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March 5th, 2010 by Dr. Phil

The Old Cohabitation Question

moving1I was thinking the other day that when it comes to relationships, there’s a subject almost none of us talk about any more: living together before marriage. Remember when this used to be such a controversial topic, a source of huge anxiety for parents and even for many young couples falling in love? Remember when people talked about a couple “living in sin” and really meant it? 

Well, today, few people barely raise an eyebrow when they hear about an unmarried couple cohabitating. And why should they? It’s estimated that up to 70 percent of couples in the United States live together before marrying. For most young adults, the idea of marrying without living together first is simply absurd. By living together, they say, they find out if they can share a bathroom every morning without wanting to kill each other. That must be for the good of the relationship, they insist. At the very least, it certainly can’t be bad, right?

Well, hello, look what just arrived on my desk — a couple of studies suggesting that couples who live together before they get married are less likely to stay married. One national study released this very week found that the likelihood a marriage would last for a decade or more decreased by six percentage points if the couple had cohabited first. The Journal of Family Psychology has also published a survey of couples who live together, and it concludes that those who move in with a mate before engagement or marriage report “significantly” lower quality marriages and “a greater potential” for split-ups than other couples.

That survey found that that more than 60 percent of the couples interviewed ranked spending more time together as the number-one reason for moving in, followed by nearly 19 percent who put “it made most sense financially” at the top of their list, and 14 percent ranking “I wanted to test out our relationship before marriage” as the chief reason. The survey actually found some couples who had been living together who literally decided to get married because they have a joint lease or a shared ownership of a pet. A pet!

I don’t tell couples outright that they should avoid living together before marriage, but I do tell them that living together does not exempt them from having the same serious conversations every couple needs to have about marriage. I think the danger of couples living together is that their lives and incomes, (and, yes, their pets) get so intertwined that they go ahead and just sort of slide into marriage, even though one or both of them aren’t sure that’s the best thing to do. They get married because it’s just too much trouble to break up and divide their stuff. Tor me, the real warning sign is when a couple says they need to test their relationship. I mean, come on. If they need to test the relationship, then the chances are pretty good they already know something is not working.

Do you think I’m being too hard-headed about all this? Do you think cohabitating before marriage is a good thing, something we all should accept? I’d like to hear what you think, and I’d like to hear what advice you give to your own kids about living together. I’ll look forward to reading your comments.

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186 Responses to “The Old Cohabitation Question”

  1. Kathy S. says:

    My husband and I lived together for 11 yrs before we got married and now have been married this coming aug. 15 yrs. Living together i think we didnt take advantage or for granted of each other. But as the yrs went by we kinda grew together and one day i said lets get married. If we are going to spend this much time and money as one we just as well get married. Also I thought about things like we were going to buy a house and big ticket things i wanted to be married. we are half a blended family.. He has kids and I dont. I was very lucky and his kids and I have worked out great. I became there friend long before i became thier step mother and friends is what i wanted to be to them not thier boss. They had 2 of them they didnt need one more :-) Now at this time in our life hubby is retired and i am disabled and if not for him i just dont know how i would get by. He is the best husband and friend i could of ever found and he is 65 and i am 51 yrs old. i really wouldnt wanted to spend 26 yrs with anyone else.. (Also wouldnt want to train another one ) hehehe

  2. Cora says:

    My husband and I lived together for a year and half before getting married. We are doing well, even through this very tying time right now wiht him losing his job after 22 yrs. If we can do well with the latest stress I think we will be fine. I am so lucky to have him in my life.

    Cohabitation isn’t for everyone, just as marriage isn’t for everyone. This is my second marriage…I have also had many struggles in my life. My husband who is my best friend has been very supportive. I don’t know what I would do without him.

  3. jennifer says:

    Dr. Phil- My husband & I have been together for 21 years. We met in 1989, moved in together in 1990 & married in 1994. Yes we lived together for 4 years before we got married. We would not change a thing. We both still love each other very much. After we got married in 1994 we then bought our first home. Settled there & then had our kids. So we did what we thought was best for us. Our kids know exactly that. Everyone is different and everyone is going to do what works for them. My husband & I really got to know each other during those 4 years & we just knew we couldn’t live apart.

  4. Tara says:

    My husband and I only lived together for 3 months before we were married. We’ve been married 10 years now. My parents pretty much insisted we didn’t live together. My sister (two years younger than me) was pretty much the same way. My parents mellowed out after us first two. My sister (9 years younger than me) has been living with her boyfriend for about 3 years now and still no ring. I guess our parents were right. Not gonna buy the cow if you get the milk for free! And I know they feel guilty about insisting she didn’t move in with her boyfriend.

  5. suenosdeuomi says:

    The issue seems not co-habitation but motivation. Why do we chose to live together. It is never wise to avoid the real answers.

  6. Tara says:

    I meant they feel guilty about NOT insisting she didn’t move in with her boyfriend.

  7. Carter says:

    Scripture does that having pysically intimate relations outside marriage is sinful but it says the same thing about divorce (except in the case where one spouse is unfaithful to the other) and regardless of whether people get married, cohabitate or just date, people just don’t seem to make strong committments in relationships. I’m not saying that’s a hard and fast rule or anything but it does seem to generally be the case. Almost seems like a catch 22. Personally, I’ve never been married (or cohabitated, for that matter) but then Ive never been divorced either.

  8. Tammi Stamm says:

    Dr. Phil,

    After reading your blog on relationships and living together I felt I had to share my experience in that area. Presently my fiance and I have lived together for four years. Let me explain how our situation has progressed.

