Question of the Week (submitted by Shannon of Columbus, Ohio):
“My boyfriend and I are thinking about moving in together but we aren’t sure if it’s the right thing to do. What will happen to our relationship if we do decide to move in together?”
There are two distinct camps on this. On the one hand, we have the strong religious right. This group is notoriously conservative, advocating no living together until marriage (but, for that matter, they also forbid sex until marriage).
Then you have the more liberal, left side that says moving in together beforehand will actually help the relationship by enabling the couple to learn more about one another before they make the marriage commitment.
Now, there are a couple other facts that you need to know coming into this. First of all, there’s a thing called the “cohabitation effect” that basically says if you live with someone before you get married it will inevitably ruin your marriage.
According to the cohabitation effect, most couples that live together before they’re married never make it to their 10th anniversary.
When I first started researching this topic I came across a couple different studies, one study that said 50% of marriages end in divorce if the people lived together before they got married. And I said, well isn’t the rate 50% of divorce for the United States anyways?
So, is it 50% of all marriages end in divorce regardless of what happens? Or is it that 50% of the marriages that live together get divorced, which then means then you’re talking a 75% chance of getting divorced if you live together first?
Next, I found a Swedish study that says it’s an 80% chance of divorce if you live together before you get married. However, there are some mitigating factors in this. Were your parents divorced? Are you a product of divorce? Were your parents never married? Have you been divorced already before? Have you lived with someone before? What is your commitment level to the relationship?
Let’s understand this: Since 1981 in the United States of America the divorce rate has pretty much held steady at 45%. This means that 45% of all marriages end in divorce regardless of what happens, regardless of the history of each partner and regardless of what the commitment level is when you get in.
Then, there’s another factor, one which is titled “the inertia effect.” What happens here is when people move in together they start to share things – cars, leases, pets and cellphone bills.
All of a sudden, since they’re sharing everything already, getting married seems like the logical “next step.” In this situation, it is easy to fail, especially if one partner is over-committed to the relationship and one is under-committed.
My personal opinion on this topic has flip-flopped quite a bit during the course of my research. In the beginning, I was all for cohabitation. By the middle of it, I had suddenly switched to “absolutely not!”
The statistics, I must admit, got to me. I was really starting to believe that you should not move in with anybody until you get married. And now, at the end, I’ve softened a bit and have moved into the middle.
At the end of this entry I’ll tell you what my personal belief is, but, in the meantime, understand this: If you’re committed to your mate, and you’re looking to have a long term, fulfilling relationship, and you both have lived in different households, a great way to learn about about the other person is to live with them for awhile.
Not have your own place, not live someplace else, but live with them for a period of time. This will teach you how they are in the mornings, how they are at nights, how they deal with certain relationship problems.
Without cohabitation, you have a place to go to when there’s a relationship problem. You will go back to your place when there’s an argument. You can go back to your place and decompress.
When you live together, there’s no space for that decompressing. It forces you to learn how to handle things within the context of your home that you share. And, truly, it’s a great way to learn something about each other.
But, that said, in my personal life, through my divorces, I have always lived with the other person before we got married and, sadly, none of the marriages worked out. So, you have to understand that I have developed a personal resistance to the idea of living with someone that I am serious about. Nonetheless, through this research, I found that I might not be completely right.
It seems that, according to the research, there’s a caveat to my argument. It seems that if you’re already in a committed relationship, and, you’re already engaged – you have a date of marriage set – it will do nothing but strengthen your relationship.
It seems that if the commitment is already there by both parties, then living together before you get married could be a very good decision. That time will enable you to learn about each other, and, in the off-chance that you find something about the other person that makes you change your mind, you’re still able to get away.
On the other hand, if you’re moving in together because you want to save money, or it’s convenient, then it just isn’t worth it because there are so many other problems that come along with it if.
In the end, I believe that if you are engaged and have a date set, then go ahead and live together. But if you aren’t there yet and you aren’t in that space yet, then just don’t do it. It’s not worth it, because there really are a ton of headaches and hiccups that come with living together.
One of the biggest problems is that you could end up getting married because you’ve been living together for a period of time- you’re feeling pressure from your family or even yourself that you should be getting married – you give your mate the pressure, your mate says yes, and you end up getting married even though one (or both) of you isn’t fully committed and you end of getting a divorce anyway.
So there you have it. Thank you for submitting such a great question!
Also weighing in on this week’s “Ask Trigg” Blog question is Jen Gargotto, the author of MsMorphosis.com, a self-improvement blog for modern women and author of the e-book, Navigating Dating: A Single Woman’s Guide to Dating Without Losing Herself.
Below Gargotto answers this week’s question from a woman’s perspective:
There was nothing I disagreed with more fundamentally throughout the course of my psychology degree than the cohabitation effect.
Essentially, the cohabitation effect statistically correlates higher divorce rates with individuals that lived with either their current partner and/or previous partners pre-maritally.
Now, my grasp of statistics is weak at best, but I do know the fundamental principle that correlation does not equal causation. Just because ice cream sales and murder rates raise during the summer, we can’t assume that ice cream makes people kill one another.
Rather, we need to look at extraneous variables that can create these correlations. What does the summer have that makes people murder and eat ice cream? Heat! Heat creates more agitation, later evenings that people are out drinking and socializing (and killing one another, I suppose), as well as making people – you got it – eat ice cream.
I think the cohabitation effect can be understood the same way. Because people live together doesn’t make them more likely to divorce, but the people that live together and the people that divorce do have a particular set of ideologies and beliefs that make them perhaps more likely, in the long run, to live together (or potentially divorce in the future).
Strict, conservative opinions forbid both living together premaritally as well as divorce. I would argue that the same group that will avoid living together (or even sex) premaritally is the same conservative population that are equally unlikely to divorce, opting rather to “tough it out” even if they hate each other or, for one reason or another, outgrow the marriage.
On the other hand, the makeup of individuals that are liberal and flexible enough for cohabitation are the same group that are more likely to “go their separate ways” when a marriage is no longer working, rather than feeling bound by the religious and political ties of marriage.
Here I’m painting a picture of two very distinct groups with opposing ideologies. In no way am I trying to suggest that all liberal individuals take marriage “lightly” or conservative people are “inflexible” and not open to things like cohabitation.
I do feel that most people fall somewhere in the middle with their own makeup of beliefs, and that the group responsible for the statistics behind the famous cohabitation effect are of the more liberal set.
I would like, in the future, to see studies done controlling for religious, political, and personal ideologies and see how that impacts these numbers.
The other fact to take into consideration is, as Frank mentioned, the inertia effect. Like Frank, I agree that it can be easier once cohabiting to move into marriage purely as a “next step” and because – let’s face it – it’s hard to leave once you’ve built a life together.
However, I think that if both partners move in together in a state where they are equally committed to the partnership and open to the idea of marriage, and move into that commitment openly and mindfully, than cohabitation will purely strengthen their bond and potential for a life together.
One of MMA’s most recognized personalities dishes on love and the male psyche in “Ask Trigg – A Dating and Relationship Blog for Women” featured exclusively on ProMMANow.com. Each week the mixed martial arts fighter, color commentator and MMA spokesman gives advice to female fans based on questions they have submitted. Ladies can send their dating and relationship questions to [email protected].
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