How to Improve Your Odds for a Successful Marriage

If you’re dating seriously, don’t slide into a life-long commitment. Decide on it.

A substantial number of practicing Christians believe that living together before marriage is a good idea—at least 41 percent, by one estimate. Although far more nonreligious people believe the same thing (88%), 41 percent is not a small group, and it’s likely growing over time.

A recent report from the Institute for Family Studies surveyed people who married for the first time in the years 2010 to 2019. My colleague Galena Rhoades and I found conclusions similar to those of past studies: Patterns of cohabitation before marriage remain associated with higher odds of divorce.

What people often miss is the inertia that comes with moving in together. In essence, cohabiting couples are making it harder to break up before nailing down their commitments. Many of them get stuck in a relationship they might otherwise have moved on from.

Consistent with our theory of inertia, we find that couples who moved in together before engagement were 48 percent more likely to end their marriages than those who cohabited only after getting wed or at least engaged. We also show that moving in together for “relationship testing” or financial convenience is associated with higher risks for divorce.

In light of this research, Christians contemplating marriage may wonder what they can do to improve their odds of staying married. Relationship advice is cheap and easy to come by. But this latest research suggests that certain steps and precautions will improve the likelihood of staying together “’til death do us part.”

First, don’t believe the hype that living together is good for your relationship.

Although conservative Christians are less likely than most to cohabit before marriage, …

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