    We started dating in 2002 while still in high school and had our ups and downs as any couple does. At that time we lived about thirty minutes away from each other and had weekly visits only. Close to a year into our relationship we were given the opportunity of overnight visits by his parents as well as mine after I graduated high school in 2003.

    We learned a lot about each other during those times and really the two or three days we spent together was all we could handle before needing space. After a few more ups and downs we became engaged in February 2006 and immediately made the decision to move in together. It is by far the best decision we’ve ever made. Living together before marriage has allowed us to learn a lot about each other we didn’t know before and has taught us how to work together toward common goals for our future. We faced a lot of hard decisions but the key word in that is “WE” which made them easier to bear.

    I’m happy to report since the four years of our engagement we finally picked a date for our wedding and are trying to plan everything the best we can with our budget. We would love to share our story with other couples to let them know that it can work if you put the effort in. Like I said our relationship has only grown stronger from the experience. Thanks so much for your time in reading this and we welcome comments or questions. Thanks!

    Tammi & Russ

  9. Jule' Colvin says:

    I am so happy to hear your thoughts on this. My hubbie and I, married 20 years now, were just talking about the Bachelor show the other night and how the new couple announced that they would be living together and hadn’t yet set a wedding date. We commented about how years ago they never would have announced that on national TV, but now it is expected. We did not live together before we married, nor did we have sex before marriage. Instead, we dated for a year, he was 29 and I was 28, and spent time doing things together and learning to communicate. It was a struggle to wait, to be sure, but so worth it. We had both lived with others before and it never worked out. We decided that we wanted to try it God’s way. Our marriage has been so blessed as a result. We later shared openly with our children about how things went when we lived with people and then the blessings of our relationship. Our daughter, who is now 24 and is my daughter from my first marriage, followed our advice and she and her husband have a solid marriage and are expecting our first grandbaby any day. Our son is 19, yet to be determined what he will do. We have weathered so many storms over the past 20 years including financial messes, chronic health problems, and the death of a child. We truly believe that aside from our faith in God, the fact that we became best friends before we married has been the key to our success.

  10. Sandra says:

    Is Living Together a Good Foundation for Marriage?
    TWO people of the opposite sex living together without the benefit of marriage “has become a common phenomenon in industrialized societies across the world,” says the Journal of Marriage and Family. And “about half of cohabiting individuals view living together as a way to assess compatibility prior to marriage.” Seemingly, then, this arrangement “should eliminate poor matches and make subsequent marriages more stable,” notes the Journal.
    “The evidence, however, suggests the opposite conclusion,” the Journal goes on to say. “Among married individuals, premarital cohabitation is related to lower marital satisfaction, less time spent together in shared activities, higher levels of marital disagreement, less supportive behavior, less positive problem solving, [and] more reports of marital problems . . . Furthermore, compared with couples who enter directly into marriage, couples who cohabit first have a higher risk of marital dissolution [divorce].”
    As this study demonstrates, what might seem prudent from a human standpoint may in reality be very unwise. This fact underscores the truth of the words at Jeremiah 10:23: “It does not belong to man . . . even to direct his step.” How much wiser it is to look to God’s Word, the Bible, which provides much fine counsel on the subject of marriage! (2 Timothy 3:16) For example, regarding the marital relationship, the Bible says: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.”—Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5.
    Heeding that divine directive, instead of following flawed and often fickle human reasoning, greatly improves prospects for a truly happy and lasting marriage.—Proverbs 3:5, 6

  11. FosterBoys says:

    Hi Dr. Phil,

    You’ve asked the question before, “Is common sense dead”? If common sense is really just a common sense of morality, then perhaps it is. Regardless of one’s moral center, there are still things most of us can agree on — murder is wrong, assault is wrong, theft is wrong, etc. Common sense is alive and well here.

    But for those things that we all don’t agree on — like drug use, co-habitation, homosexuality, for example, we could easily both argue for the others’ lack of common sense.

    Then, there’s the more recent question you asked, “What’s wrong with people”? The easy answer? Plenty. But I think that you and I would both agree that the frustration lies less with what’s wrong individuals than with what’s wrong with the “system” and the institutions that are designed to protect us from them.

  12. Susan Buchanan says:

    I lived with my husband for 7 years before we got married. When we decided that we wanted to have a child, we got married. We have been together for 28 years now married for 21. Of course true love never runs smooth, but we were committed to making it work. People don’t talk to each other any more. Marriage is about communication and trust. If my daughter said she was going to live with her significant other, I don’t have a problem with that. I have always taught her that you can only change yourself, you can’t change the other person. That you have to talk about the important things, children, money, religion, trust, sex, etc. That Family is the most important thing. She grew up in a society where she was one of the few children that had 2 biological parents living together. She is one of the lucky ones who has not had to endure a breakup or violence. I have taught her to love herself, cause if you can’t love yourself, how could you possibly love anyone else and how could they love you. That she is a beautiful person worthy of being treated with dignity and respect, and that if people decide to treat her with anything less then they don’t deserve to be in her life. That she should treat others with dignity and respect also.

    We live in a time when things are too easily disposable. They treat relationships and marriage with the same attitude as a pair of shoes, if they loose interest in the ones they already have they will just get another pair. How sad.

    I don’t think that living together before marriage will endanger the marriage in the future. It is people’s attitudes that are the culprit. They don’t value the relationship in the first place, married or living together. With an attitude of “It’s all about me” it will never work.

