Should We Live Together Before We Get Married?

Should We Live Together Before We Get Married?

Thinking about moving in with your significant other before you tie the knot?

Many dating or engaged couples question whether they should live together before marriage. While cohabitation might seem practical on the surface, research suggests that it’s actually not as good for your relationship as you think. Before you make this life-changing decision, it’s important to think about the potential outcomes.

Take a Look at the Science

There’s a longstanding moral debate about whether cohabitation is healthy. Rather than leaning into that side of the argument, we’ll take a science-backed approach. Researchers Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades from the University of Denver recently conducted a nationwide survey, published by the Institute for Family Studies, that’s worth looking into.

The study, called “What’s the Plan? Cohabitation, Engagement, and Divorce,” looked at a couple’s likelihood to divorce based on cohabitation. For example, 34% of those couples who lived together before marriage later divorced. On the other hand, couples who chose not to move in together until after engagement or marriage divorced at a lower rate of 23%.

Incidental vs. Intentional Commitment

Stanley and Rhoades described the choice to cohabitate before marriage as “sliding” into that particular dynamic. The nature of how they make this choice seems to be related to higher divorce rates. On the other hand, couples who intentionally plan to get married before they cohabitate appear to have a lower risk of getting divorced.

Getting married before you move in together means that you’ve made the commitment to each other to get married and spend your lives together. That’s vastly different from living together without that particular expectation. Instead, what could happen is that one of you believes the arrangement will lead to getting married, while the other may not be considering it.

The Gender Divide in Cohabitation

Other research has shown a frequent difference in men’s versus women’s expectations when a couple lives together. Women tend to see moving in together as one step closer to marriage. On the other hand, men see it as one step further away from it.

While this simplifies the many differences in men’s and women’s views of cohabitation, it’s incredibly important to note. Either way, if one of you is expecting to get married as a result of moving in together, you’ll likely be disappointed if your significant other doesn’t feel the same way.

Pause and Discuss Expectations

Before either of you jump right into living together, it’s important to pause and talk about each of your expectations for the future. Talk about the research, too. Will taking this step now actually strengthen your relationship, or put it at risk?

The science behind moving in after marriage is compelling. Get very clear with one another before you make any decisions. This is the time to uncover significant misunderstandings or differences in what you each expect.

We believe that every couple should give their relationship its best chance. That’s why we wrote Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. Paired with the SYMBIS Assessment, these resources are powerful tools that will help you get to know one another on a deeper level and align your expectations early on. You can get your copy, plus the assessment, here.

Did you and your spouse wait until you were married to live together? How did that decision affect your relationship? Let us know in the comments section below.


  • Steve Wells says:

    We were sexually active before we met, but decided to do things God’s way and waited until marriage to experience that kind of intimacy once we started dating. We’ve been happily married for 35 years.

  • Melissa Brown says:

    We did not move in until after marriage and have been happily married for 15 years. We both had to learn about our quirks and communicate about our dislikes and likes, from organizing and decorating our new house, to how we like the toilet paper set up, etc. Communication has been vital and a commitment to make our marriage work. We also read Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts when we were dating and engaged. It helped a lot.

  • Dawn says:

    We have been happily married for 39 years and no living together before we got married. In contrast our 32 year old son just broke up with his girlfriend of 8 years as she wanted it to progress toward marriage and he after some counseling did not. I think the gender divide thing is very real and it is great advice to women to make their expectations clear if marriage is what they want.

  • James says:

    We did not wait until marriage to move in, and had already become physically intimate. While both having a relationship with God, we had gotten lost and gone astray before we met each other. During our three years of dating and eventual cohabitation we started going to church and were eventually baptized, prior to our engagement. 10 years into our marriage and we just went through The 5 Love Languages course and book. I believe some of the difficulties that we have recently traversed are due to starting the relationship in darkness. I would encourage young couples to follow God’s plan rather than the world’s. My wife and I are so grateful that despite our errors, we can experience God’s Love and Grace and we continue to seek His Will in our lives and in our marriage.

  • Sharon says:

    We waited until marriage to live together or be intimate. We’ve been married 55 years now and we attribute the strength of our marriage to waiting like we did. Self-discipline and respect came with the decision too.💕

  • Fayaz Pasha says:

    If one is not allowed to experiment or test a product before buying it, I wonder how humans thought of testing each other before making a marital commitment. One has the right to make an informed choice of a life partner by questioning, knowing, and understanding the expectations of the would-be spouse but living together before marriage is against the Creator’s instructions and Satan will be in charge of that relationship.

  • Jill says:

    We did not live together before we married. I often feel that it would have been wise to do so. Only after marrying and living together did it become apparent that my husband had a mental illness that he hid very well and did not tell me about. It was something that eventually progressed and lead to great difficulties in our marriage as he chose not to be medicated or treated until a suicide attempt occured. Our marriage suffered greatly, even after much prayer and many marriage seminars through our church. Perhpas if we lived together before marriage it would have been apparent sooner instead of hidden and the decision to marry or not would have been based on the truth of what was rather than hidden causing what I felt was a betrayal as he undemined my trust. That said, I believe in God’s way to wait until marriage. Sadly my husband died, and if God has another new relationship planned for me I will wait until marriage 100%, but will be very diligent regarding any hidden secrets one may attempt to conceal.

  • Ronschall Love says:

    My husband and I lived together for two years, were intimate and had a child as a result of that intimacy. I was raised in the church, he was not therefore we met during my rebellious season. However, I thank God for his grace and his mercy. God made the necessary course corrections with our relationship and I am proud to say four children, 7 grandchildren and 37 years of marriage to a wonderful Pastor has been nothing short of experiencing God’s Amazing grace and his love for us both. We have learned a lot about each other and over the years we have grown together. I will say that I do not encourage couples to start off the way we did, we did it all wrong! We’ve had some bumps and some challenges but I believe it has made both of us stronger and we appreciate our relationship and each other! I believe that everything happens for a reason and that we were truly meant to be together. It hasn’t been easy but it has definitely been worth it, I have married my best friend. Five years in, we did a total reset, did Christian Counseling and learned how to walk this journey the way God intended for it to be done. We now both have our Doctorates, are ordained Pastors and mentor other couples helping them to navigate the waters of marriage and relationship but doing it God’s way.

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