Poll: Is It A Bad Idea To Cohabitate Before Marriage? (The Times Thinks So)

The New York Times published a scare-mongering piece on “cohabitation” today in which a psychologist posits that living together before marriage can cause unfavorable outcomes down the road. Do you buy it?

In the article, clinical psychologist Meg Jay goes over some stats about cohabitation and divorce, saying that couples who live together before getting married are more likely to get divorced down the road. She also says that this statistic can’t be accounted for solely by the fact that those with a more traditional view of marriage are more likely to “stick it out” in unhappy marriages after the fact.

So what’s the culprit? There’s a bit of the old “battle of the sexes” nonsense in which women just want to get married and men just want to get the milk for free, of course. Then again, if that’s the case, can’t the man get the “milk” without moving in with the, um, cow? (Ew.)

Then there’s something that makes more sense to me: the idea that once you’ve moved in together (just for the fuck of it, because it makes financial sense, etc.), it contributes to the likelihood that you’ll plod forward with a marriage to this person without really thinking about it, just because your lives are already so intertwined and because you feel like it’s the next logical step. This makes sense, but I also think it’s entirely possible to do things because they’re the next logical step without having cohabitation in the equation. My parents got married out of law school (without living together first!) because they thought it was what they were supposed to do next, and they did not live happily ever after.

Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using cohabitation as a test to see if you like living together, as the qualities that make someone a good roommate are not necessarily the same ones that make someone a good boyfriend, and it can be hard to find them in the same person. Assuming you don’t want to have kids, might it be possible to date one person and live with another? And even if you do find all those qualities in one person, what if that person is hideous? Take, for example, this terrifying face morph I just made of my roommate and my boyfriend:

Not cute.

I think the key here, as with most things, is not to do it in a stupid way, i.e. you should put some thought and discussion into moving in together before doing it. Like you should with every step of the relationship! But perhaps I am wrong, and cohabitation is going to kill my relationship with my boyfriend no matter how much we talk about it first. What do you think?

Sorry! This poll is now closed.

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    • Abernacky

      actual study from the CDC. See pages 40 & 41: Marriage and Cohabitation in the United States: A Statistical Portrait Based on Cycle 6 (2002) of the National Survey of Family Growth http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_028.pdf

      Related USA today article: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-03-02-cohabiting02_N.htm

      Sorry these are older, its the last time I looked at this kind of info.

    • Abernacky
      • Taz

        Thanks for the report Abernacky, it’s full of amazing information!

    • Marissa

      I get the argument that you’re not as actively thinking through your relationship choice when you’re living together. I moved with my boyfriend post-college because it made sense financially, and it was a TERRIBLE idea. We floated through cohabitation coupledom and got engaged along with the rest of our friends. And then one day I woke up and realized not just that I didn’t love him, but that I didn’t even like him. Living together definitely kept me from thinking through things, and I ulatimately and awkwardly had to cancel a wedding.

      But this isn’t the only reason I’m now anti-living together pre-engagement…it’s mostly because it is too emotionally difficult to have to separate your entangled lives if you decide to break up. Trying to sell a house in a Phoenix real estate market after the bubble burst is not something you want to do with someone you never want to speak to again. Trying to figure out who gets the newer car and who gets the new laptop is terrible when you don’t have legal rights. And suddenly paying for half of everything when you make a quarter what your ex makes is a little financially difficult. Negotiating with you ex just plain sucks.

      With that said, my mother was disowned from her parents after living with my dad in the 60s. They’ve been married for 44 years. If you’re 100% sure you want to be with someone forever, living together is fine. But if you believe in marriage, why wouldn’t you just get married at that point?

      • Taz M

        Thanks Marissa for a refreshingly valid perspective to a droll rant. I really appreciated it! :)

        Too bad Jamie is so deep into her pessimism that she won’t give credit to the validity of “traditional” “nonsense”. Even when the stats provide the credibility.

      • Jamie Peck

        I think my solution to the money part will be this: neither of us has any money or owns anything of value! The laptop I wrote this post on is by far the biggest purchase I’ve ever made.

        And I’m honestly not sure if I ever want to get married, so living with a partner might be my version of marriage. All the more reason I’m not going to take it lightly if/when it happens. Re: that other comment, I’m not sure how this comes off as “pessimistic.” I think my tone here could be described as “tentatively optimistic.”

      • PobarJenkins

        I definitely understand both sides of the issue. However, for me living together before marriage was a great set-up. I must say we were very sensible about it. Despite being madly in love, we often had discussions about who got what and how everything would turn out if things were to go south.

        There were multiple reasons why we lived together (it made sense financially, we were long distance as a couple, et cetera), but weren’t yet ready for marriage (I was only nineteen).

        Different strokes for different folks! I know lots of people that lived together before marriage and are happily married now, and I know lots of people that did not live together before marriage and are happily married now. Whatever works for you. :)

    • Elizabeth

      My husband always drinks all the milk and then puts the empty container back in the fridge.

    • Woo

      Just move in together when it feels right and NEVER GET MARRIED because what is this, the middle ages?!

      • Furious George

        !!!!!!!! Win.