  13. Dr. Phil, in my opinion, you and couple of studies on your desk very well may be right since children by multiple persons from multiple relationships is ever increasing. I won’t stop there though and I think same sex persons jumping into a lease on a house or apartment is risky business too. I’ve seen quite a few roommate catastrophes on Judge Judy. FOLKS DON’T RUN UP UNNECESSARY DEBT WITH ANYONE. Having own place with non-family member doesn’t make you mature and, in fact, very possibly… an emotional whim.

    A woman/secretary that just donated $7 Million to a college yet never owned a car and lived in a modest cottage she owned like I hope to own in my home town one day. Ladies… you don’t need a man to have a home & white picket fence and since I hear SO MANY men & women complain about kids on TV shows I don’t think having kids IS for everyone. We so need for reproduction to be taken off the entertainment list of activities.

    Think about it… Lots of folks want own place while sometimes EVERYONE in family is struggling. When if pooled funds would be better off, I repeat, WOULD BE BETTER OFF. Living with my grandmother, when I ran a print shop in a hospital, was one of my favorite times. She cooked for me & I washed dishes & we shared chores. How many guys do that? I bought her new railing she needed and couldn’t afford for her front & back porch. It was win/win.

    A win/win that perhaps I should have done sooner & longer while attending college or as long as I (and she) wanted to instead of feeling pressure of SOCIETY et al to be mature having my own place. If you need a place to stay don’t be shy to ask a grandmother or aunt living alone if you can move in. That is, if YOU plan to behave responsibly helping while there and a win/win. You can get to know each other better and ease both your and their loneliness. Interview relatives about what they’d do the same or differently and their ancestors lives while still here too.

    You will find that lots of persons who don’t have family they can live with will make you feel guilty IF you do. Yes, it is true or happened to me. “Man” told me things like “when are you going to grow up and move out.” News flash… living with someone whether a guy or a gal to have own place isn’t growing up per se’ just as studies indicate.

    This first guy I lived with ACTUALLY said, though maybe lied, that he’d asked my mother and she said okay & I’d be safer rather than home alone. I was SO hurt mom “said okay” that I did move in with him as per COMMUNICATION GAP 1) he was sort he warned her about and my rapist and 2) To not worry mom I hadn’t told her and was not doing a bang up job handling myself and getting banged up.

    I think I took hook, line & sinker being told, “My ___! Your mother works two jobs. Are you going to be a baby all your life!” Truth… he was embarrassed wasn’t circumcised & 16th child & turned down 4F by military and decided I was the person to pay for his embarrassment being bullied. “If I was a Christian I’d forgive him…” Yada, yada, yada… He was quite the manipulator I now know since no longer manipulated by him.

    I’d just turned 18… I think really that he just wanted someone to wash his BVD’s and pick up after him and that rant of his was a tantrum. I sure wish I’d known I could have joined the military then as I would have and been career like my mother’s Colonel half-brother. For some reason I thought women had to already have a skill to join.

    My advice beyond we need Emotional and Life Skill Education K-12 DAILY CLASSES about this and other life topics… (Since there are LOTS people we need to say NO to from drug pushers to pushy car salesmen to pushy etc.) Even the Navy had to teach budgeting skills to sailors DEPRESSED in 1990’s since went bankrupt from being “smooth talked by pretty sales ladies when port side”. I don’t mean for sex and watches & for other purchases etc. Anti-depressants weren’t going to teach sailors budgeting skills and both being emotionally & financially bankrupt ARE depressing.

    One thing people forget in treating depression is that DEPRESSION IS OFTEN A SIGN THINGS NEED TO CHANGE. Medication can become a codependent to keep upping the dose if persons NEVER deal with life styles that don’t mesh with their peace of mind. Whether running up financial or emotional debt. Lots of things are DEPRESSING about our society now so there you have it. A LOT needs to change… US. So if don’t want to break up and not living together first can increase chances of NOT breaking up… there’s something within control to take control of.

    1) Don’t get business tangled with others on leases etc. on an emotional whim.

    2) I had a car salesmen call me about a car my dad was trying to buy in 1990, and say, “Your dad REALLY wants to buy that car for your mom… will you do on your credit as I hate to see your mom miss out on car.” Folks straw deals are common and it is illegal and a straw deal. A deal you didn’t initiate that salesperson pushes you into for a friend or family member etc.

    FBI busted a dealership for straw deals around 1995. Yes, though, I did get a loan and got lucky that my dad did pay off car in 6 months yet very risky business and I was a nervous wreck with a several thousand dollar loan. I’ve heard of straw deals of a dealership saying if a person was “really a good friend” would get car for someone.

    DO NOT. I REPEAT. DO NOT get pushed into purchases by puffery of pushy salespersons more concerned about their commission than ANYTHING about you beyond your pocketbook. I do believe that people often do just go to look and end up signing their lives away and in a BIG mess. Dr. Phil is SO RIGHT about emotional purchases.

    3) I just got two Collies from a Collie Rescue when donating Tigger’s things there after he passed away: (Princess “Lassie” Tiggetta AND King Edward (Just Eddie) Tiggie) and maybe not the best idea… An emotional purchase grieving for my Collie mix, Tigger, that passed away January 9, 2010. So, I’d be the first to say that I definitely need to practice what I preach and don’t always.

    There’s WAY more than just drugs that people need to say NO to and, yes, living together when not married whether to someone of same sex or opposite sex can wind you up on Judge Judy. Also, a phenomenon not as common when I was growing up that is now is children by multiple fathers.

