ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing more annoying than a nosy friend or relative asking when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to get engaged, shack up, tie the knot, or start popping out some kids. At times itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard not to feel like youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re on some stereotypical timeline that you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t adjust or rearrange as you see fit. But lately, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been seeing more celebs tossing the timeline out the window. Recently, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting revealed that she and her now-husband moved in together after their first dateÃ¢â‚¬”and they got engaged just three months later.
So they took the express lane on the relationship timelineÃ¢â‚¬”who are we to judge? ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no way to tell where another couple is in their relationship. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a mindset that seems to be taking Hollywood by storm, as other celebs have voiced their opinions about ditching the traditional relationship rules. Sienna Miller shares the sentiment: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Life is really short,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said in a recent interview with Nylon. Ã¢â‚¬Å“A lot of what we do is a reaction to what people think youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re supposed to do. Ã¢â‚¬ËœHave a kid by 30. Move in, but live together for at least this amount of time.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ All those rules I kind of want to rebel against.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hey, we get it. No one wants to be told when to make major, life-changing decisionsÃ¢â‚¬”or that you're jumping the gun too soon. Of course, it's up to you and your partner to decide whether you're ready to take the next step, whenever that might be. But these rule-breaking celebs got us thinking about why these benchmarks exist in the first place. Are people who follow them happier? Healthier? Richer? Here's what we dug up:
The "Best" Time To Move In Together
For years, researchers have been saying that you should wait until marriage to move in together. That suggestion is based on a 1992 study published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family, which found that couples who merged households before marriage ended up in less satisfying marriages and were 46 percent more likely to divorce than couples who didn't live together before tying the knot. The thing is, this research is seriously outdated and it was actually based on the perceived likelihood of divorce, not on actual divorce rates.
Now, a new study says that moving in together before marriage won't increase your risk of divorce. These researchers say that all the previous data compared couples based on their age at marriage, meaning the couples who lived together first were younger when they made a big commitment. But when you compare the couples based on the age they moved in together (either before or right after marriage), there is no higher risk of divorce for living together before marriage. These findings suggest that it might be your ageÃ¢â‚¬”not your relationship statusÃ¢â‚¬”that makes you a good candidate for shacking up.
So what's the perfect age to pack up and move in with someone? According to the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) 2006-2010, women aged 25 to 29 are most likely to marry their live-in partners after three years. Meanwhile, women under 24 are least likely to marry live-in partners and most likely to break up with them after three years. Plus, women who were engaged prior to moving in together or who saw cohabitation as a definite step toward marriage were more likely to end up in stable marriages.
The verdict: Living together before marriage isn't a relationship death sentence, but it seems that waiting until you're at least 25 will increase your odds of a lasting relationship. Other factors like being engaged or seeing this as a step towards marriage are also crucial signs to look for. While it's definitely a personal decision, make sure to consider these things before shacking up.
The "Best" Time To Get Married
Many women feel pressured to get hitched by a certain age. And even though the "Princeton Mom" says you should lock down a husband before you graduate college, the data doesn't exactly agree. According to the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau numbers, the median age at first marriage is about 27 years old for women and 29 for men. While that definitely doesn't mean you need to aim for that number, research suggests that it's not a bad time to start looking for Mr. Right.
Data from the Pew Research Center suggests that people who get hitched before they turn 23 are more likely to get divorced. Meanwhile, a 2008 Journal of Political Economy study found that for every year you put off marriage, you face a lower risk of eventually getting divorced. There's no doubt your level of maturity could be a factor here, but education plays a role, too. Putting off marriage until after you've received a college degree makes you less likely to divorce than less-educated couples, according to a 2013 Family Relations study. So it seems that marrying later in lifeÃ¢â‚¬”at least after collegeÃ¢â‚¬”may be beneficial.
Age aside, couples who date longer before marriage tend to have the most satisfying bonds, according to a 2006 study published in Dissertation Abstracts International that tracked over 900 people who'd been married for three years or more. (Meanwhile, married couples that dated for less than six months before marriage were the most likely to break up.)
And despite what your nosy aunt may tell you, there are also some great benefits to delaying marriage into your thirties. In fact, single, college-educated women in their thirties earn an average of over $18,000 more per year than women who married before age 30, according to the 2013 report Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America.
The verdict: There's no magic age or relationship length that will predict marital bliss. That said, research shows that waiting until at least your mid-twenties, obtaining a college degree, and dating for a significant period of time (at least more than six months) can all lead to a better bondÃ¢â‚¬”not to mention a better paycheck.
MORE: The Best Age to Get Married
The "Best" Time To Have Kids
It makes sense that many newlyweds wait at least a year or so to think about having kids. After all, most people want to settle into married life before bringing in another family member. But interestingly, couples who conceive and have children before their first anniversaries are more likely to remain married after 15 years than newlyweds who take more time to start a family, according to a 2012 National Center for Health Statistics report. Of course, there are about a bazillion other things to consider before you conceiveÃ¢â‚¬”the sheer cost of kids springs to mindÃ¢â‚¬”so no pressure!
In fact, research shows that rushing to have a baby isn't the best option for your relationship or your future. That same data set found that couples who got pregnant before marriage were less likely to stay together in the long run. Moreover, a growing body of research shows that having a child in your teens can lead to a host of obstacles in your future. Teen mothers are less likely to finish high school, more likely to rely on welfare, and more likely to deliver premature babies or have kids with developmental issues, according to a 2008 Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy report on teenage pregnancy.
Of course, the elephant in the room is your ticking biological clock. Experts say it's smart to start trying for children by the time you turn 35. That's becauseÃ¢â‚¬”ready or notÃ¢â‚¬”your eggs get more fragile as you age, and you won't know whether you'll have trouble getting pregnant until you try. The good news? A recent Human Reproduction study found that 65 percent of women who started trying to get pregnant at age 40 were successful. So don't assume that you have to have a baby before the big 4-0.
MORE: Laura Linney Had a Baby at 49
The verdict: Research shows that waiting until after marriage to have a child may lead to the best outcomesÃ¢â‚¬”both romantically and financially. That said, there are a multitude of other factors to consider before having a child, and medical advances are making it possible for some women to delay motherhood longer than was previously possible.
MORE: 7 Myths About Getting Pregnant