The Cohabitating Effect–Moving In Before Marriage

Even though living with your partner was taboo decades ago, it is now a norm. This is mainly because of sexual revolution and the current economy. You are sleeping over at each other’s house and spending all your time together so it only makes sense that you should move in together. It’s cheaper and more convenient. Others choose to cohabitate because they believe that it’s a marriage test-run. It is a common saying that getting married without cohabitating is like buying a car you haven’t taken on a test drive. So you move in together to find out whether you could really get along. If you find out that you don’t, you can opt out of the relationship, avoiding the pain of getting married only to get divorced. Despite these factors, I couldn’t do it. This is mainly because couples who cohabitate tend to be less satisfied with marriage and are more likely to divorce than those who don’t. This is what is called the Cohabitation Effect.

When you are living together, you find yourself performing spousal duties. You start sharing bills, buying furniture together, hosting each other’s relatives, having the same group of friends and so on and so forth. So when you leave the wedding reception, you return to the house which you already share and living the lives which are already intertwined in every possible way. But there is one problem. How you practice is how you play. Picture this. Cohabitating to test the waters is similar to getting a cat to practice being a parent. You can’t practice being in a lifetime commitment by becoming a roommate any more than you can practice being a parent by taking in a furry little friend. It’s just not the same thing. So after living together for 2 years, you have already established a system which is unlikely to change after taking vows. This is part of the reason why couples who cohabitate tend to be less satisfied by marriage. Because they bring their cohabitation mindsets into marriage.

Another problem is that people are not moving in for the same reasons. A couple, John and Mary, decided to move in together 4 years ago. Mary moved in because she thought that moving in was the next step towards marriage. John agreed to move in because he thought that it postponed the idea of marriage. Mary ends up feeling as if she has been in a 4 year audition for the role of Wife. So every day, she sets out to prove that she is wife-material, laying foundations for the future that she desires, digging herself deeper into a relationship that probably should have ended 4 years ago. When John eventually proposes, Mary will say yes because she has already built a life with this man and in some twisted logic, considering all that she has invested into the relationship, she has “earned” that ring. People in this situation end up regretting giving years of their lives into relationships that would have only lasted months if they were not living together.

I am not necessarily against moving in together. I just feel that before making such a huge step, people need to discuss in very clear and open terms, what each other’s goal is. What is your motivation of moving in together? Are you two in the same commitment level? Do you see yourselves with each other long-term? These are just some of the questions that you should ask before choosing to cohabitate.

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