Should I Move In With My Boyfriend Before We Get Married?

From the New York Times:

“Nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, ‘You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.’ About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce.

But that belief is contradicted by experience. Couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not. These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect.”

That’s a bit counterintuitive. Why would people who tested out the idea of marriage by living together be MORE likely to break up?”

Says the article, “Women are more likely to view cohabitation as a step toward marriage, while men are more likely to see it as a way to test a relationship or postpone commitment, and this gender asymmetry is associated with negative interactions and lower levels of commitment even after the relationship progresses to marriage.”

Which is to say that it’s simple inertia between two people who have way too many sunk costs that is leading people to the altar – not the desire to be married.

This makes sense. After four years together and no proposal, many men relent to marriage, only to find out that their resistance should have been honored. Women stay in dead-end relationships for far too long because it’s too scary to leave. They think the ring will fix the problem, but it doesn’t.

“The unfavorable connection between cohabitation and divorce does seem to be lessening, however, according to a report released last month by the Department of Health and Human Services. More good news is that a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center found that nearly two-thirds of Americans saw cohabitation as a step toward marriage.”

As for me, I’m in favor of cohabiting, despite the statistics. I really think it’s a much more accurate reflection of married life than when you spend weeknights talking on the phone and weekends making love. Living together is reality.

What couples need to do now is realize that if you’re not happy living with someone, you shouldn’t lock it in. Which, apparently, is news to some people.

Read the New York times article here and share your thoughts. Have you lived with someone? Are you married to that person now?

Join our conversation (57 Comments).
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  1. 31

    I moved in with my boyfriend after only two months of dating. We dated/lived together for 4 years then got engaged. A year later (before the wedding) I left….not because we moved in together too soon, or cohabitated before engagement, but for other unrelated reasons.

  2. 32

    Jake and I lived in different cities for most of the first two years we were dating. So when I moved in with him, it was clear this was the next step – I was, after all, relocating to a completely different city where I had no job or friends, specifically because he was there.

    From that point, I think one of the major factors in our waiting 3 more years to get legally married (really 4 years since as far as friends/family are concerned, we won’t be married until the end of this month – a year after we eloped) was the cost of a wedding. Jake REALLY wanted to have a huge formal wedding and reception, but my dad’s a windower with very little money and Jake’s not on speaking terms with his parents, so we had to do everything ourselves.

  3. 33

    I lived with my landlady on my business trips before we dated. Actually, we haven’t dated in a formal way yet. I really want to go to a rock concert. Given a 24 year age difference any other form of discovering each other was probably impossible. We still haven’t had sex and are clear that we won’t until marriage which is probably in Spring next year. No sex is a matter of showing enough personal discipline to reassure the other party of commitment.

    Everyday compatibility matters a lot. I don’t particularly mean housekeeping so much as how you communicate problems to each other. We both seem to favour a head to head argument and five minutes later we are friends again. My former wife could never come out directly with anything so hidden wounds festered for decades. I think that it is possible to discover mutual communication styles without living together but you need to do real, difficult things together involving conflicting priorities, not simply date. (We are also in business together these days).

  4. 34

    My 2c. If a relationship isn’t moving towards an upwards-enriching life partnership whether or not you move in together or not before marriage in my opinion is not going to make a difference. I honestly think it doesn’t have anything to do with the outcome. I believe that the strength and healthy relationship between the two individuals are the key factors. If girl or guy aren’t really into each other, they probably are moving in together because of economic situation, comfort and familiarity and or you have this nagging feeling in your gut something isn’t right, but you decide that maybe moving in together will help. If two people were truly in love with each other, had healthy communication and shared life goals there would be no question where the future is headed and the mans mind to propose and marry isn’t because they are living together, it’s going to be if he sees her in his future. Him seeing her in his future whether they live together or not doesn’t make a difference. In my opinion when a relationship isn’t healthy and the foundation isn’t strong, the truth surfaces.

  5. 35

    before I met my current fiance I thought that living together before marriage was a bad idea.. But we moved in together after a year of dating to try things out. we loved it. we had healthy communication and he loved how I could cook for him more and everything just went smoothly. we were engaged 3 months later. it worked out for me..

