Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Couples Who Live Together Have Better Odds of Staying Together Longterm


Sunday night on ABC, former Bachelor, Sean Lowe, married Catherine Giudici, whom he met on The Bachelor. As heavily advertised and discussed ad nauseam, the two didn’t live together before being married and waited until their wedding night to have sex (their wedding theme was “Grown Sexy” and during the live broadcast of the wedding, the word “sexy” was uttered — usually by a very excited Catherine — at least 75 times; something tells me that maybe the actual deed may not have lived up to the hype in her head). Anyhoo, you might think that by waiting until marriage to live together these two have a better shot at staying together forever than couples who live in sin, but that isn’t necessarily so. In fact, in a new study, researchers have discovered that, in fact, couples who live together have better odd of stating together longterm.

The study found that a representative 18-year-old woman who’s never lived with a partner has a 16% chance of getting married by age 22 and remaining with her husband at least 12 years (i.e. “long term”). But if that same 18-year-old woman lives with a partner first and then marries him by 22, the odds of her staying with her husband at least 12 years increases six percentage points to 22%.

But let’s look at a woman with a little more age and wisdom and life experience. Women ages 24 to 28 who have never been married or lived with a partner have a 52% chance of staying with their partner at least 12 years if they live together before marrying. The odds shoot up to 78% among the same women who wait until 30 to 34 before ever marrying or living with a partner. Among women ages 24 to 28 who have been married or lived with a partner before, “cohabitation adds 148 percent to the probability that a relationship is formed and then maintained for at least 12 years. The contribution increases to 187 percent among those women who form a second union at ages 30 to 34.”

So, there you go — living together won’t wreck your relationship. And getting married before you live together doesn’t mean you’re doomed either. I’m sure a nice couple like Sean and Catherine, for example, will live happily ever after forever and ever. Reality TV couples always do.

[via Psych Central]
[image via]

67 comments… add one
  • TECH January 28, 2014, 1:07 pm

    I think it’s really difficult to say that a marriage lasts or doesn’t last because two people lived together first. It’s such an intensely personal thing and there are so many different factors. The breakup could occur because you lived together. Or it could occur because one person develops a drinking problem or changes religions or falls out of love. There are so many things that can transpire that have absolutely nothing to do with whether you lived together first.
    I guess this argument bothers me because there seem to be such fierce arguments on each side. People who choose to live together before marriage always want to defend their decision. And more “traditional” people who don’t want to live together before marriage seem to want to explain why they feel their decision is right.
    Ultimately, I think it doesn’t make a darn bit of difference. Most of the success of a marriage is probably dependent on hard work, good decision-making in every stage of the relationship, and a little bit of luck.

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    • lets_be_honest January 28, 2014, 1:10 pm

      Tell the truth TECH. Did you copy and paste this from the last post that included stats/studies? 🙂

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    • GatorGirl January 28, 2014, 1:17 pm

      Yeah, I def agree with your last bit. I don’t really think the success of a marriage is influenced by anything other than dumb luck and BOTH people’s hard work.

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    • Lyra January 28, 2014, 2:02 pm

      I agree. With any statistic, it’s really difficult to determine the *true* cause of something. Living together or not living together isn’t the only thing that determines if they will last long term.

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    • Cassie B January 28, 2014, 3:58 pm

      Truth. Correlation does not equal causation. But it’s an interesting study, nonetheless. I also found this interesting from the article:

      ” The reason is essentially a matter of sheer numbers, Light said. ‘Cohabiters are very common. 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,’ she said.”

      Either way, cohabiting or choosing to wait until marriage to live together, there’s so many variables that go into whether a couple stays together long-term or not. It’s impossible to isolate it to one thing.

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  • muchachaenlaventana January 28, 2014, 1:11 pm

    WTF is a “grown sexy” wedding theme?

