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.