I would never marry anyone unless we’d lived together first.

The first date. The first I love you. Moving in together. The proposal. The wedding. Fingers crossed for a marriage that lasts! If not, repeat step one. We seem to have things a little out of order nowadays… There’s a lot of reasons divorce rates are so high but one of the increasingly popular factors is couples living together before getting married.

A few weeks ago my friend and I found ourselves in a bar in Jervis Bay, Australia debating the concept of living together before marriage with four Irish men. One of the men casually mentioned how glad he was to have “dodged a bullet” with his last girlfriend by realizing he didn’t want to marry her after they’d lived together a few months. The rest of the group quickly agreed with the exception of my friend and I, resulting in shocked and confused stares from our new friends. How naïve could we be to think we could possibly marry someone without living with them first?

This isn’t the first time I’ve had this debate nor will it be the last, I’m sure. Each time it seems as if three main arguments get brought up. So let’s take a look at those points.

  1. Living together is the best way to know who someone truly is before you get married. Otherwise, you don’t know what you’re going to get.

Actually, that’s the purpose of dating. When seriously dating someone, you get to know whether or not your personalities, beliefs, and morals line up. You spend as much time as possible together learning what makes the other person the way they are and creating a bond of love. After seeing each other in many different settings, you eventually decide whether or not this is someone you could spend the rest of your life with and make that choice. Loving someone is a choice that you make daily. When you move in together after the wedding, you continue to make that choice and learn how to live with each other. Your core beliefs and lifestyles match up already, so now is the time to learn how to combine your lives more fully and discover how to endure, and even come to appreciate, each other’s quirks.

  1. Living together is the best way to know if you’re living styles are compatible.

 Marriage is a lifetime commitment – you figure out how to live together. It’s part of the fun challenge of being newlyweds. You realize one person loads the dishwasher completely wrong and the other never remembers to put the cap back on the toothpaste after using it. It might get annoying working through the differences but eventually you find a balance. It’s these little opportunities for compromise that help you grow and learn how to love better, more selflessly.

  1. Living together shows that you are committed to the relationship and leads to a stronger marriage.

Living together before marriage allows the opportunity to “play house”. You combine finances, furniture, and schedules. You sleep in the same bed and share your time together. You have all of the perks of being married with the additional benefit of being able to walk out the door, no strings attached, if you find out you don’t like something about the other person. Living together takes the commitment out of the relationship because if you find something in their living style you don’t like, you can simply end things. These “trial marriages” can lead to getting married with that “trial” mindset still intact—keeping divorce in your back pocket, just in case.

According to recent studies, more than 70% of couples in the United States cohabitate before marriage. Many studies have found that living together before marriage increases the chance of divorce, leads to less satisfaction and poor communication in marriage, and increases levels of domestic violence (Psychology Today). While our society thinks we are strengthening marriage by getting to know our partners better before committing through premarital cohabitation, we are instead creating weaker, less satisfied marriages.

The answer to why I will not live with someone before marriage is really quite simple: I want a marriage that lasts. I’m looking forward to the thrill of going home with my husband for the first time after our wedding and figuring out how to live with each other. I know that he will probably drive me crazy when he leaves wet towels and clothes on the floor and I’ll annoy him constantly when I follow him through the house re-cleaning what I asked him to clean. But in the end marriage isn’t about these trivial things, it’s about intentionally choosing each day to love the one you’ve committed your life to—all quirks included.

 

 

 

Ben-Zeév, Aaron. “Does Cohabitation Lead to More Divorces?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 28 Mar. 2013, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-name-love/201303/does-cohabitation-lead-more-divorces.

 

 

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