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    • MissDre January 28, 2014, 1:13 pm

      That’s what I was thinking…

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    • Morgan January 28, 2014, 1:26 pm

      I hate myself for knowing this but it’s “adult sexy rather than kid sexy. Like Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines.” Now what the hell that means I have no idea, I’m just quoting (or paraphrasing because lazy) the crazy

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  • csp January 28, 2014, 1:20 pm

    These numbers confused me at the end. I can you add 148%?

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    • rachel January 28, 2014, 1:23 pm

      If a couple in one scenario is 20% likely to be together, the other is 50% likely.

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      • csp January 28, 2014, 4:21 pm

        OOOOOHHHHH. I was thinking it was 148% over 78% and I was confused.

  • mylaray January 28, 2014, 2:09 pm

    This is semi related…a married couple I know has never lived together (they actually live in different states 20 minutes away) and it really seemed to work for them, from what I could tell. But I found out yesterday that they’re getting divorced, so that’s sad. I always thought it was interesting though cause I haven’t heard of it that much.

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    • bethany January 28, 2014, 2:19 pm

      A guy that works in my building has that arrangement with his wife, but he’s in PA and she’s in VA. They’ve been apart for over 10 years now, but lived together for 15 years or so before they lived separately. They live that way because of job situations and hope to move back together one day. It seems to be working ok for them.

      I could have really gone for living 20 minutes from my husband yesterday. I wanted to punch him in the face all day for no real reason. 🙂

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    • Addie Pray January 28, 2014, 2:22 pm

      When I was in Rio I met an American couple that lives apart – the husband in Rio and the wife in NYC! They see each other every 3 weeks – she flies there every 6 weeks and he flies home every 6 weeks, or that’s what they aim for anyway. I’m not saying I would want to do that, but I would want a home in Rio and a home in NYC and the ABILITY to fly back and forth every 6 weeks.

      Side note: I’m always so intrigued by other people’s career paths, where works takes them unexpectedly, whether they planned for it (e.g., it was their major or they actively pursued a career in X) or the opportunity just presented itself, randomly, after time. I mean, it’s not like you ever see an entry level job posting that says, “This job seeks a normal person, no need to have insane grades from an ivy league school or some fancy degree, but this job will expose you to X, and help you land that next job which will open the doors to industry Y, which oh by the way you can do while you work from home, or at an office that lets you bring your pets to work, in Paris.” If I saw that posting, I would have been all over that job!

      For example, there’s this girl I grew up next door to. She’s a real idiot. And annoying as hell. (Side note 2: I was so jealous of her though because she was the fastest sprinter I knew; she could run faster than all the kids in the neighborhood even the boys. Also, when we were kids we used to roller skate in her driveway while blasting the Dirty Dancing soundtrack from her boom box. We played a lot but I never got invited to her birthday parties because her mom said her birthday parties were only for her school friends (she went to a private school and I was slummin’ it in public school I guess) and neighborhood friends weren’t invited. One year I was playing with her little brother and there was a stairwell in the garage that led to an attic and I convinced him to go up there with me and I snooped around and found their xmas presents and the mom was really mad at me. Whatever I was 9! There, those are my memories about her.) But anyway, this neighbor girl got an entry level job doing something I have no idea what and then she got a job doing something similar and then she was able to transfer and BAM! she now lives in Belgium and gets 8 weeks of vacation and gets to do all this neat stuff. Bitch. Why? How? Where did I go wrong? Ha. That’s all, back to reviewing state by state wage assignment rules. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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      • mylaray January 28, 2014, 2:27 pm

        Oh wow that’s such a big distance. But at least it’s like a mini vacation every time they visit. I want a job where I could leave every 6 weeks.

    • theattack January 28, 2014, 2:28 pm

      My in-laws have lived apart at many points in their marriage, and they’ve been doing it for a couple of years now. They’re about a two hour drive apart, so they see each other most weekends. It seems to work for them, because he still does the yard work for her, but he gets space to do his own weird projects in his apartment that she wouldn’t like much.

      It’s crazy that your couple has NEVER lived together though. Imagine trying to move in with someone after being married for several years. Do you know how long they’ve been together?