    See, we are living like things aren’t for keeps and a dress rehearsal and, no folks, this is it… YOUR LIFE. Often with no time to edit. Not sure why yet I watched Maury Povich yesterday and how sad for children that SO MANY parents don’t know who the child belongs to because so many are treating reproduction like entertainment with children paying the price of admission.

    Hindsight IS 20/20 so anyone who has a relative struggling… and you are struggling. BEFORE moving in with a friend (woman or man) to “act” like a mature adult. Why not move in together with struggling relative until you both get back on your feet. Being in a relationship with a man or woman non-family member doesn’t make you an adult and mature. Behaving like an adult and acting mature does.

    Having own place with someone else so can party and do things you couldn’t around family… Well, think about it and watch a few Judge Judy episodes of relationship catastrophes and not just with men… having same sex roommates PERIOD. True, lots on Judge Judy with family as well so well there you have it (avoid straw deals).

    THANK GOD FOR DR. PHIL for, along with hopefully “soon” Emotional and Life Skill Education DAILY classes K-12 at schools nationwide… for we sure do need Dr. Phil. Since we all aren’t all six feet plus tall and need to be empowered to stand up for self as if we were… Yes, Thank God for Dr. Phil because he covers many of the mistakes I made (we make) that I SO hope others don’t make too. I can honestly say most every bad situation I’ve been in I ignored the red flags so I hope y’all don’t and we all learn 20/20 foresight rather than find ourselves always picking up the pieces with 20/20 hindsight.

  14. In a nutshell… Personally, I think reproduction used as entertainment is the bigger issue. Simply because the activity leads to nesting feelings in women and beat on the chest Tarzan syndrome in men. Why? Because the natural outcome of reproduction whether used as entertainment or for reproduction IS offspring.

    When there are offspring you do need a nest and the man needs to man up like Tarzan to provide for. When, really, maybe we all need to man up and woman up and not “fornicate” speaking of “living in sin”. Calling it “making love” ladies doesn’t change anything if not the best time to do. (Whether living together or not.) That just occurred to me is equally valid on a Biblical scale. In other words, we were all suppose to be married not specifically before living together and before engaging in reproductive activity (period).

    Instead, though, oft times fornication stirs up all this positive nesting tendency of women and Tarzan syndrome that can be confusing and lead to confusion… living together. It is like all the sexual revolution and freedom instead is imprisoning everyone. Albeit many, such as myself, are celibate when live with someone so not sure that would equate with living in sin beyond appearances and over active imagination/assumptions. I guess that’s why they say not to judge a book by its cover… IDK…

    And women, you do have a right to say NO even if not a virgin anymore so don’t write yourself off or allow any fella to for that reason like I did.

    Truly, roommates of either sex can result in a BIG MESS and on all the network Judge shows. Moving in with someone isn’t how you get to know someone… because in the process you can get your affairs so intertwined that like experts say it “IS” VERY hard to leave for both. Even for same sex roommates. Although, knowing each other doesn’t guarantee success yet I bet the majority of times persons involved ignored red flags or, at least, I know I did.

    In fact, in my 3rd marriage… my husband’s brother and his wife had a trial marriage & priest said that they had to have an annulment before could be married in church even though trial marriage with each other. So that’s something to consider. Same priest that married us (although we got required annulments (since he’d been divorced too) and went to required pre-marriage counseling).

    Lived with both husbands first and divorced both before ten years so I guess I’m part of studies on Dr. Phil’s desk. First divorce after 3 years (remarried 1st man since grandmother said she hated I was divorced like mother etc. (married for another 6 years before 2nd divorce to same man). Church of Christ minister didn’t want to remarry us at first and he was wise because after reception that jerk slammed my face up against passenger car window and worse. Church of Christ minister did remarry us since my grandmother attended there. Not so much anymore yet divorce use to be as tabu as living together.

    Divorced 2nd person I married after 8 years. Third marriage since married twice to first person. We’ve lived together 14 years since our divorce (my 3rd & last). Been together for a total of over 20 years. We are celibate. This may be TMI yet for some reason, perhaps decreased hormones, or from all the abuse being raped before I met him etc., I just really prefer to be celibate and 2nd person I married honors that. As per being celibate, ironically, he studied to be a priest & I use to want to be a nun running a safe house for young teen girls. I think the variable that my parents divorced was part of some study too… “they” said.

  15. Anita Adamczyk says:

    My husband and I have been married 20 years (3rd time around for both of us; I guess we finally got it right) We did not live together prior to getting married but did get real about our expectations. My daughter believes in living together first. She still hasn’t found someone she can stand to live with longer than 2 years. I tried to explain that talking things over and laying ground rules is needed first, she loving smiles and says “Where’s the fun in that?” *sigh* I guess if this is the worst of my troubles, I can count myself lucky. :-)

  16. Miss Carol says:

    All you have to do is watch some of the court shows, eg: Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Alex etc. to see how disfunctional most of these people are who have lived with someone sans marriage and now hate one another and suing over pots and pans. The reason for marriage is committment which many people now days do not know the meaning of. They don’t need to try to work things out, it’s just so long been good to know ya and move on to the next physical relationship.
    Remember, getting married means taking an oath, but then again that doesn’t seem to matter much anymore either.

  17. Blgspc says:

    What Do You Mean, “Remember WHEN people talked about a couple “living in sin” and really meant it?”

    ‘Shackin’ Up’, ‘Living In Sin’, ‘cohabitation’….You can call it whatever you want BUT YOU KNOW as well as I DO that there are places- like the WHOLE REGION I live in- where you gonna have some kind, God-fearing, ‘Christians’, condemning you and then praying for your soul- (to avert your inevitable slide straight into H*LL FIRE and DAMNATION)- if you actually DO cohabitate AND they’ll do it before you can get the term ‘EVANGELICAL’ out of your mouth!