  6. 36

    Living together before marriage implies a lot of things. For me it would be giving up my current living arrangement which I’m happy with. I know way too well how it’s like to have to move out all of a sudden when there’s nowhere to go. U have to find another flat, with affordable rent, not too far from work etc etc. It’s all very easy to judge but only if you’re all sorted financially and also haven’t just emigrated…
    Second, living separately gives you an opportunity to have enough space to think things through properly. If you’re with the bf/gf there’s hardly any spare moment, and some might even make sure u don’t dwell on things too much if they’ve got abusive and overpowering tendencies. A lot of things would show even if you’re seeing each other frequently enough in the week + weekends together, communicate every day and do other stuff one is supposed to be doing in a healthy committed relationship.
    Third, being a housekeeper for a man who isn’t my husband is ridiculous! The same goes for paying the bills etc.
    I’d only move in with a man for 2-3 months with my basic stuff but would keep my current place in case things don’t work out. A test should be a test, hence no “sliding” into familiarity, no illusions until the actual proposal and no excuses not to work hard on a relationship.
    Fourth, least of all I’m keen on arguing right now. I’m just expressing my thoughts. We all decide what’s suitable for us only in the end without listening to other people anyway. 
    Good luck to all of you in whatever you decide as ultimately, we all deserve to be happy 🙂

  7. 37
    Lilly R

    What makes me sad reading all of this, is that no where does it talk about loving someone. It sounds more like a business agreement than anything, which I think is where most people get it wrong. Yes, it is good to plan and to talk about things, but don’t plan to get married because you think there is a deadline, or plan to move in because you think it is the right thing to do. There is a right thing to do, but for each individual person and I believe that is where a lot of people also go wrong, they try and group everyone in the same category. My boyfriend and I love each other and we want to live together and get married. We have short term and long term goals, but not based on what society deems right or appropriate, but instead what will make us happy. I admire him for always wanting to become a better person, not only for me but for himself. I think we are able to fall in love more with each other every day because we never lost sight of who we are. We were complete with who we were and confident in who we are vs being together because that is all we know. We communicate everything and we argue and have different opinions but we know that if there were not any challenges our relationship would not grow. We accept all of them. Moving in with someone should feel right to you, not because you are madly in love, but because it just feels natural to. Don’t do it to be spiteful, to see if you could marry them, it should not be a ‘test’ it should be a decision of both people because they love each other. I think him and I are just hopeless romantics and we were blessed to know we are each other soulmates. When you know you know. I never thought that was true, until I met him. Don’t settle for someones that completes you, be with someone because you love them and they love you, not the idea of marriage or of fear or being alone. I think our society has forgotten love is the key thing, society had taught us to be so formulated, as if there was a certain procedure to be happy and that if you don’t do it exactly that way you will not be happy. Sorry if this was irrelevant or just rambling (which I feel it is) I just wanted to lend my opinion to someone who may feel lost and needs a little more hope than numbers.

  8. 38

    @ Lilly R, 

    You make a good observation by bringing up the lack of discussion on love in the context of cohabitation and how it seems more like a business arrangement.  That was the jist of message I heard this morning on Focus On The Family (I know, I know, a program not popular here).  While I cannot remember the guests they had on discussing marriage and living together beforehand, they mentioned that in our current culture, our approach to relationships is much more like a vendor/customer mindset.  I found that point very interesting.

  9. 39

    Well for sure, the bible has a lot of marriages being a business matter.
    I only point out the bible, because of the “Focus on the Family” reference.

  10. 40
    Deann Mckinley

    Nobody is mentioning that God designed marriage and sex.  It is simply morally wrong for couples to enagage in sexual behavior and live together before marriage. thats why we have so many teen pregnancies and we live in a sesspool.  I think we should all have to take a class on marriage and graduate before entering into it.  Their would be less marriages and less divorces.

    1. 40.1

      I agree!

