Many assume that moving in together is a normal step for couples who desire a long-term partnership but are still unsure if they want to commit to marriage.
While cohabitation may seem like a good idea on the surface, however, many underestimate the hidden consequences associated with it.
Instead of improving the bond between a man and woman, living together before marriage often sets relationships up for failure.
Looking for the Wrong Warning Signs
People tend to act differently at home than they do at work or when they are out in a public space. One of the supposed advantages of cohabiting with someone before marriage is that it allows couples to observe how the other behaves in a more intimate setting.
Some people leave their dirty clothes on the floor and think the dirty dishes in the sink can sit for a few days before they need to be cleaned. Alternatively, some desire cleanliness and prefer every surface and corner of the house to be spick and span.
These are just a few examples of different habits a partner may possess. And while some of them may be annoying or gross, a successful relationship does not rest upon someone remembering to screw the cap back onto the toothpaste tube.
Of course, even if someone is sloppy, that is not a justifiable reason to end the relationship.
The problem with cohabitation is that it teaches couples to value the wrong traits in a partner. Not only does it reduce someone to their irksome routines, but it can also set unrealistic expectations for marriage.
No one is perfect and, as vexing as it may be, sometimes a person’s quirky habits are there to stay. Instead of waiting to see if someone is marriage material based on how well they clean up after themselves, couples should focus on learning whether they have complementary values and character.
Cohabitation proponents often argue that living together before marriage allows couples to engage in a trial run before they tie the knot. The advantage of holding off on marrying, they might claim, is that it allows the couple to see if the relationship works before settling down.
But this approach to marriage tends to negatively impact the relationship instead of strengthening it.
A 2018 Institute for Family Studies article analyzed multiple studies on the topic, noting that couples who live together before marriage typically face a higher risk of divorce than those who waited until after the wedding to live together.
The finding makes sense, as marriage between a man and woman is the epitome of a committed partnership. Couples who enter the institution for the first time may not know what the future holds, but they need to be able to depend on their partner to stick around “for better, or for worse.”
Living together before marriage unintentionally treats it like a coat that people can don whenever it feels convenient and comfortable to wear.
This promulgates the false idea that marriage is only intended to secure individual happiness. While matrimony can certainly bring joy, someone who assumes the role of a married man or woman must accept the responsibility that they will not always be happy.
Not only must they put their spouse’s needs above their own, but they must also accept that there will be hard times. Even when things become challenging, a husband or wife must commit to ensuring their marriage can withstand it.
Choosing to live together before the vows have been exchanged, however, cannot prepare couples for this responsibility in the same way. Instead, it teaches people how to avoid conflict, which is likely why these marriages tend to fail when times suddenly get tough.
No Incentive to Marry
Marriage is, of course, much more than sharing a bed, paying the bills and dividing up the household chores. But when couples cohabitate, there is little to distinguish their marriage from the initial courtship phase.
As a result, matrimony is reduced to just another phase in the relationship, rather than the distinct, sacred bond it is intended to be. And when couples occupy the same space for a long period of time, they risk minimizing those intimate experiences that are intended to be shared between a married man and woman.
For men and women who live together, it can be difficult to establish sexual boundaries. The temptation to engage in pre-marital sex may be hard to resist, but many couples attest that the wait was worth it in the long run.
According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, those who engage in sexual relations after the wedding bells have tolled tend to lead more satisfying sex lives. The study surveyed over 2,000 married couples who reported that their marriage was indeed more stable due to delaying the consummation.
People who wait until after marriage to live together and learn one another more intimately can usually rest assured that they have tied themselves to the ideal partner, not just someone who seemed like a convenient person to marry.
Marriage is a challenging institution that often requires hard work to make it last, and playing house before embarking on this journey will not guarantee its success.
Life often throws curveballs, and there is usually no way for newlyweds to predict what sort of hardships they will endure. But approaching marriage with the right mindset can equip couples with a better sense of preparedness when those hard times inevitably arrive.
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