    Yep! In my neck of the woods, if you did ‘Shack Up’ or become pregnant out of wedlock you could wind up in a shallow-unmarked grave somewhere on the banks of the Waccamaw River…part of the Alligator/Buzzard’s food chain! So, it don’t really matter that those studies agree that it’s regarded as ‘unsuccessful’….Cause if you’re part of ANYTHING ELSE’S food chain you WON’T BE attending college….unless you are collected for the Biology Lab!

    This Is Brenda…Reporting From the Bible-Belt!

  18. Jay Neaves says:

    Unless you live with someone ahead of time, how can you possibly know if you can live with them in future? It is only when you know what bad habits you’re signing up to live with for the rest of your life that you can make an educated choice!

  19. Essie says:

    I wonder how many divorces were prevented from couples living together that broke up before a marriage happened.

  20. Janine Gaalswyk says:

    Why is it our society has adopted “wrong is right” and “right is wrong” ?

    There are no CLEAR and concise lines any more.

    It is wrong! God does NOT blink at sin.

    (Jeremiah 10:23): “It does not belong to man . . . even to direct his step.” How much wiser it is to look to God’s Word, the Bible, which provides much fine counsel on the subject of marriage!

    (2 Timothy 3:16) RE: Marital Relationship, the Bible says: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.”—Genesis 2:24;Matthew 19:5.

    Biblical directives, instead of following fickled human reasoning, greatly will improve the possibility for a happy and lasting marriage.—Proverbs 3:5, 6 says “TRUST in the Lord WITH ALL YOUR HEART in ALL THY WAYS acknowledge him and HE WILL DIRECT YOUR PATH.

    Our family has been affected by the “cohabitation bug” in a very destructive manner thru one of our grown children who walked away from everything she believes to fully compromising.

    As a result she became pregnant (thought she was hiding her behavior and actions from everyone) now he put a diamond ring on her finger. She is due within days and the whole thing is a mess.

    I asked her “If you were not pregnant w/his baby would you marry him?” Her answer was “no”…

    It’s all about deception.

    When you follow the flesh you will do as the flesh desires instead of making your flesh submit to the word “NO” you let it take control of everything, and then the results can be real bad.

    This is a very warm topic for me right now because of our family situation. I am VERY WORRIED about our daughter and her saftey, but I can do nothing about her decisions.

    Ok I need to stop……!

  21. i don’t see how anyone could marry someone else without first living with them, it’s such a gamble!

  22. Chris Mitchell says:

    As so many people forget these days is that people are not clones. Everybody is diffferent what might be true with couple a may or may not work with couple b. That is not to say that it won’t work or it will. I have had friends that cohabitated before they were married and turned out fine.In fact Paula (my wife of I think it will be 4 years in June) and I cohabitated before we were married and because of things beyond our control we both had to move back home for a while but we remained faithful and true to each other. Don’t get me wrong though I am not promoteing or saying that teens should be jumping in the sack with each other. I am just saying that it is possible for couples to cohabitate before wedlock and stay happily a couple “til death do they part” .Granted there may be some rough times but all couples have arguments as I am sure you know. If not then there is something wrong.With the couple I mean not with your knowledge.

  23. Linda Peters says:

    I think it saves many couples from making a mistake. We are happily married, plus one year of “living in sin” for 25 years on 3/2/10. Our original reason was to SHARE our lives. Single is often a lonely existance.

  24. Becky says:

    I think that relationships where people marry after “living together” first are more unsuccessful because people don’t believe in marriage. My husband and I have been married for going on 4 years and we did not live together before we were married. That was a conviction we both shared. I know that people make mistakes and it is possible to have a good marriage if you lived together first, but like some of the other people who have commented, I believe that doing things God’s way is best. There is a reason that He does not want us to live together and act like we’re married when we aren’t. Obviously, I don’t have to tell Dr Phil that things can get “messy” when people “play house” and when you aren’t going to commit to going the whole nine yards with someone, and you just aren’t sure and feel the need to test it out, maybe that person isn’t right for you and/or you aren’t ready for marriage. How much heartache (for the couple and any children involved) would be avoided if people would be more patient and decided to delay gratification? I think a lot…and there’s a reason why people “back in the day” used to adhere to this kind of moral code. We can look anywhere today and see the results of moving away from this standard.

  25. Toni says:

    I don’t think marriages are successful based on whether ppl lived together or not. Some ppl marry young vs. older; after 6months courtship vs. 6 yr courtship; after cohabiting vs. saving their virginity… For every couple I know that stayed married after a long engagement, I know another that didn’t. I know ppl who have had babies first and are still married, and those who had babies first and are still waiting for their wedding rings.

    The success of your marriage depends on deeper issues of respect, amongst many other things, not to mention what Dr Phil already said about discussing certain issues/topics beforehand…

  26. Emma says:

    Hey Dr Phil

    im a young woman from the uk and im in a relationship with a wonderful guy but i woud like to live with him first before i decide to marry him, i dont see it as testing our relationship, but i dont think you know someone completely untill you live with them and see how they would be like in that environment.

