Moving in together may seem like a logical step before taking the plunge into marriage. Testing out what your life looks like together without actually committing may seem smart, but in the end, just living together leaves out many aspects of life that a committed marriage encompasses.
According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the share of young and middle-aged Americans who have cohabited has doubled in the past 25 years. Today, the vast majority (66%) of married couples have lived together before they walk down the aisle.
Today, the vast majority (66%) of married couples have lived together before they walk down the aisle.
Moving in together is a huge undertaking, and can bring to light aspects of yourself and your relationship that you may have never realized before. Embracing so much change in early married life can be incredibly daunting and while it may seem logical to test out the waters by living together first, doing so doesn’t actually provide the tests for your relationship that you may hope.
It’s more than how you organize the fridge
Living together definitely provides opportunities that don’t arise when you are living in separate places. Laying out shared and separate spaces, organizing the dishes in new ways, and reconciling which old trophies get displayed and which are going in boxes are all touchy subjects that can bring about a lot of tension, and wanting to get these issues out of the way early on is totally understandable. The problem doesn’t lie in the desire to mitigate these issues, the problem is the way you do (or do not) allow these issues to drive you apart.
Marriage is hard, and we can’t possibly know all of the things life will throw at us. Maybe you do move in with your boyfriend and after much conflict come to a compromise about where to hang all your favorite pictures. That’s great that you’ve solved that particular problem together, but it doesn’t mean you’re suddenly equipped to deal with all the difficulties of life.
Learning to work together is great, but it doesn’t mean you are instantly prepared to work through life’s biggest struggles. Working through the struggles of your marriage is a choice, and it is a choice you are fully capable of making regardless of how much time you’ve spent problem-solving beforehand. Choosing to love and stand by your partner takes a conscious effort, and at times will be incredibly difficult, no matter how many problems you may have solved at earlier points in your relationship together.
Working through the struggles of your marriage is a choice, and it is a choice you are fully capable of making regardless of how much time you’ve spent problem-solving beforehand.
The ease of sex
Not having to say goodbye every night and going to bed together certainly makes sex more readily available. Although this is not a discussion on the benefits of abstaining until marriage, there is something to be said for what moving in together does for your long term plans with one another. Sex is obviously a huge part of marriage, and the life you have when living together obviously affects your sex life. Sex should never be a bargaining chip in any relationship but making a choice not to live together before marriage leaves much to be desired, as situations leading to sex are much fewer.
Sex should never be a bargaining chip in any relationship but making a choice not to live together before marriage leaves much to be desired.
Marriage is a huge step, and downright terrifying for many. Living together outside of marriage, although often done for the sake of testing the waters, actually tends to push marriage off for many couples. The ease that comes from living together is there without the actual commitment of marriage. Relationships then run a much higher risk of being stagnated, as you’ve essentially come to embrace the comforts that marriage provides without the commitments. Falling into the daily habits of life together without actually creating a life together prevent growth as individuals and as a couple.
The messiness of a breakup
Simply from a practical standpoint, breaking up with someone after living with them is a scenario wholly unpleasant for all parties involved. You literally have the rug pulled out from under you, and your entire life changes instantly. Break-ups are difficult enough, but are infinitely more complicated when you add splitting up belongings, finding potential roommates, or even losing a pet you once loved. Establishing life as an adult is challenging in and of itself, and making it unnecessarily complicated with the false stability that living together provides is a risk you don’t need to take.
Establishing life as an adult is challenging in and of itself, and making it unnecessarily complicated with the false stability that living together provides is a risk you don’t need to take.
Wanting to make sure you and your partner work together is important, and preparation is definitely necessary for a successful marriage. Determining whether or not you and your partner can make it in the long term is definitely worth exploring, but doing so by living together is not the ultimate quantification for whether or not you and your partner will be successful. People grow and change, and that’s a good thing. I am infinitely grateful I am not the same person I was five or ten years ago; as healthy adults we should be striving to improve and better ourselves a little every day.
By doing so, we inevitably change with time. Who we are today is not the same as who we will be in twenty years, and the problems you solve with your significant other now are not the problems you will be solving with them in the future. Marriage is about growing together and learning to love and accept one another on a continuously deeper level. Living together in your early twenties is going to look entirely different than living together in your fifties, so it’s somewhat nonsensical to assume that doing so is going to be the ultimate set up for success.
Marriage is about growing together and learning to love and accept one another on a continuously deeper level.
Rather than entering into marriage thinking you’ve got it all figured out, a much better and more practical tactic would be to enter into marriage knowing it is going to be challenging and that you don’t have it all figured out, but are willing to put in the work that it takes to rise to those challenges.
Does premarital cohabitation lead to more divorces?
The primary reason people live together before marriage is to test compatibility. However, counter-intuitively, many studies have found that premarital cohabitation is linked to an increased risk of divorce, a lower quality of marriage, poorer marital communication, and higher levels of domestic violence. There are opposing studies that refute the negative correlation between premarital cohabitation and divorce, but those studies are fewer in number.
- In the United States and in the UK, couples who live together are at a greater risk for divorce than non-cohabiting couples.
- Cohabiting couples are more likely to experience infidelity.
- Living together is considered to be more stressful than being married.
- Cohabiting couples had a separation rate five times that of married couples and a reconciliation rate that was one-third that of married couples.
- Cohabiting couples earn less money and are less wealthy than their married peers later in life.
- Compared to married individuals, those cohabiting have higher levels of depression and substance abuse.
There is no test drive for all the unknowns of life, and there definitely isn’t a test drive for marriage. We are either willing to take the calculated risk and accept our partner as they are and as they will become, or we are not. Giving ourselves false hope that we are set for marriage because we can agree on how to squeeze the tube of toothpaste is unrealistic, and will leave us thoroughly disappointed when difficult times arise.