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      • mylaray January 28, 2014, 2:33 pm

        That’s cool that it works for your in-laws. I like hearing stories like that, even though I don’t think I would ever try it.

        The couple I know has been married for 8 years, and together 10ish. It’s a second marriage for both of them so they’re older and maybe they were sick of living with partners by that time.

      • theattack January 28, 2014, 2:40 pm

        I was just about to say that I wouldn’t ever try it either, but actually just yesterday P and I discussed it because I’m applying for a job where I would have to live on-site for two months this summer. We’ll see! My in-laws are just doing it until one of them decides to retire, because at this point in their lives they don’t see the point in bothering for both of them to relocate for a job.

        Maybe it’s smart for a couple who’s already been through it once. If they know they need individual space, more power to them! I’m sad with you that they’re divorcing. 🙁

    • kerrycontrary January 28, 2014, 2:50 pm

      It’s very common for couples in my fiance’s company (construction) to live apart for 3,6,12 months at a time. Or for dads to live in an apartment, and come “home” (which is 2-3hrs away from their job) on the weekends. If you know you’re going to be on a 6-12 month project it doesn’t make sense to uproot your family for that short amount of time. Some people even do it for up to 2 yrs.

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      • GatorGirl January 28, 2014, 2:54 pm

        We know a lot of people in academia who function similarly. If you have a one year appointment, it isn’t always worth it to move everyone around. It’s not uncommon for both spouses to be in academia which makes job placement in the same area even harder.

    • othy January 28, 2014, 2:52 pm

      I wish I had the money to do what Tim Burton and Helena Bonhem Carter do. They own three houses. One for Tim, one for Helena, and one for the kids/nannies. They are right next door to each other, and linked by a great hall. So they can visit whenever but all have their own space. That would be awesome!

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      • CatsMeow January 28, 2014, 4:14 pm

        YES. I think that would be perfect for me. Heck, I’d even take a duplex or adjacent apartments.

  • Fabelle January 28, 2014, 2:18 pm

    @mylaray I always wanted to do that, sort of? Not in my current relationship, but just as a floating hypothetical…I liked the idea of living apart. It seems like a good way to keep things fresh? but only a really specific kind of relationship could handle that, I think (like… 2 confident people, no kids, maybe older? maybe open relationship? I dunno)

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    • lets_be_honest January 28, 2014, 2:29 pm

      My ultimate relationship dream is to own two houses right next door to each other – one for me, one for him.

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      • rachel January 28, 2014, 2:33 pm

        Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter each have their own house, connected by a hallway.

      • lets_be_honest January 28, 2014, 2:45 pm

        Oh that’s cool. So long as he’s not allowed to put his ugly stuff in the hallway, I could handle that. 🙂

      • othy January 28, 2014, 2:52 pm

        Oh, now I read this. I mentioned it above 🙂

      • bethany January 28, 2014, 2:34 pm

        My ideal was always to own a twin/duplex. Him on one side, me on the other. It would be so amazing.

      • CatsMeow January 28, 2014, 4:15 pm

        Oops, I jinxed you up above. That’s what I get for commenting before I read everything else.

  • theattack January 28, 2014, 2:21 pm

    There are many different studies on this matter, all of which are conflicting. Ultimately there’s only ever correlation shown, and because most research on the matter is biased, it’s probably impossible to reach a solid conclusion about it. (Seriously, one of my textbooks from college is half-filled with conflicting statistics about this very issue. It’s highly contested.) My take is that you should do whatever living arrangements you and your SO are most comfortable with, and you should keep communicating about your relationship, and you’ll be fine.

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    • theattack January 28, 2014, 2:25 pm

      Oh, I will say that what I remember taking away from reading all of the statistics together was that the most important thing was communication about expectations. Couples who lived together without talking about their future first were much less likely to be long term than couples who lived together and did have a long term commitment. That’s still just correlation though, because couples who aren’t committed, well, aren’t committed, so it probably doesn’t make a difference.