    I discovered this after moving in with my flatmate, i thought i knew her intimately as a friend but i soon found out that she wasnt the person i thought she was, not that i dont know who my boyfriend is i just think that people react differently in different environments

    iIwould just like a taste of how life would be living with him before i make a commitment like marriage, im a firm believer that marriage is for life and thats how i want to go into it knowing i could be with this person for the rest of my life

  27. Wendy says:

    Boy, I had to scroll down a ways before I heard about Morals! Come on, people!! As Dr. Phil would say, what’s wrong with people? What happened to self respect, morality, respect for your loved one, acting like a lady or gentleman? I’m in a wonderful relationship for 7 years. He is a gentleman and I’m a lady, and we wouldn’t DREAM of shaking up!! We have children, and are advising them to do the same. They are also very respectful of the opposite sex. We both are divorced, and not in a big hurry to get married again. We WILL get married, but when it’s the right time. I still have children at home that need my attention, and I’m not ready to re-marry. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. We know each other very well, and know what to expect. We will have a fabulous marriage. Let’s be a good example to our children, and wait to live together until we’re married. Yes, we are Christians. That’s a GOOD thing!!

  28. Michele says:

    My personal feeling is that living together before marriage is morally wrong, even though that is not a popular opinion these days. If living together is such a great way to test compatibility why has the divorce rate continued to rise over the last several decades? My husband and I have been married for 40 years. We were engaged for 10 months prior to our marriage and spent that time getting to know each other and discussing the things most important to the success of any marriage–children, religion, the handling of finances, goals–and saving the intimacy for marriage. We have had good times and difficult challenges, including an accident that left me disabled, but our commitment to each other has weathered it all because divorce was never an option we considered and I can say we are more in love now that the day we married. I for one am happy to be married to someone who felt I was worth committing himself to and didn’t feel the need to test me out first. It’s all about commitment, for better or worse. Not a popular stance in today’s world. I realize some marriages can go horribly wrong despite the best intentions, and that there are legitimate reasons for divorce, but it’s too bad that divorce has become the rule rather than the exception. Marry the one you love and love the one you marry.

  29. Theresa says:

    I personally believe that weather a relationship ends or is life long has nothing to do with if the people lived together or not before marriage. It has to do with the people involved in the relationship and the commitment they have to their relationship and each other.

  30. marie says:

    you raise some very good points here. my thoughts?

    first, i was in a hellacious marriage followed by an abusive divorce. what a loser – couldn’t let me walk away without tormenting me for over a decade. bigger losers – the courts that let him do that.

    i am still healing from what he did to me. no surprise. i am not in any relationship at all because being single is freeing me to heal however fast i want, however much i want, without someone feeling ”threatened” because suddenly, i’m no longer the terrified doormat i was just a few years back.

    with the immense pressures society is putting so many people through, it’s amazing that any relationship not only lasts but is HEALTHY. which leads to my counter-questions:

    how free are people in relationships to heal and grow? if they’re not free to heal and grow, they need to get out of that relationship.

    how happy are those marrieds, anyways? i see so many marrieds now who are absolutely miserable. they’d both be better off divorced but are too afraid of the stigma of being divorced. or they’re so co-dependent that they cannot separate their possessions, let alone separate their minds and behaviors from each other.

    denmark is one of the happiest countries on the planet – denmark has one of the highest rates of people living together vs being married.

    maybe we need to let people do whatever works for them without condemning them for their legal choices. any time any relationship doesn’t work, maybe we need to not judge them for being wise enough and strong enough to get out of those unhealthy situations.

  31. Ashly says:

    Yes I believe that you should definitley live together before marrying someone. You don’t really know who they truly are until you live with them and see how they live first hand. I met my babys father 4 years ago and he was great, then I moved in with him and he was a totally different person.

  32. Kate says:

    My husband and I have been happily married for 7 years, and we did not even consider living together before we got married. Guess what? We got to know each other the old fashioned way! You know, they way they used to do it before divorce rates began to soar? I am in my twenties, and I look around at my cohorts and cannot deny that I do critically judge those who choose to live together. To be frank, I think they immature and making an idiotic decision! I recognize that to them, their decision to live together seems wise, or maybe just what they want to do. However, from where I’m sitting it just seems a cop-out. It is an inability to delay gratification, and a chance to live out one’s own selfish desires without making any real commitment to the person they supposedly love. I just can’t fathom how it would actually be helpful to a relationship to live together with the understanding that you are doing it just to make sure the other person doesn’t bug you beyond your ability to stand.

    Where is the comfort at home when you are living (body and soul) with someone who doesn’t actually think highly enough of you to declare before God and society that you are THE ONE who they want to love and worship all their days. Why would you give your life and your heart to someone who doesn’t trust you enough to make you their family? Just seems so sad to me!

  33. Melissa says:

    My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years and living together for 8 months. It is such a relief to know that we can handle the stresses of managing a home BEFORE choosing to enter into the commitment of marriage. The “rule” of not living together before marriage is actually part of both our religious backgrounds, but neither of us feel like we are living in sin. I have to say though, neither of us chose to live together just to see if we could do it. It was a step in our relationship that we were ready to take and I think that’s an important part in making this kind of decision.

  34. Lily says:

    The world and its values are changing faster than my sheets. If a man and a woman can spend a year or more sharing, talking, getting to know each other’s hearts, respecting each other, they will have a much better chance for a lasting marriage with respect, honor, trust and love. There may be another person one is attracted to down the road. When one makes a commitment to another, he must have the integrity and discipline to look the other way, as he/she is already committed. And when problems do come, because they will, he/she must have the love, trust, strength and maturity to work it out, for better or for worse. Becoming sweet, trusting friends first while controlling sexual desires leads to greater chances couples will later remain sincere friends controlling roaming sexual desires.

