Cohabiting relationships break up all the time, and increasingly so, but the relative difference is the point. All other things being the same, a couple who is cohabiting will have a harder time breaking up than a couple who is only dating.

Because many people cohabit before even having mutual clarity about commitment, such as through engagement or marriage, some people end up staying in relationships, including on into marriage, that they otherwise would have left behind.

In Australia, the latest census data – Marriage and divorces, Australia 2016, couples who lived together prior to marriage accounted for 80.8% of all marriages registered in 2016, an increase from the 76.1% recorded in 1996. In 1975, just 16% of married couples had lived together first, and by 1981 cohabitation had doubled with 31% of married couples recording their pre-marriage cohabitation.

So what’s the issue? Scott Stanley claims that many people slide into situations that make it harder to end a relationship before they have made a clear decision about what is best.

For those who have strongly clarified mutual commitment to the future before moving in together, such as by being engaged or even married, stand a much better chance of success, perhaps because there is greater clarity between the couple.


  • Australian Bureau of Statistics – Marriage and divorces, Australia 2016
  • Stanley, S,. and Rhoades, G., 2016: Testing a Relationship Is Probably the Worst Reason to Cohabit @DECIDEORSLIDE

Scott M. Stanley is a research professor at the University of Denver and fellow of the Institute for Family Studies (@DecideOrSlide). Galena K. Rhoades is a research associate professor at the University of Denver.

Do you need help with an issue or problem? Our approach helps to generate deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations can restore insight and understanding about one another.

Tune in for more tips next week… or contact me Shane Smith or @

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