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  • kerrycontrary January 28, 2014, 2:51 pm

    Meh, we’re moving in together when we’re engaged. I don’t really listen to the “but you HAVE to live with someone before you marry them” comments. We know each other really well, and we’ll figure out the day to day grind and living together when it happens. You can do everything “right” in your relationship and still end up divorced.

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    • starpattern January 28, 2014, 3:33 pm

      “You can do everything “right” in your relationship and still end up divorced.”

      You know what, this is ultimately what I keep coming back to when I read this kind of stuff. You always hear so much crap on both sides about things you need to do/in what order to do them before marriage in order to have a relationship that lasts. It is so exhausting. It might crash and burn either way – or it might not! Everyone should just do what they want.

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  • HmC January 28, 2014, 3:15 pm

    So this study isn’t saying that co-habitation helps avoid divorce (as a lot of people like to argue), it’s saying that co-habitating leads to longer term relationships? I don’t see how the two sides are conflicting then.

    Anyway people, don’t pour over statistics when making a decision like this- you should know your values and your relationship well enough that you know what’s right for you. I think all the studies have mostly shown us is that either way can succeed or fail. (Though to be honest I do think there is some teeny bit of causation between vast co-habitation and divorce that the other side refuses to acknowledge).

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    • HmC January 28, 2014, 3:18 pm

      Also that’s really interesting that they’re only analyzing the women’s chance of a long-term relationship, not the couples… kind of weird, I wonder what that’s about.

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    • lets_be_honest January 28, 2014, 3:24 pm

      To your last point you squeezed in at the end…I don’t know stats at all, but isn’t it just in the past generation (our parents) that divorce became super common (the 50% stat)? So if that’s the case, and from what little I know, co-habitation before marriage didn’t become super common until our generation. So if our parents’ generation saw little co-habitation before marriage, but also were the cause of the 50% stat, then I think you’re wrong.
      Does anyone out there who was able to follow this know if the stat-assumptions I’m making are true?

      Also, I’d be more inclined to believe stats on correlation between cohab before divorce resulting or not resulting in divorce 50 years from now. I just feel like (and again, maybe I’m wrong) cohab before marriage is a fairly new thing.

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      • HmC January 28, 2014, 3:31 pm

        Meh we’ve had this discussion on here ad nauseam. No doubt there is a lot of correlation, but I personally don’t think that’s all it is. I believe there is a sliding effect where some couples slide into marriage because they live together, and not because it’s the right thing for them long term. And I think that effect is mostly mitigated by open honest communication regarding what co-habitation means for that couple, which many couples don’t do. That said, I made the best decision for myself based on a lot more than stats and I hope others do the same and wish them well.

      • lets_be_honest January 28, 2014, 3:45 pm

        Clearly you don’t feel like discussing, just leaving your comment, so I feel weird even replying, but I will. Don’t you (you being anyone who wants to join in on discussing) think that the sliding thing happens to all couples though? I’d almost think it would happen quicker for couples who live apart actually, because I can’t imagine “just dating” for so long without deciding just to marry so you can live together. Not that the sliding thing doesn’t happen with couples who live together too, because I’m sure it happens to all kinds of couples.

        Were you (again, any Yous) nervous about finally living together after the wedding? I think kerry mentioned she was waiting too.

      • GatorGirl January 28, 2014, 3:50 pm

        I think the sliding probably does happen to ALL kinds of couples- like “hey we’ve been dating for 3 years, I guess it’s time to get married…” So IDK, I do think living together might influence it some, but really people make relationship decisions for millions of reasons and non-reasons.

        I wanted to wait until we where engaged to move in together but some weird shit happened that resulted in us living together 4 months before getting engaged. I don’t think it influenced anything in our relationship.

      • lets_be_honest January 28, 2014, 3:56 pm

        Why did you want to wait?

      • GatorGirl January 28, 2014, 4:01 pm

        I have no real reason. It just sounded like a good milestone. Honestly, I might have killed him if we’d moved in and tried to plan a wedding at the same time.

