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Does cohabitation before marriage lead to divorce? Apparently not

It has long been believed -- and backed by scientific studies -- that couples who choose to live together before they are married will be at a higher risk of divorce after they tie the knot. This is a statistic that has long puzzled researchers, who have been unable to find a reason for it.

Now, according to the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonpartisan organization, that mystery has been solved. The reason premarital cohabitation leads to divorce is because… it doesn't. According to researchers, the previous studies looked at the wrong variables when they made their determinations, leading to invalid results.

Previous studies did not take the couples' ages into account. According to a University of North Carolina, Greensboro, professor, this was an important oversight.

Young people are more likely to cohabit before they get married. Young people are also more likely to get divorced, but not because of the cohabitation -- financial issues and maturity are leading factors. When the professor accounted for the age variable in the couples she studied, she found that cohabitation had no effect on the future health of the marriage.

This suggests that older couples -- those most likely to experience a high-asset divorce -- are unlikely to be affected by cohabitation. Indeed, researchers noted that living together in preparation for marriage would do no harm.

Studies such as these offer an interesting look into the dynamics of marriage and divorce, though they are often difficult to apply to individual, unique situations. Every couple's marriage is influenced by unique factors that can't be boiled down in a research study. When it comes to individual people, the decision to divorce shouldn't be influenced by what the studies have said -- it should be influenced by each spouse's long-term needs, desires and goals. If these needs and goals can be best met through divorce, then it may be time to separate and move on.

Source: CNBC, "Best predictor of divorce? Age when couples cohabit, study says" Stephanie Hanes, Mar. 10, 2014

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