Is Living Together Before Marriage The Ultimate Relationship Test?

Passion + Purpose, Personal Growth
living together before marriage

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Are you and your partner thinking of living together before marriage? Do you think it will let you see whether your partner really is for you?

Or maybe you’re not sure on your partner. Do they have bad habits you think they might change?

Living together before marriage has increased more than 1,5000% in the last fifty years. 1

After a few short years, or months (if you watch the Only Way Is Essex), living together is in.

 

The Stats

In 1960, 500,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now – it’s 8 million. 2

Nearly 50% of twenty somethings will live with their partner at least once during their 20s. 3

More than 50% of marriages will now happen after the couple have lived together. 4

Yep, that’s right.

Compared to our grandparents and parents we no longer have to wait for the privilege of living together.

Welcome to 2017. First comes living together, then comes marriage, then comes travelling and everything else before a baby carriage.

Because society says its okay and we don’t want to end up divorced

Thanks to the change in social acceptance of partners living together we no longer feel the pressure to get married before living together.

In fact, a nation wide survey found nearly 50% of twenty somethings agreed that “[they] would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with [us] first”. 5

With the added increase in divorce rates – twenty somethings also see this as a way to “prevent divorce”. 6

For those of us with divorced parents – we get this. We want to save ourselves from the mistakes they made. We want to live with our partners just incase it’s not right. So we know now. Instead of later once we have kids and things really get messy.

But does it work?

Apparently not.

Couples who live together first are less satisfied with their marriages and more likely to divorce. 7

Say what?

This is called the cohabitation affect. 8

 

 

 

So living together before marriage makes us more unhappy and more likely to divorce?

Psychiatrists call this “sliding, not deciding”. 9

We go from dating, to sleep overs, to sleeping over most nights to deciding “Hey let’s just share the rent and live together” (this is called cohabitation).

When we do this we fail to focus on why we want to live together and what it means for the relationship.

We do it for the convenience.

We don’t have the added pressure of mortgages, kids, in-laws. So we fail to talk about these situations until we’re in them. 10

While living together can give us a great idea on the person now. It doesn’t tell how either of us are going to go solving life challenges later.

That’s why couples who get engaged before living together are less likely to get a divorce

When you get engaged you know you are making a commitment.

It’s a ride or die kind of situation.

You and your partner have decided you’re in it for the long haul.

You’ve had the conversation about kids, life, work. What you both want. What you don’t want. And you know that this is it. 

For the couples above (the sliding, not deciding kind), they’re less likely to have these conversations. They put less thought into the relationship and the person. Because if it doesn’t work – they’ll just move on out.

So, less communication. Less commitment.

There relationship is built on “maybe we will” 11 instead of the “hell yeah” of the engaged couple.

Now you can see why one is less likely to get divorced than the other.

But why aren’t the “maybe we will” deciding “maybe we won’t”

So my first reaction when reading about this was – if it doesn’t work, why don’t the “maybe we will” 12 decide “maybe they won’t”.

Because it’s never as easy as we think it’s going to be.

After living with someone for months or years we’ve collected things, shared bank accounts. Maybe even a dog (back to The Only Way Is Essex). So getting out of it is it a lot harder than what we initially thought.

This has a name. It’s appropriately called “lock-in”. 13

“Lock-in is the decreased likelihood to search for other options, or change to another option, once an investment in something has been made”. 14

The more investment we make, the more locked in we feel.

The “switching costs” to make end the relationship are too high (splitting furniture, deciding who gets the dog). It looks easier to stick with it. 15

One of the biggest switching costs – you’re age. 16 The longer you stay, the older we get. The more we worry we’re better off staying with the person than venturing off into our 30’s and trying to find someone else.


We’re were too stuck in the moment to remember that time was limited.

 

Related posts to millennials & wellbeing:

So how can you avoid the cohabitation effect (and possibly unhappiness & divorce)

In her book The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now, Meg Jay gives the following suggestions:

  • Getting clear on the commitment before you move in
  • Keeping check of what’s stopping you from moving out and evaluating regularly
  • Trying a wider range of activities together instead of moving in – i.e. travelling together first

So before you make the big move, decide why you’re doing it. Is it a matter of convenience or is it your way of saying your committed. Because as we’ve seen above, it’s only the ultimate relationship test if we’re doing it for the right reasons.

Notes:

  1. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  2. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  3. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  4. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  5. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  6. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  7. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  8. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  9. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  10. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  11. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  12. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  13. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  14. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  15. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
  16. Jay, M. (2016). The defining decade: 20: why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now.
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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Alexis @FITnancials
    May 30, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    I’ve only lived with 1 boyfriend, and I think it’s definitely a good idea to move in before marrying. Moving in with someone is a totally different ballgame. You get to see how messy they are, if they clean up after themselves, and if they’ll help you around in the house. I’ve found that most of my boyfriends are incredibly messy (besides one) and it can be tough.

    • Reply
      Giulia
      May 31, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Thanks for your comment Alexis 🙂 I definitely agree with you! Especially the part about helping around the house. It’s good to see what their beliefs are about those sort of things.

  • Reply
    Suzie
    September 11, 2017 at 9:59 am

    I only lived with my fiancé a short time before we got married. This was because we lived in separate countries and he needed a fiancé visa to come over, and we needed to get married before he could get a job! I don’t think it has hurt us, but we had to be pretty sure we wanted the commitment.

    • Reply
      Giulia
      September 11, 2017 at 10:19 am

      Thanks for your comment Suzie!

      It’s actually nice to hear your story. It sounds like there was a lot of pressure with you guys to move quicker because of being in seperate countries which must’ve been tough. But goes to show hey – time or speed of things doesn’t really matter if you guys are on the same page and are up for the commitment.

      I’m currently doing distance with my partner and it’s hard. So I know what that’s like. So glad to hear how well you guys have worked out! 🙂

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