      • lets_be_honest January 28, 2014, 4:09 pm


      • lets_be_honest January 28, 2014, 3:37 pm

        I would also bet money on divorcing becoming less and less common thanks to us all watching our parents’ divorces…and the now-common trial runs of cohabitating.

      • GatorGirl January 28, 2014, 3:42 pm

        I totally agree. Marriage rates are declining (from what I remember), and more people are living together and having kids before actually marrying. So divorce rates have to go down…right?

      • lets_be_honest January 28, 2014, 3:48 pm

        Are you saying simply because there are less marriages, there will be less divorces?

        I guess when I say trial run, I really look at it like that. I just can’t imagine living together or having kids together, realizing its not working, and then deciding to marry. I’m sure it happens because dumb shit happens, but I can’t imagine its common. So yea, it must be going down, right?

      • theattack January 28, 2014, 3:56 pm

        FWIW, there have also been studies where young people report that they’re not marrying simply because they’re being very careful, not because they don’t want to. That they’ve seen divorces, like you said, and they’re postponing marriage until they feel confident. So if that’s true, we could predict that there will be less divorce because relationships will be more calculated and stable. Because of that, there are fewer relationships ending in marriage, and fewer of them that will be considered long term. Stability and fewer marriages combined seems like a formula for fewer divorces. (Come to think of it, I should not like advice sites like this one, because divorce brings home the bacon for us. I think I’m going to start my own version of an advice site…)

        And for some anec-data from the conservative South, let me just say that I’ve seen more than my share of friends who are against cohabiting and pre-marital sex who slide into marriage quickly because their sex drives are clouding their thoughts. That seems a lot more dangerous to me than sliding into marriage after successfully and happily cohabiting.

      • lets_be_honest January 28, 2014, 3:57 pm

        Yes! Thanks ta. That’s what I was thinking too (your last paragraph).

      • iwannatalktosampson January 28, 2014, 4:20 pm

        I agree with everything you just said, and that’s all I have time to add to this thread right now, haha but I will try to come back later.

      • theattack January 28, 2014, 4:25 pm

        Omg I love when someone agrees with everything I said!

      • lets_be_honest January 28, 2014, 4:28 pm

        I agree with everything you said…and more! So I beat Iwanna.

      • theattack January 28, 2014, 4:32 pm

        Your “that’s what I was thinking too” just didn’t seem as strong as Iwanna’s “I agree with everything you just said,” so that’s why I didn’t give you the same excited comment. I’ll accept this new comment as a correction for your lack of enthusiasm in complimenting me.


      • iwannatalktosampson January 28, 2014, 7:39 pm

        Accept it LBH, I win. It’s fine. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

      • HmC January 28, 2014, 4:53 pm

        Sliding into marriage doesn’t refer to getting married quickly, at least not in the contexts I’ve seen. It refers to the specific circumstance of slowly and gradually doing something because it’s easy instead of treating it like a big important decision. I agree that getting married quickly due to hormones is probably usually just as bad of an idea in many circumstances, but it’s incorrect to equate the two concepts.

      • theattack January 28, 2014, 5:03 pm

        True, it might not have been the most accurate word. I used it to mean that it was doing the easy thing, but you’re probably right. Either way the sentiment is the same.

      • iwannatalktosampson January 28, 2014, 5:03 pm

        I interpret it to mean that you’re sliding into marriage because it’s the easy thing to do, meaning you want to bang, but for whatever reason feel like you can’t without getting married, so the easy thing to do is get married and then voila! Bangville.

      • HmC January 28, 2014, 5:14 pm

        I can’t argue with other people’s interpretations of the word/concept. But articles I’ve seen and my own views are based on a specific interpretation. I don’t think people sliding into marriage after 5 years of co-habitating would be facing the same challenges as 18-year olds who claim they don’t believe in co-habitating or pre-marital sex and thereby justify getting married after two months. These are two extremely different couples embodying almost opposite situations.

