Should we live together?

testdriveMany people believe that living together is a great way to “test drive” their relationship to find out if they’re compatible.  It’s a step up in commitment, but it’s still a trial run.  Contrary to popular opinion, however, living together may end up training you for divorce rather than marriage.

Compared to couples who do not live together before marriage, couples who cohabit before marriage have:1

  • Higher divorce rates
  • Higher rates of adultery
  • Higher rates of domestic and child abuse
  • Lower levels of happiness and marital satisfaction
  • Lower levels of communication

One reason for this is that cohabiting couples “may be more skittish of commitment and more likely to call it quits when problems arise.  But in addition, the very act of living together may lead to attitudes that make happy marriages more difficult. The findings of one recent study, for example, suggest there may be less motivation for cohabiting partners to develop their conflict resolution and support skills.”2

So contrary to popular wisdom, you don’t need to take your boyfriend or girlfriend for a test drive.  Having a series of failed cohabiting relationships doesn’t teach you to have a better marriage.  In fact, it’s a strong predictor that your future marriage may fail.

Footnotes:

  1. David Popenoe and  Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, “Should We Live Together? What Young Adults Need to Know about Cohabitation before Marriage,” National Marriage Project, 2007. Retrieved Dec. 2007 from http://www.smartmarriages.com/cohabit.html.
  2. David Popenoe, “Top Ten Myths of Marriage,” National Marriage Project.