Common secular sentiment often encourages young people to ease into a marriage by living together first. One “relationship expert” compared it to “using a ‘live trap’ for squirrels instead of a typical ‘sudden death’ trap for mice.” But it turns out sneaking into marriage isn’t as fool-proof as people would like to believe. According to a recent study by RAND sociologists Michael Pollard and Kathleen Mullan Harris, the strategy often fails.

The study surveyed 1,500 couples—divided equally between those who were dating, living together, and married—for a history of marriage and “marriage-like” relationships.

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