  35. diane says:

    I have been living with my boyfriend for 21 years. I was married at a young age with two beautiful children.Ended up divorced .we met it just sorta happened, and we now have two children together. for years it seemed to work well. there were the normal ups and downs , but in my eyes there was something missing. The commitment that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. Im 45 years old and want someone to share more than just dinner and bed, cause after all these years thats how it started to feel. I gave up. Living together is great but after two years if you dont know what you want out of life and who you want to spend it with I think you need to move on.The really sad thing is I truly loved him I only wished he felt the same.

  36. Joyce Long says:

    I agree with you Dr Phil”
    You should never ever live together before marriage. period. Big mistake… Have I done it,, yes. Do I wish I hadnt:yes. But eventually we did marry and I regret that even more than living together. But then my situation is not the traditional live in situation. We were living in a group home when we got together, then we moved to a community living house where it was just me and him, he had a bedroom and I had a bedroom. There are many reasons we shouldnt have made that transition of just us 2 living together, but the biggest mistake was getting married.
    Dr Phil and many, many others that have studied this from pastors to physocologists are right, statistics show it will not last if you live together first. Of course being married is no guarantee of anything lasting either. So it is up to the individual as to what they choose to do.

  37. DJB says:

    Two years ago i moved out with my boyfriend. We are still learning so much from eachother. How to deal with differences, talking to eachother, and working things out. we are both still young and love that we get to know eachother. i was such a stubborn person and in the two years we have learn so much. i wouldnt change it for anything.

    but i also think about the day he asks me to marry him and then what? we already live together… what is really going to change? so i am very two sided. we already share so much with each other, that i dont really know what will make it special and how i will feel once we tie the knot.

  38. Patricia says:

    Wow. I’m overwhelmed by all the illogical logic in this thread. Here’s how I see it:

    Putting aside any moral/religious viewpoints, it’s simplistic to argue that living together, in and of itself, will necessarily lead to a good or bad marriage. For some people, living together before marriage is indeed a bad idea. Example: A woman moves in with a man hoping that it will lead to marriage, while the man sees cohabitation as a way to get around marriage. Eventually she (or her family, or society) wears him down, even though he wasn’t committed to her in the first place. Or: Two people move in together as a “test,” and then allow themselves to fall into marriage out of convenience, laziness or gutlessness. In those cases, sure, it’s a bad idea. The studies that Dr. Phil cites would indicate that these types of circumstances are rather common.

    Nevertheless, there are plenty of situations where it can be a good idea, or at least a neutral situation. Example: Two people move in together as a “test,” and ultimately determine that it’s NOT going to work. Or: Two people are fully committed to each other, and have explicitly agreed to marry, and choose to move in together simply for practical reasons. I’ve experienced both of these situations, and in both cases, I was glad I moved in with the other person. In the first case, I found out within three months that he was not prepared for commitment, and we called it quits. In the second case, I knew within weeks of meeting him that we would be together forever. He moved in with me after six months so that we could save money for our wedding. It’s been two years now. Living together has been both expedient and relationship-strengthening. I can’t imagine we would be as close if we had lived apart for the past two years. We’ll be married later this year, for all of the right reasons.

    Bottom line: When will we all learn that generalizations don’t work? Life, and people, are (thankfully) much more complex than that.

  39. Jennifer says:

    I just read this blog and so many thoughts ran through my head. When I was fresh out of high school, I had lived with 2 different boyfriends until I was almost 20. Neither one of those relationships worked and it had nothing to do with how the experience of living together went. Looking back, it just wasn’t meant to be. When I was younger, the point of living together was just so we never had to be apart. I was a young girl who put her boyfriend ahead of everyone else and who gave up everything for him. He would become my entire life and I could not do anything without him. Clearly I see things a little differently now..

    My husband and I have been married for over 4 years, but we actually didn’t live together til we got married. We lived 2000 miles away from eachother because of the military and we had to do the long distance thing for awhile.

    As far as anyone else is concerned, I think living with someone before marriage is a person choice that I would never judge. For me though, I wanted the adventure of moving in together to be a part of our experience of marriage. For me, that is what marriage is all about. Its about loving someone unconditionally and learning about how to love someone through their imperfections. I realized for me, the boyfriends that I did live with didn’t last…so just because you do make that decision, doesn’t always mean it will work out. Marriage isn’t looked at the same way it used to be. It used to be, you find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, and no matter what you face, you face it together because you are family now. Nowadays, people find one little flaw in someone and bail. Its different if the relationship becomes abusive or just completely unhealthy, but for those who walk out the door because they “aren’t happy”…

    Life is not about being happy every second. There will be times when you are sad, there will be times when you will hate your spouse and want nothing to do with them, there will be times when all you want to do is walk away. But you just suck it up, go to bed, wake up and make up. The best things in life are also the hardest and take the most work, but thats what makes it so worth it!!!

  40. Jennifer says:

    Oh I forgot to mention…what about that saying…”Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” If you move in with someone before marriage, they may make that as an excuse to never marry. Why would someone marry you if they already have everything they want from you? Just a thought..

  41. Rose says:

    The year was 1972 and if you were caught “shacking up” you would be fired from the police force I worked for, funny but true, it was against the law there.
    I did not live with my husband of 39 years before we were married, it would have broken my parents hearts and been shameful. Lord knows I was all about image then I still am to a certain extent. The good old Irish Catholic guilt kept us in line. But to be honest I do not think it would have mattered we were so nuts haywire in love, nothing could change that. However it sure does make that wedding, honeymoon, and first year all the more fun and special. I think it can be ok, if done right keep the finances seperate, move in after you both establish the relationship and both expect the same outcome. But to this day I would never “shack up”with a man, nor would I advise my three daughters to do so.

