Cohabitation: can you handle it?

Courtney at Word Perv wrote this article recently about cohabitation, which referenced this article in the Washington Post about cohabitation before marriage being linked to greater potential for divorce. Being semi cohabitated at the moment, it cause me to pause, click and read. I suggest you do the same.

Cohabitation is a great way, in my opinion, for SOME couples to learn more about each others habits, lifestyle, etc. prior to getting hitched and having just one more thing to add to the list of things you need to figure out. But some relationships end up in cohabitation out of ease, financial sense or because it just seems like the thing to do. For others, waiting until after marriage to experience all these new things together is right.

The article and study is not simply saying cohabitation before marriage will put you on the road to divorce, but rather in the cases that cohabitation is used as a way to patch the things that aren't quite right in a relationship, things could turn sour. While you shouldn't use articles or studies to rule the way you live your life, these stats are worrisome all the same.

An excerpt from the article..."Stanley, a University of Denver psychologist, has spent the past 15 years trying to figure out why premarital cohabitation is associated with lower levels of satisfaction in marriage and a greater potential for divorce.

At a conference last month, Stanley and his colleagues presented the latest findings of a five-year study being sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He estimates that between 60 and 70 percent of couples today will live together before marriage, and that for two-thirds of them, cohabitation is something that they slid into or "just sort of happened."

And a study Stanley co-authored in February found that of the 1,050 married people surveyed, almost 19 percent of those who lived together before getting engaged had at some point suggested divorce, compared with 10 percent for those who waited until marriage to live together.

Those findings mimic the reports from the mid-1990s that first peaked Stanley's interest, showing that men who cohabitated before marriage were, on average, less dedicated to their relationships than those who didn't.

The important thing to point out is that you know your relationship best. If the relationship and the situation is right, cohabiting is not necessarily the wrong thing to do. I also believe our society has evolved a bit beyond assuming two people will not live together before the wedding vows have been exchanged. That being said, some of my friends still believe (because of their religion and family values) two people should not move in together until after marriage.

No matter what two people decide, it seems there should be some sort of discussion about the decision. None of this "sliding into cohabitation" business or just choosing to avoid the subject because it's a tough conversation to have. Put it on the table and you'll both be happier for talking it out and sharing your views. Are you pro or no cohabitation? And why? If you choose to cohabitate or not, what are the pros and cons to your decision?

Some of my pros are: getting to spend more quality down time with the person, learning to work and make decisions as a team, seeing someone else work to make sure you're happy, comfortable and safe, having access to a dog at any moment, being forced to work on being more laid back.

Cons: dirty clothes, dishes, bathroom. ESPN is playing constantly on the tv or radio (thank goodness I like sports). Finding your own space and time to be alone takes a real effort.

A few things I've learned: sharing milk/cereal does not work for me. Men go through it like it's going out of style. Feeding someone regular dinners w/ meat can be taxing/expensive/time consuming bc a dinner of chips and salsa will not do. They do not see the mess. It's like they're wearing fogged lenses.


Laura said…
I really like that article and the commentary, particularly the light it sheds on the reasons for cohabitation. I love what Courtney says about how it's important for it to be a step toward marriage - I think that really nails it.
After living with Eric for 12 months I am even more confident I want to marry him and be with him forever. So, in our case, it has strengthened our relationship!

I do think it can be bad for some couples, though, especially if they just "fall" into it or if they do it out of financial need!

I also think it's important to remember that the first FEW months of living together can be extremely difficult. It took me and Eric about 3-4 months to settle into a routine and quit bickering/fighting over mundane things!!
Ha, I like your list of "things I've learned" - either way it sounds like you're happy with your decision thus far, and that's what counts! I've always wondered how the "living together before marriage" really matters That much - but if chosen for the wrong reasons, then it makes more sense. I think maybe then it leads to the same attitude towards marriage; something of a "why not" approach.
KGreg said…
I definitely slid into cohabitation, and it has had some major ups and downs.

I wonder, though, if the cohabitation/divorce link has something to do with people who have strong values about relationships in general. Maybe people who wait until they are engaged or married to live together also have strong values against divorce and are willing to do more to make a marriage work based on those values.
NySoonerGirl said…
I had always said I never wanted to live with a boyfriend before I was married. But I did it anyway. And it was horrible. In hindsight, I'm glad I did it because that relationship would have ended anyway. I think we just got that over with more quickly. But I will never do it again. I'm not a religious person, that has nothing to do with it. I think for me, it stems from the fact that I'd like to save something for marriage. Plus, my parents didn't live together before they were married and they're going on 33 years! It's up to the individual and the couple. What works for one person or one couple is not what will work or is right for another. To each their own!
Sassy Molassy said…
NYSooner-I agree, to each their own. What works for one person or couple will not necessarily work for another.
Karena said…
I never thought I'd live with a boyfriend before marriage, but I we ended up moving in together because it just worked. We've lived together for almost 4 years now and yeah, we've had our ups and downs, but we've also learned a lot more about each other. The first year we lived together it was easy to walk away from fights b/c we were so used to being able to go to our separate homes. Since then, we've learned to talk more and lay our issues out. Plus, living with someone lets you see how they deal with everyday situations...something that you might not necessarily see when you don't live with them.

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