Timeline of a Love Affair
Sharing Keys, Swapping Rings
Most people in long-term relationships end up getting married, if the law
allows it. But in the United States today, couples commonly live together for a
while first. According to surveys conducted 1997 by the National Opinion
Research Center at the University of Chicago, more than one-third of adults in
their mid-20s to mid-30s who had been married lived with their spouse before
marrying. About 40% in this age group had ever lived with a romantic partner
Nevertheless, such arrangements are usually short-lived, lasting on average
one year before the couple breaks up or gets married. Looking at it another
way, the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics estimates that 30% of
unwed couples living together will get married after one year and 70% will
after five years. The likelihood of breaking up instead of getting married is
30% after one year and 49% after five years.
The University of Chicago surveys also found that about half of unmarried
people involved a love affair thought they would likely marry the one they were
For many people in the United States, being married is no more
"forever" than being in love is. The CDC estimates that two out of five
first marriages will end in divorce or separation after 15 years. U.S. Census
numbers show that only about half of those married between the years 1970-1979
celebrated a 25th wedding anniversary.
Sex and Marriage: "Seven Year Itch?"
Couples probably have sex with each other less often the longer they are
married. That's assumed because surveys find that married people report having
sex less often the older they are. The University of Chicago's survey shows
married adults under age 30 say they have sex an average of 109 times a year.
The average number drops to 70 times per year for forty-somethings, 52 times a
year for people in their 50s, and so on.
The survey also shows that married people younger than 30 are those most
likely to have sex with someone other than their spouse. But there's no clear
increase or decrease as people age, and by extension, the length of