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Living Together Before Marriage

I’ve been dating a guy for several years. I love him and we’re talking about marriage, but he wants to live together first. He has a great apartment that would be ideal, but I’m scared. I read that couples who live together before marriage have a higher rate of divorce. Plus, my mother keeps repeating that old saying: Why should he buy the cow when he can get the milk for free? Any thoughts?
Women have always had too many experts telling them what to do. Over the years, we’ve been warned against everything from premarital sex to exercising our right to vote. But keep in mind that advice changes with the times, even when it’s couched in official-sounding terms such as “research says” or “God intends.” And group findings never indicate what’s right for an individual.

I lived with my husband, Steve, for several years before we married, and I would not have done otherwise. I think marriage is such a serious business that it makes sense to gather as much information as possible before tying the knot. Living together can tell two people a lot about how compatible they are and their ability to negotiate their differences.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some good reasons for you to consider keeping a separate space if that’s what feels right to you. If you and your boyfriend are having problems with the relationship, or one of you is wavering about your commitment, living together is unlikely to smooth things over.

It’s also not a good idea to make such a serious decision based on finances (for example, that it’s cheaper to share his great place) or anxiety about your future (you’re afraid you’ll lose him if you don’t move in). It makes sense, too, to avoid a live-in arrangement when children are involved, unless both partners are deeply committed and fully prepared for the complexities of stepfamilies. And of course, cohabiting before marriage is a bad idea if it violates your values or religious beliefs.

Think about your expectations for this relationship and about how moving in would mesh with your desires, your life plans, and the way you view yourself. No matter what researchers (or your mother) say, the only person who can determine whether living together would be a good idea is you.

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