What You Need to Know Before Living Together
Over 12 million unmarried Americans are living together in 6 million households, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2007.” With cohabitation so common, it’s easy to think that living together is as simple as merging each other’s things into one household.
It’s anything but. Below, relationship experts weigh in on whether living together is a good idea and how couples can make that decision wisely.
Is Living Together a Smart Move?
Couples therapists have different opinions on whether living together before marriage is a wise decision. For instance, according to Susan Heitler, Ph.D, a Denver clinical psychologist and author of the book The Power of Two: Secrets of a Strong & Loving Marriage, “living together is putting oneself in a very vulnerable position,” especially if kids are involved.
When there isn’t a clear agreement, she says, “anyone can leave at any point.” However, “when there’s a clear commitment [of marriage], you learn to negotiate the rapids and come out on the other side.”
She also says that “there is significant research that the longer a couple lives together before they marry, the higher the odds of getting divorced.” One of the reasons may be that cohabiting without getting married usually means there’s something preventing you from making that commitment, and “pure living together doesn’t take care of” your issues, she says.
According to Robert Solley, Ph.D, a San Francisco clinical psychologist specializing in couples therapy, while “moving in together doesn’t solve anything…it might bring to light things that need to be worked on.”
What’s more, he says that cohabiting “is much more complicated than most articles (and the survey studies themselves) imply.” We just don’t have enough information to make a definitive statement one way or the other, he says. Moving in together without being married isn’t necessarily a sign of problematic underlying issues, he maintains.
There also may be other intervening variables at play, he says. For instance, Solley cites research suggesting that American couples who live together and take premarital education courses or see a counselor may not be at a higher risk for divorce.