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Sure, more and more people are cohabiting, but it’s also less likely than ever to lead to marriage.
That’s not to say that all cohabiters are in the same boat: Those who are engaged (or have clear plans to marry) before moving in together are far more likely to eventually marry—but as Guzzo shows, even they are becoming less likely to do so.
To simplify and summarize, what Guzzo found is that the increasing diversity in the types of cohabitation and cohabiters does not explain much about why things are so different from the past when it comes to increased odds that cohabiting couples will break up or not marry.
Rather, on average, "Relative to cohabitations formed between 19, cohabitations formed from 1995–1999, 2000–2004, and 2005 and later were 13%, 49%, and 87%, respectively, more likely to dissolve than remain intact.
Related to this, my colleagues and I have shown, in numerous studies, that couples with clear plans to marry before cohabiting, along with those who marry without cohabiting, tend to have happier marriages and lower odds of divorce than those who move in together before having a clearly settled commitment to the future in marriage.[v] (We believe this is largely because, while cohabiting unions obviously break up often, they are harder to break off than dating relationships because it becomes harder to move out and move on.
So some people get stuck in a relationship they would otherwise have not remained in.) Based on both findings and theory, I have long argued that if a couple tells you they are cohabiting and you know nothing else, you know very little about their level of commitment.
Even apart from marriage, I believe that a couple that says they have a lifetime commitment together is telling you something important about a strong level of intention and commitment. First, taken with the growing body of research in this area, I think we are seeing cohabitation headed toward becoming more ambiguous than ever regarding commitment.