      • iwannatalktosampson January 28, 2014, 6:44 pm

        You know what this discussion always reminds me of? Have you ever seen any John Caporila (spelling?) stand-up? Well he has this routine where he talks about circular arguments and he’s like stats are dumb – people just decide how they feel and then go to imright.com to back it up. And it’s so true, for every study you find that says what you’re doing will make it less likely that you’ll divorce you’ll find another study that will say you’re doing it wrong. You could say it’s win-win, or you could say it’s lose-lose. Or you could be me and say do what you want when you want, work hard, be a good person, and hope for the best. And then when life tries to fuck you anyways, dust yourself off, and try again.

      • GatorGirl January 28, 2014, 4:00 pm

        Yeah. that’s kind of what I was saying…if less people marry, there should be less divorces… Or one would think so. idk. it’s such a personal thing I have no idea how to hypothesize on it.

      • applescruffs January 28, 2014, 6:22 pm

        Marriage rates are also based on education level. The higher your education the more likely you are to get married instead of “just” cohabitating indefinitely.

      • iwannatalktosampson January 28, 2014, 6:46 pm

        I’m guessing by “just” cohabitation you mean “just being a bunch of skankbombs, living in sin, causing the decline of societal morals, and ruining the economic status of this country.” 😉

      • applescruffs January 28, 2014, 11:07 pm

        Downfall of society and all that! Harlots! Think of the children!

      • katie January 29, 2014, 8:07 am


        (that snl skit it going to play forever in my head whenever anyone does the “what about the kids!” thing…)

      • katie January 29, 2014, 8:09 am

        oh god a baby just showed up at work.

        i was like “oh a baby!” and i almost did it in that voice. that was awkward….

  • katie January 28, 2014, 6:43 pm

    wendy, im late to this but i just wanted to say- i told you that you didnt have to run the “validating katie’s life choices” piece until NEXT week! hahaha

    but seriously- this is interesting. i could never legally tie myself to someone without living with them. i dont believe you can really know someone before living with them, and the transition of living with someone is hard, its honestly a shitty and hard process. in talking with my gay director who has now had to wrestle all over again with her thoughts on marriage (IL passed it last year!), i am starting to see it as really only about legalities. she likes to say its all about death. but, thinking about it, and what things would change in my life, its more and more just becoming “very seriously legally binding myself to this guy that i cant undo without other very serious legal proceedings”. and, so, again, i couldnt ever sign that kind of contract with someone i had never lived with. not romantic, no, but thats fine with me.

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  • paperheart January 28, 2014, 7:57 pm

    I second Katie with the “validating my life choices” thing haha. I’ve always felt like I wanted to live with someone before getting married. Which is kinda weird I guess since I was raised opposite? When B and I moved in together, my dad was completely against it (my mom was more indifferent) until I sat down with him and explained my side of things. His argument was the whole “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” thing. Once we actually moved in together though, my dad came around. It also helped that they (my dad and B) got to know each other a little better as a result of us moving in together. I don’t think they’d be as close if we didn’t, if that makes sense. The only problem is now that we’ve been living together for about 2 1/2 years, my family is getting a little antsy waiting for us to get engaged. Which we are planning on doing very soon, but I just hate that they won’t just let it happen. My aunt actually told my sister the other day that since we’ve been living together for so long, we’re “obviously never going to get married.” But I imagine that kind of thing would happen even without the cohabitation, right? (Sorry this kinda turned into a tangent. I didn’t mean to get off topic, it’s just been on my mind lately and this seemed like a good place to let it out. Ha)

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    • katie January 29, 2014, 8:11 am

      “we’re “obviously never going to get married.”” -and you know what i dont get about that anyway? why is marriage the only thing in life? what if you are just happy without a marriage? is that just not possible or something?

      im very glad that jake’s family and my own isnt like this.

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  • scattol January 28, 2014, 10:28 pm

    Feeling ready is one thing. But being willingto work on the marriage and committed to work through issues instead of pulling the cord at any moment probably has as much to do with divorce rate than shaking up. That isn’t talked about at all.

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