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Reasons Couples Move in Together Before Marriage…and Why They Shouldn’t

by Jeannie Assimos - May 1, 2013

In generations past, couples met, fell in love, got married and began building a life together. But times are changing, and these days, it’s more common for couples to spend some time living together before taking a trip down the aisle.

While co-habitation can be convenient and easier on your wallet, it isn’t always a step toward happily-ever-after. Here are the most common reasons couples decide to shack up, and why some relationship experts warn against it.

Reason #1: You aren’t engaged…but are hoping it’s a step toward a proposal.

Deciding to move in together is a good idea only if you’ve had honest, open conversations about getting married to each other, says relationship expert April Beyer. “I’ve seen plenty of men say yes to a future when they felt backed against the wall, only to back out at a later date. If you have a reluctant fiancé, you’ve also got a reluctant husband!” Beyer says.

According to dating coach Samantha Karlin, “living with someone without a firm eye towards marriage means that anyone can get up and leave at any time, which breeds mutual disrespect, as opposed to mutual respect.” Karlin adds that she has “known a lot of women who move in with their boyfriends with the assumption that a proposal is one step away — but then two, three, four years later, the proposal still hasn’t come. I think that’s because some people move in together not because they genuinely want to see this person every morning upon waking, but because it’s convenient.”

Reason #2: You want to see if you’re compatible as roommates.

A roommate and a romantic partner are not the same thing, yet many couples think that living together will give them the chance to see how their relationship works with the live-in dynamic. “Living with someone as a roommate is different than cohabitating as partners,” says relationship therapist Kimberly Seltzer. “As roommates, there is always an underlying notion that you can ‘get out’ if things don’t work.” However, Beyer says if you and your partner are eyeing the same goals with the same timelines, then she believes living together “could save you from marrying the wrong man.”

Reason #3: You want to save money on rent.

Moving in together can solve a lot of logistical problems, as well as cut your living costs. You don’t have to worry about whether or not your favorite dress is at his place or yours, and it’s easy to split bills and other household expenses. But experts warn that moving in for the sake of convenience could hurt your relationship in the long run. “Never move in together simply because it makes sense to lower rent and save money,” advises Beyer. “It makes it more difficult to break up later if you also have to leave your roommate and figure out a way to afford a new place.”

Reason #4: You’re “practically living together anyway.”

There’s a difference between spending all your time at one another’s apartments and officially residing under one roof. “The fact that it is a ‘practically temporary’ situation still has the connotation that you can get out if it doesn’t work,” Seltzer cautions. “If the going gets tough, the tough might get going and the couple splits instead of working on issues together,” she adds.

Not all experts warn against shacking up before settling down. Some say the experience is necessary to allow a couple to grow and sort out their differences before making a life-long commitment to each other. “It’s important to be roommates and see how that impacts your relationship,” says relationship expert Rachel Sussman. Sussman, who is also the author of “The Breakup Bible,” advises that it’s good for couples to learn how to handle arguments over things like finances and cleanliness around the house before getting married. Relationship coach Allison Pescosolido agrees that couples should live together ahead of marriage because it gives them the chance to “ease into the greater commitment of marriage without the prospect of divorce.” However, Pescosolido, who is the founder of Divorce Detox, does not advise that couples make the jump to cohabitating too quickly, saying that “it’s important that a relationship naturally progress.”

What has your experience been like in this area? Would you live with someone before marriage?

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