Living Together Before Getting Married

Living Together Before Getting Married

Don’t you love a free trial—a no-strings-attached chance to try something out before you shell out your hard-earned cash? Most of us do.

When it comes to a new car, a test drive is a wise idea. If you’re thinking about investing four years and a wad of Benjamins into a college, it’s a good idea to spend some time on campus first. Before you sign on the dotted line for that new house, you ought to go over the place with a fine tooth comb a time or two. But what about marriage? Is it a good idea to enjoy a free trial without the commitment of a permanent arrangement?

Some people think so.

The advice I am about to share with you comes from my experience, surveys, and research from the last few decades.

Before we can discuss living together, we need to know why men and women do it. For men, living together is often a test to see if they can get along with their girlfriends while living under the same roof. For women, living together is often a prelude to getting engaged and eventually married.

More Divorces

Research suggests that living together leads to more divorces after marriage. The same research also links living together with a lower quality of marriage, less happiness and poor communication between couples. One reason for this could be that one partner has had “one foot out the door” (not being fully committed) since the beginning.

They could be less willing to compromise. This is especially the case with people who habitually live with others. If you are considering moving in with a partner who has lived with many partners before you, you may want to think about it first. For some, living together is like an extended sleepover.

Happily Unmarried and Living Together

While many couples who live together report having a worse relationship than those who waited until they got married, other cohabiting, unmarried couples report having wonderful relationships. But how is that possible? Cohabiting can work if both people in the relationship are strongly committed to each other. It begins with a clear understanding of each person’s expectations. It doesn’t pay to be vague or ambiguous when considering whether or not to live together.

Once you’ve each set your expectations, it’s a good idea to regularly check in with one another to see how things are going. Living together works if both partners are dedicated to making it work. You just have to watch out for an unhealthy commitment.

Safer Than Getting Married

Some people think living together is “safer” than getting married, but that simply isn’t true. Living together can be just as messy if you share things with your partner. Whether it’s mortgage or lease payments, bills, furniture, pets, and children, if you go your separate ways, you’re going to have to split everything up whether you’re married or not.

Avoiding the Slippery Slope

Don’t move in with anyone unless you know for sure what you are getting out of the deal (expectations, commitment, etc.) You should be committed to each other, but not necessarily committed to sharing objects that have to be split up if things don’t work out down the road. And remember, the more time you invest in someone, the harder it’s going to be to let them go.

Living together can be an amazing experience if you and your partner are smart about it.

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  1. Oh, splendid! Another deep dive into the perils of living together—because splitting up IKEA furniture and shared custody of a goldfish is totally the modern epic tragedy!

  2. This article’s points on the complexities of living together are well-taken. Cohabitation does require a high level of mutual understanding and commitment to avoid pitfalls.

  3. The assertion that men and women have fundamentally different reasons for cohabiting is rather archaic. Relationships are diverse, and motivations can vary greatly from person to person.

    • Exactly, Marge. Reducing motivations to a binary gender perspective lacks nuance and fails to account for modern relationship dynamics.

    • While that’s true, we can’t deny that some general trends do exist. The key is to recognize these trends without stereotyping individual cases.

  4. Living together can indeed be an amazing experience if done right. Communication and commitment are key to making it work, and this article provides some valuable insights on what to consider beforehand.

  5. I find this article to be rather reductive. It seems to generalize men’s and women’s motivations and oversimplifies the complexity of human relationships.

    • I agree, Diane. The article pushes the notion that cohabitation is inherently problematic, which ignores the myriad of successful, happy couples who live together without a hitch.

    • On the contrary, I think the evidence presented about increased divorce rates and lower marital satisfaction is worth considering, even if the argument feels a bit one-sided.


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