To Shack Up Or Not To Shack Up?

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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?  :)

Thanks to this article in Women’s Health and this article in USA Today for the statistics…

Photo credit: jakeliefer’s Flickr Photostream

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Categories: Discussion

Author:coupletastic

I'm a married publicist who holds a Master's degree in psychology, with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy. I'd like to make the world a better place...one relationship at a time.

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11 Comments on “To Shack Up Or Not To Shack Up?”

  1. December 19, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    This was a great post. I have been thinking about this lately as well. I have lived with a couple of guys, and I woudn’t do it again unless there was some sort of committment (ie engagement). To not have that, there just isn’t the incentive… “why buy the cow?” My last bf (after 3 months) offered to let me move in to his place. I was having issues with the apt I rent, at the time. Of course we talked about it on skype (as like everything) and oddly when we would meet up on the weekends, he never mentioned it after. When i called him on it 2 or 3weeks after and asked him why he asked me he said “I’d hate to see you desitute” I was so offended and of course opted NOT. What a thing to say! That’s not a reason to move in with someone. I was smart – as it would have been a huge disaster to live with him. He owned his own house and i saw him very territorial after a while. Ideally it would be better to start off with a new place you get together with your partner. But I know this isn’t always practical. It scares me a bit – the thought of living with someone, being a bit older and set in my ways and all.But also if I were to move into someone’s place… I might feel more like a guest, and not as much ‘at home.’

  2. adalamar
    December 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Great post. I think that you are right about couples moving in to soon together. But it is also very important to see how living togther works for a couple. Personally I think it is a very good idea to live togther before getting married, but I would only move in with a man after an engagement. I just don’t beleive in shacking up for fun.

    I lived with a man for 3 years once. We were engaged, we had the talk about finances, chores, bills, ect. It did not work out, but it was not because of any of the usual pitfalls. We both tried as hard as we could to make it work and it just wasn’t meant to be. Both of us are happy for the experience and do not regret any of it.

  3. December 19, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    You mentioned research at Rutgers — do you mean The National Marriage Project? Just wondering– Recently came across a reference to their work in The Secret Lives of Wives by Iris Krasnow, and briefly checked out some of the primary publications/reported findings, including “Should we live together?” (http://www.virginia.edu/marriageproject/pdfs/swlt2.pdf) and
    “The State of Our Unions” (http://www.virginia.edu/marriageproject/pdfs/Union_11_12_10.pdf).

    Both reports seemed strongly biased — less like “research” and more like support for notions and a pre-conceived agenda. From your bio it sounds like you definitely have more expertise in this arena than myself… any thoughts on if this data should be read with caution? Or who to trust on the issue? The CDC/NIH gov’t type orgs are usually (or supposedly) good sources, but they tend to direct focus on different ‘hard science’ topics

  4. December 19, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    Fantastic post & I think moving in together after becoming engaged would be a good middle ground for me. I’m not comfortable about staying separate until the wedding day. I think living together offers info you NEED before making that commitment… But also, it shouldn’t be treated lightly.

  5. December 20, 2011 at 12:09 am #

    I agree that, “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”…however…in my experience, I’ve never technically lived with a man, but I’ve spent every day and night in his home–while still keeping my own place. I’ve learned that if you’re single, it’s best to keep your own money and home in case things don’t work out. So, “living together” is not necessary, but spending a great deal of time is paramount, in my opinion. You are so right when you say people can hide things if you don’t spend enough time with them. I’ve learned a lot about men that I’ve dated from being with them in their homes all the time. I’ve learned personal hygiene, financial habits, family relations, past/recent relationships with women, cleaning habits (or lack thereof), and annoying quirks. Sometimes living in the same space as another can save you from making the big mistake of marrying them. The sooner you can share a space, the better! I’d rather move into a man’s home (but still keep my own place) after knowing him for 3-6 months, as opposed to after 2-3 years. My time and effort is too precious to waste.

  6. December 21, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    The answer to the question of whether “To shack or not to shack” is based on the two individuals shacking. There are open books, and, books that have to be opened!!!! Many people hold back waiting to be discovered, so they’re constantly being explored; I say “not to shack”!!!! Others are up front and honest about their pros and cons and encourage the same from their partner (which speeds up the dating process); I say “to shack”, because you have a choice of what you’re getting into or not!!!! Ultimately, relationships have a mind of their own and living together would be a great test to see if the chemicals merge well or blow up in your face!!!!

  7. December 23, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    I love your blog and that’s why I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Details are listed on my page.

    Thank you for making the blogosphere better, one post at a time!

  8. Really!?
    December 27, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Great post. I think things have changed SO much with women being independent and making money. No longer are the days of men supporting women where it was necessary to marry, etc.
    However, with that said, more and more couples are not getting married and living together. I’ve lived with someone before and will not do it again without that conversation of commitment and marriage. Ie, engagement.
    For me, marriage is important. So, that will absolutely be a discussion. If marriage is not on the table, then neither is living together.

  9. December 28, 2011 at 6:01 am #

    Been there. Done that. Lost a ton of money in the process. Will never be shacking up with anyone until there is a ring on my finger that can offset any financial damages that could occur in case of a messy break-up.

  10. December 30, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    I say to each his/her own. I just hope shacking up doesn’t cause anyone to break up then again if they did at least it’s less paper work than a divorce.

  11. January 2, 2012 at 12:30 am #

    At 37-38 when dating my now husband, my niece said to me “do NOT move in with him. You’ll just drag on and on without commitment”. I had lived with two prior partners, and whilst one of those in my 20′s wanted to get married, I didn’t. When the topic of moving in together came up with the hubby, I said no. Sorry. Not until we are engaged. Hubby to be was a little surprised. We still spent about half the week together at one house or the other.

    We ended up engaged when I was 38, and with all the rapid wedding plans, we decided not to move in together until after the wedding. It made the first few months of married life hard, with lots of adjustments, but it also made it special. I think it was the right decision for us and I am glad we did it that way.

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