This is a topic that lots of people have opinions on. Me? I’m torn.
I often think that people are way to quick to move-in together – usually before they really know the other person well enough to know their quirks, their ability to be responsible or whether they share space well or are selfish. All this information does reveal itself over time as you date. But many people want to jump into moving-in together mistakenly thinking that it will force the issue of commitment. Don’t do it….it doesn’t always work out the way you think it will. And, when it doesn’t, it leaves you in major limbo (and up to your eyeballs in stressful relationship talks).
The flip side for me is that I do think that it’s important to see how you and your partner do living together. When you’re dating it’s easy to hide some deal-breaking behaviors. What if she’s secretly a hoarder? Or, he could be so fixated on cleanliness that he’s impossible to live with. What if you can’t stop fighting about household chores? Many of these things you just wouldn’t know unless you did a “test drive” before committing to get married.
As for me and the hubs, we moved in after we got engaged and that worked out really well for us. We had already made the commitment and set a date. We had been dating one and a half years and had spent a lot of time together so it was a natural part of the process of merging our lives.
So where does the research land on this topic? According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, half of all women under 45 have lived with a partner before marriage at some point in their lives. But research has shown that living together before marriage may actually sabotage long-term love if the couple isn’t in synch on their intentions.
Researchers at Rutgers University found that only 40 percent of couples actually got married after living together for five to seven years. So, if marriage is what you want – make sure you talk about it in detail BEFORE you move in together. It’s very important for you both to be on the same page about the timing of that commitment and the desire you both have to make that commitment (or that one of you might not have). Moving in without having come to an understanding causes incredible stress upon the relationship as you both juggle one another’s expectations for long-term love.
Interestingly, the data out there also shows that those who live together after making plans to marry or getting engaged have about the same chances of divorcing as couples who never cohabited before marriage. But, those who move in together before making any clear decision to marry have an increased risk of breaking up and divorce.
That’s a finding Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, sees in smaller samples. For Stanley, the “nature of commitment at the time of cohabitation is what’s important.”
Another potential snafu to nail down before merging addresses is money. While it can be uncomfortable, it’s very important to sit down and discuss your finances BEFORE signing a lease, buying a home together or just moving into your partner’s place. So very often you can find out too late that you have different financial systems and priorities. Plus, how are you going to divide the bills and expenses? What are your credit ratings? The last thing you want to find out too late is that your partner is in terrible financial shape and that you will need to pick up their slack. Always go into commitment and cohabitation with the facts and your eyes wide open.
So, what do you all think? To shack or not to shack?
Photo credit: jakeliefer’s Flickr Photostream