  11. 41
    Sparkling Emerald

    I have  been married twice.  One with prior co-habitation and one without.
     The first marriage (which I call my “starter marriage”) we lived together for 2 years, the marriage lasted one.
      After that I decided never again to co-habitating.  My second marriage, no prior co-habitation,  split up after 23 years.
       I think next time I get seriously involved I’ll either co-habitate INSTEAD of marriage (but keep all my finances separate) or we’ll just maintain separate abodes and have frequent sleep overs.
      Honestly, based on my experience, I can’t say either way about co-habitation. As another poster said, there are way to many variables.

  12. 42

    Cohabiting is a personal issue, just like any other relationship factor. It is inappropriate for someone to judge a couple based on the fact that they are cohabiting or not. 
    This article circulates because of the fight between jaded people with their relationships in which cohabiting did not work out and between people that are madly in love that have successful relationships. As many have reiterated, every relationship is different, and it is not one’s right to judge on others’ decisions. 
    Many of my peers post articles against cohabitation, envious of those of happy relationships that are cohabiting, neglecting the fact that many people get married and are never sick of each other from age 18 throughout the rest of their lives. If people want to cohabitate, let them. Stop scandalizing those when you have problems with your own life. Worry about yourself. 

  13. 44
    Tony D

    One very important factor that this and very few articles on this topic seem to miss.
    It clearly states “Women are more likely to view cohabitation as a step toward marriage, while men are more likely to see it as a way to test a relationship or postpone commitment, and this gender asymmetry is associated with negative interactions and lower levels of commitment even after the relationship progresses to marriage.
    There is one other very big asymmetry:  The time invested in the wasted trial relationships is not equal quality.

    For a couple in thier 20’s spending five years “trial” marriage, the female is spending five years of her PRIME reproductive years!  This is not the case for the male.  The pill did not equalise the total “cost of casual sex” for women and men.  Ladies, two of these five year “trials” and you are looking at far less fertility time.  A woman sexual power and fertility peaks around the twenties.  If you waste it with non commited “player,” who will then pass you over for another “hot” 20-year old, then… ?
    The rise in cohabitation has been a social disaster.  Women WILL get smart, but first they will get hurt.  However, they made thier decisions, the children will suffer more.
    Sorry, but I believe this to be true and evident around us just now.

  14. 45

    I am a divorced woman, aged 45 with 3 grown up kids. I’ve been with my current partner for 14 months and we’ve just decided that it makes sense financially to move in together as I’m always at his place anyway. We love each other dearly, at this stage marriage isn’t on the cards, I’m not bothered about doing it a second time around to be honest. If things don’t work out, I’ll just pack up my bags and get my own place; no big deal to me 🙂 happy !

  15. 46

    For me, co-habitation is just that, co-habitation. It holds no promise or guarantee of anything but sex and companionship. I personally am interested in having a ring prior to living together. Did the shacking up thing in my twenties and today, I’m still unmarried. Compatible values are key. Any man that respects and loves his lady enough should be trying to put a ring on it. Period. I don’t care about a need to “Try Things Out” first….this is not a sample sale!! Feelings and emotions get involved before people even know if their values are the same and that’s what destroys relationships. There’s no difference between who she is in her own apartment and who she’ll be in your shared apartment or home. It all comes down to logistics, desire and intent.

    1. 46.1

      I so agree with you!!  

  16. 47

    I really believe I don’t need to move in with some one before getting married. My boyfriend thinks it’s a good idea to see if it will work then get married.  So I told him I won’t be doing any wife things like cooking cleaning washing his clothes iron his clothes doing his lunch for work or have a hot home made meal after work and have the house clean.I told him I’m just your girlfriend.  If you want all those nice wifey things make me your wife then I will do the cooking cleaning washing have his lunch made making sure the house is clean and have his dinner ready after work.

    What really matters is that you both commit to the relationship married or not married! Have communication, comprehensive,  respect one another know each other difference. The most important of all is have God in the relationship.  I know marriage is hard but it can be a wonderful too if both partners know how to balance the relationship.  

  17. 48

    Karl R I think you are a very smart man. Your comments among others of course have cleared my mind. Thanks

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