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Cohabiting Before Marriage Linked to Longer Relationships

Update Date: Jan 24, 2014 03:45 PM EST

Living together before marriage could be the key to a successful marriage, according to a new study.

Couples who cohabitate before marriage are more likely to stay together for eight years or longer, according to researchers.

While some studies have found that cohabitating couples are more likely to break up than married couples, the latest study reveals that living together may actually help couples stay together for longer.

"Cohabiters are very common," co-author Audrey Light, professor of economics at The Ohio State University, said in a news release. "There are so many couples that start out cohabiting, and enough of their relationships last that they end up making a significant contribution to the total number of long-term relationships."

The latest study involved data from 2,761 women born 1960 to 1964 who participated in the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The women were interviewed every one or two years beginning in 1979 through 2008.

The findings revealed that couples who start out living together usually do end up marrying at some point of their relationship lasts eight or more years.

Researchers found that an 18-year-old woman in a relationship has a 16 percent chance of marrying by age 22 and staying married for at least 12 years. However, living with her partner before marriage boosts her chances of marrying and staying with her husband by 6 percent.

Furthermore, cohabitation makes it 36 percent more likely that she will enjoy a long-lasting relationship with her boyfriend.

As women get older cohabitation increases the chances of them enjoying a lost lasting relationship, according to researchers.

The findings revealed that women who meet their partner at ages 24 to 28 are 52 percent more likely to have a long-term relationship if they live with their partners, and those who meet their partners at ages 30 to 34 are 78 percent more likely to have a long lasting relationship.

"As women get older, they are even more likely than younger people to live together before they get married," Light said. "The same is true for those who are entering second unions."

"Enough of these cohabiting unions do last that they end up making a huge contribution to the total number of lasting long-term relationships," she added.

However, researchers said that their findings shouldn't be used as advice to those who are unsure of whether to cohabit or marry.

"We are just looking at the contribution cohabiting makes toward the overall number of long-term relationships," Light said. "These results can't be used to predict whether any individual couple would be better off cohabiting or marrying."

The findings are published in the journal Population Research and Policy Review.

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