5 Things To Consider Before Living Together
You’ve been dating for a while and things seem to be getting serious. You think you’re ready to take the next step and are wondering if maybe it’s time to move in together.
You’re Not Alone
If those thoughts have crossed you mind, you’re not alone. Cohabitation, or living together, has increased by more than 1,500% since the 1960’s according to a survey from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. This shift has been attributed to many factors from the current state of the economy to the availability of birth control. Whatever the cause, the cultural acceptance and perceived convenience continue to lead many couples to consider this as an option, often without weighing all the pros and cons of how it will affect their relationship both in the short and long-term.
While there are many things to consider before moving in together, here are five that may not immediately come to mind, but should be given some serious thought.
#1 – Living Together – The Test Drive
So are you thinking about going for a test drive? Often times couples express that living together will give them good idea of just how compatible they are before getting married. They see the divorce rate, or have experienced divorce in their family, and think living together will help them avoid going down that path. Often guys will jokingly equate it to checking out a car. They sometimes say things like, “You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it. Why would you get married without a test drive?” I’m sure they mean no harm, but think about what that communicates. What if they don’t like the test drive? What is your return policy? But that isn’t the only problem with this way of thinking. Studies show that couples that live together are actually more likely to divorce than those who don’t. They also tend to be less satisfied with their marriages if they do indeed get married. Taking a car for a test drive is very different than owning one and having to keep up with the scheduled maintenance to keep it running well.
#2 – Living Together – It Just Happens
Maybe you end up living together because you just get tired of carting your toothbrush and an extra pair of clothes around with you all the time. Sometimes when couples end up living together, it wasn’t something they planned, it just happened. After dating for a while they started sleeping over at each other’s place occasionally. Soon they were sleeping over a lot and then they were practically living together. They wonder if it will be cheaper and more convenient to just move in together and a quick decision is made, thinking that if it doesn’t work out they can get out quickly too. They go down this gradual slope, what researches call “sliding, not deciding” and they find themselves living together with no real point of decision, no rings, no ceremonies, and often no real conversation about why the want to live together and what that means. If asked why they are living together, they often answer, “It just happened.”
#3 – Living Together – Very Different Expectations
Because living together sometimes “just happens” without a real conversation and clear expectations, couples often find themselves frustrated because it isn’t what they thought it would be. Obviously each couple is different, but researchers have found men and women have different attitudes and expectations about living together. In general, women tend to see living together as the next step toward marriage while men see it as a way to test the relationship or even delay commitment. These differences even affect the relationship if it does end up in marriage, often leading to negative experiences as they interact, lower levels of commitment and a higher rate of infidelity. Setting clear expectations is important for any relationship to avoid frustration and disappointment.
#4 – Living Together – Easy In, Easy Out…Right?
Couples approach living together with a very different mindset then they do marriage. While men and women have very different expectations when it comes to cohabitation, they do tend to agree that their standards for a live-in significant other are lower than they would be for a spouse. This makes it much easier to enter a live-in situation. But what they thought was a cost saving, low-risk arrangement often isn’t so easy to get out of. Shared rent, shared furniture, shared pets and potentially shared children make getting out more challenging than they ever imagined. It’s like those companies who show up on campus offering you a free t-shirt for signing up for a credit card. Sure you get the t-shirt, but you also get the 20% interest rate after the first six months. What you thought was a low cost t-shirt can end up costing way more than you ever expected.
#5 – Living Together – Because I’m Not Sure I Want To Be Married
Often couples find themselves debating living together because they are truly in love, but one or both partners really aren’t sure marriage is a good idea or even relevant. They may have experienced divorce or abuse in their family and have associated those feeling with marriage rather than the brokenness of their parents. They don’t want to experience those themselves, so they avoid marriage and commitment. Yet, those same feelings occur in live-in situations, and they actually occur more frequently. Studies consistently show that marriage increases the well being of women, men and children. They report being happier, more content and they have lower death rates than those who live together. While marriage isn’t a guarantee of commitment or happiness, and no one says it is easy, statistics say it does increase your chances over living together.
A Big Decision
Living together is a big decision and there many factors to consider in addition to the five we mentioned. If living together is something you’re thinking about and need someone to talk to, we’d love to sit down and listen and help you work through all the pros and cons.
So what if you’ve already made the move and are having second thoughts? We’re here for you too.