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By May 10, 2010

Living Together Before Marriage is Dumb

As a teen, I was often reminded by my grandfather that men "won’t buy the cow if the milk is free." But 25 years later its become customary to have premarital sex, and children born out of wedlock. Living together before marriage (cohabitation) has permanently changed the dating landscape. But what traditional attitudes about marriage linger in the psyche of the American male? Should women ever live with a man they are not married to?

If Your Goal is Marriage, Don’t Move In Together Until You Say "I Do!"
©2008-2010 Deborrah Cooper

Several years ago I read an article MENS HEALTH Magazine which reported that couples who live together first are most likely to NOT get married. The studies further concluded that when cohabitating couples did marry, they were statistically more likely to divorce.

In college I thought that living together was probably a good idea. We’d both get the opportunity to "see how things worked out" and save money on both rent and utilities. But I’m older now and have a lot more life and relationship experience under my belt. And after spending two decades observing people’s relationships, I’ve come to realize that living together doesn’t do one positive thing for a couple or their relationship if their ultimate goal is tradition, a wedding…  to marry.

In other words, living together is not the path to a happy, long-lasting marriage.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Cohabitation

Carolyn is an administrative assistant at a major corporation in downtown San Francisco. "There’s a guy on my job now who’s shacking up with his fiancé. He doesn’t seem to be as enthusiastic as he was when they weren’t living together. I wonder how that’s going to turn out?"

Regina reports that one of her best friends is experiencing this now. "She and her man have been together 3 years, living together for 1+, and she’s ready to marry. He’s not. Why should he be, he’s got it all right now! What’s the paper going to mean to him? Now, she’s ready to lower her standards (of wanting to be married before she has children, yada yada) and have a child with him (of course with the stupid notion that maybe this will help the relationship move toward marriage. I want to say to her "HELLO! IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN. And if it does, do you really want to look back and feel that you had to trap your man into marriage?)!"

Erlinda is a recent college graduate and witnessed "move-in mania" amongst her friends. "I wouldn’t move in with a boyfriend unless I had a ring and a date. Even then, it would only be a few weeks before the wedding. If we’re getting married toward the end of the month, I would move in at the beginning of the month, but not before then. From what I’ve seen in these shacking up situations, all a woman gets from "playing house" is taken advantage of!"

Older Couples May See Things Differently

Nick and Delores have both been married and divorced, so the concept of marriage is not a new issue for either. "We’re comfortable and happy and in love" Delores reports.

"Some of my friends think I need to go on and marry him to catch him, but Nick is already mine! They don’t understand that though. Children are not an issue. We’re both in our early 50s and neither of us can have anymore children. We only have my high school age children with us – his son is almost an adult. So there is no ‘having his baby to catch him" syndrome going on here! The best I can tell you is this, we choose the way we live and we are happy with it. If in the future we get married, we will be happy with that too."

Should Women Avoid "Giving Away the Milk?"

Very often men opt out of marriage after a period of cohabitation. In theory, it appears to be a great solution. However, I feel the better plan is to resist that desire to marry/live together too early and instead, spend time learning as much about your partner as possible before making such a major commitment. Unfortunately, I see many people in relationships/marriages simply to avoid being alone.

The likelihood of marrying takes a nosedive when a couple shacks up. For one, marrying would seem anticlimactic, because seemingly little if anything changes, hence the urgency to marry goes down significantly or even disappears.

Also, if you’re not married, it’s easier to leave the relationship over petty matters. No matter what cohabitating couples say, the commitment of marriage is not the same when a couple shacks up.

David is a 29 year old fireman, and looking forward to the day he marries. "If I feel committed enough to want to live with the woman I’m with, I will buy the ring and ask her to marry me because obviously I feel she’s the woman for me to spend the rest of my life with. Proponents of shacking up will say that if a couple shacks up and doesn’t get married, it’s good that they found out they weren’t meant for each other before they walked down the aisle."

David added "To that, I say: if you can’t determine that the person you’re with isn’t someone you can grow with for the rest of your life just from dating them over a period of time without living together, you’re either not very perceptive or not ready to marry anyone at all. My parents have been married for more than 35 years. I long to have a marriage like that, and won’t settle for less."

My Vote: Get Married if That’s Your Goal, or Leave it Alone!

I believe that only certain people with a fear of giving themselves over to a commitment would agree to living together as a "trial" to marriage. Those fears are what brought the couple into the shacking up arrangement and what keeps them from advancing to marriage and the reason they prefer a situation that is fun and convenient, but also disposable and easily replaceable.

Their attitude of "let’s try this and SEE IF IT WORKS" is a recipe for failure. When a couple approaches marriage with this mindset, what they are actually doing is not taking the time to see if marriage will work and what they need to do to make it work, but instead seeing if it their little setup will fail. They are taking the path of least commitment and setting things up so they can get the benefits of a marital commitment with the least amount of commitment and damage.

Maturity, realistic expectations, an ability to negotiate and compromise, commitment, common values and morals, sharing of resources, and honest open communication are key to any long-term relationship, whether living together or not. You can find out all of these things about your potential partner through dating and conversations – you don’t need to reside under the same roof to find out what you need to know!

When a woman wants marriage and settles for shacking up, she has already lost the battle and her man’s respect. She did not stand up for herself or what she believes in as she chooses to just go with HIS flow.

Things are only going to go down hill from there.

A couple that truly believes in the sanctity of marriage would find no value in living together and therefore would not make living together or having families, buying property etc. without the legal, emotional and spiritual protections and commitments to each other of marriage a lifestyle choice.

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