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Interview With Claire Kamp Dush, Andrea Miller, Sanjay Bhatnagar

Aired August 8, 2003 - 20:34   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Research shows that in more than half of first marriages, couples live together before tying the knot. But a shocking new study indicates that living together first may make those marriages shakier.
The full story is in the upcoming September/October issue of "Psychology Today" magazine. It's being previewed on the magazine's Web site right now. Don't go to your computers yet.

Joining me from State College, Pennsylvania, is one of the researchers, the doctoral candidate Claire Kamp Dush. And with me here in New York, Andrea Miller and Sanjay Bhatnagar. They're living together. They aren't married. They're brave enough to go on national television. Thanks to both of you.

Claire, let me begin with you first. Give us the gist of this study, because it is surprising, couples that live together presumably want to test things out, make sure they're compatible, and then they go on and have a happy marriage. What is wrong with that notion?

CLAIRE KAMP DUSH, RESEARCHER: Well, the -- what's wrong with that notion is that, unfortunately, what we're finding, based on our research, is that couples that live together before marriage are actually more likely to divorce, they're less happy in their marriages, and they have more marital conflict.

BLITZER: Why is that?

DUSH: Well, it is a good question. We're not exactly sure why that may be. There are several different ideas out there. One idea is that people that decide to live together are actually more risky marriage partners in general. They are more likely to have had their parents' divorce, they are lots of times less religious, and in many cases they're more accepting of divorce overall, or less accepting of the idea that marriage does last forever.

BLITZER: So in other words, the -- if a couple goes and lives together before their marriage, that morally their standards are looser, and as a result, they're more open down the road to getting divorced?

DUSH: Right. That's part of it. It may also be such that the actual co-habitation itself may be affecting the marriages, such that people will live with someone that they may not necessarily marry, so they lower their standards for co-habitation, and then they end up marrying that person because it is so hard to break up once you're living together, and then their marriage ends up kind of destined for failure.

BLITZER: All right, let's speak to a couple here in New York that actually is living together, Andrea and Sanjay. Andrea, what do you make of this study? Because you guys are not married, but you're living together, have been living together for a while.

ANDREA MILLER, UNMARRIED: Well, it's hard for me to speak to the point of being married, because, obviously, we're not yet. But this is the exact kind of issue that we plan to talk about in "Tango," the new magazine on relationships that I'm starting. And viewers can access "Tango" at

And it's -- I think it's great to finally have the kind of data that we can really, you know, realize on "Psychology Today," because a lot of people talk about this type of thing, yet there has never been really any data that I've seen that really helps people understand why this is the case.

So I'm grateful for Claire to bring this to everybody's attention.

BLITZER: Sanjay, what about you?

SANJAY BHATNAGAR, UNMARRIED: Well, I think somebody's got to speak up for the people who are living together. It is hard, I think, to distill all the complexities of a relationship into a number that you run a statistical analysis on. So my view is that it is very personal, depends upon the couple, it depends upon the individuals who are in the relationship.

And some will make it work, and some won't. And I think if the desire to make it work is there, marriage or no marriage, a piece of paper won't stand in the middle.

BLITZER: Why not get married?

MILLER: Well, we are planning on getting married, but right now, given the magazine is something that is currently occupying a lot of time, so our goal is to get married, ultimately.

BLITZER: And the -- but the -- you -- the decision to live together, you guys decided to do it for practical reasons. You didn't want to yet get married, but you wanted to be together.

BHATNAGAR: Absolutely. I was in Asia, and my work was taking me very far away from New York. So when I quit my job, I decided to move to New York. And given the fact that I was doing so, to be together, it made no sense to be living separately.

BLITZER: Claire, what about your personal experiences? You're a doctoral candidate. You've studied this issue right now. But you're married. Did you live together before you got married?

DUSH: I did live together for a short time before I got married. BLITZER: And how did that impact on the marriage, now that you're married?

DUSH: Well, I have to say I'm happily married, so I guess maybe I'm not a member of the statistical number destined maybe for marital unhappiness.

BLITZER: Because you -- well, you realize, of course, the publicity that this research that you've done is going to cause is going to cause a lot of young people who may be thinking about living together before they're getting married to say, You know what? I'll hold back and wait until I actually get married.

DUSH: Well, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing for people to take home as a message from this study. But one thing we have to remember is that there is a lot more research to be done in this area.

And there may be some groups of co-habiters or people that live together that they may not have the same risk for divorce. Maybe if -- it may depend on your commitment to the relationship, like the couple that is on now, they're very committed to their relationship, whereas other couple may just not be sure that they ever want to get married and move in together.

So obviously, 60 percent of couples, you know, live together prior to marriage, and 60 percent of people aren't, you know, necessarily destined to get divorced. So we need to do some more research on that 60 percent and see who in that group is probably more at risk and less at risk.

BLITZER: Andrea, what advice do you have? When should a couple, in your opinion, decide to live together as opposed to getting married -- waiting to get married?

MILLER: Well, especially in a place like New York, living together has -- you know, as we already pointed out, a host of practical implications, given how expensive rent is here. So I think that it just, you know, and also as Sanjay said, it's a -- it's really a personal decision.

But for us, we thought it made sense, given our circumstances, and it's worked out very, very well.

BLITZER: One last word from you, Sanjay.

BHATNAGAR: I think the message I would give to the viewers, especially on behalf of the people who are living together, is to have faith in each other, and not get distracted by all the statistical analysis that's going on.

BLITZER: And there's going to be a lot of statistical analysis going on. Sanjay, Andrea, Claire, thanks to all of you for joining us.



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