relationship assuming that they are in this thing for life, and all their habits usually reflect that commitment.