  42. Robin says:

    Dr. Phil,

    What I tell my children, now 9yrs & 12yrs old, is that God’s laws do not change. No matter how society as a whole may be normalizing cohabitation before marriage.

    I tell them the same about pre-maritial relations. That regardless of how prevelent it is in the media, in society, etc., – God does not “give in to the majority”!

    It is my duty as a parent to teach them these ground rules. I see a lot of parents these days sort of shrugging their sholders, and “going with the flow”. My kids may or may not stray when they are older. But if they do it will not be because a foundation was not laid. And, if they do, they will at least have a nagging feeling of guilt in the back of their minds, that would hopefully one day pull them back in the right direction. I will always love and accept my children no matter what. But it would be a diservice to put my stamp of approval on something that Christ does not approve of. It would not be my place to “give them permision” to feel good about doing something that breaks one of God’s commandments. If I were to give “my blessings” on this type of lifestyle, I myself would have to one day answer to my creator on why I mislead my children.

    I see a huge lack of maturity in many of society’s norms today. If you have doubts about whether or not a marriage would work, then you are likely with the wrong mate. Living together for a while will not necessarly tell you about your long term compatibility. Or how the two of you will handle illnesses, disease, terminal illnesses of loved ones needing constant care, the loss of a child, the death of loved ones, the birth of a special needs child, etc. In otherwords all of life’s unexpected challenges. For these you need maturity, respect, and a sense of responsibility.

    I think the “Key” to having the right spouse is common values. If you don’t share very similar values with your significant other, then your chances of a long term relationship are probably fairly low. Know a persons core values before considering a marriage.

    Marriage is unbelievably challenging. It is not a constant picnic, or an extended date. It takes effort, compromise, and MATURITY. If you have doubts, then trust your instinct. If you feel uncertainties about making a lifetime commitment with a particular person, then why on earth would you want to share a household with them??!

    I’ve been married for over 16 years. We did NOT live together before the wedding. I had NO doubts entering the marriage. Although my husband and I have many differences, we DO share core values. This is the glue that keeps us together through lifes ups & downs. It is not a constant bed of roses. It is called “reality”! Marriage takes constant effort. You go through pregnancies, raise children, pay bills. You have differences and face life criseses. Make certain to enter real life with someone you don’t feel like you need a “trial run” with. That feeling is a good indicator that something is not right.

    If you need more time to get to know a person (which is VERY wise), then do so while each maintaining your own residence. If there is a long distance geography involved, then move closer to eachother if you can do so without giving up your independance, but have your own place. And live within your means so you don’t feel like it makes finicial sense to get a place together. If you are indeed with the right person, an upgrade in lifestyle can come after the wedding.

    Lets all keep “the bar” high. If you are in love with someone who is not sure they want to marry you, but wants to move in with you – DECLINE. Find out now before you have to go through a custody hearing for the puppy!

  43. AC says:

    Well, Coming from the good christian girl who did not live or sleep with my husband until I was married. There are so many regrets. Not for not doing those things but the mind set that is behind that decision. It’s the difference between winning vs wooing. Couples who live together outside of a marriage commitment tend to woo their partners for the purpose of making sure their partner remembers why they are there. While married couples can tend to use “till death do us part” as an excuse to stop wooing since they feel that they already won. Who works for a trophy that is already on the mantle? It’s not the “way you do it” but “why you do it” that is important. Don’t let your reason either way be because of someones insecurity. The insecurities that we married for are the same we are separating over now.

  44. Betty says:

    The first question that came to mind was how long did the study relationships last in total, i.e. the cohabiting time plus the married time? If a couple lived together for a few years before marriage were together for a total of 10 years, that to me would be the same as a couple being married for 10 years without having lived together. So, in the study, what was the total length of all the relationships? The answer might put things in a different perspective.

  45. FosterBoys says:

    Freedom of Religion also allows for the freedom FROM it.

    Religious folks — I’m not going to shake my fist at you and tell you that you’re wrong. I’m not going to condescend to you and tell you that I feel sorry for you. I’m not going to claim that I hold the keys (or the book) to happiness or salvation.
    I respect all religious backgrounds and have almost a feeling of envy for people who have the power to believe.

    I can peacefully co-exist with you and accept our differences. Can you? Or is it that important that I go to H*** because I lived with my husband before we got married?

  46. Yvonne says:

    My fiance and I have lived together for the past (almost) 9 years. We always talk about getting to the courthouse to “get it done”, but he is an over the road truck driver and he’s not home while the courthouse is open. Anyway, it doesn’t bother us that we aren’t married, but I will say it does bother others.

    I have family members that will no longer talk to me because we “live in sin” and we had a “child out of wedlock”. They don’t see that our 7 year old son has a Dad and Mom that love each other and live in the same house where as most of his friends “visit Dad on the weekends”. I can tell you that we have caught a lot of crap not only because we aren’t married and live together, but because we don’t live a “traditional” lifestyle where Dad comes home every night. I have heard everything from, “How dare you live in sin?” to “How can he leave you alone for weeks at a time? This is hurting your child in ways you don’t understand.” *insert eye roll here*

    I always tell people who comment on our life and choices, “You don’t have to like or accept the way we live. We are a happy, loving family and that’s all that matters to us!!”

  47. Tasha says:

    My husband and I waited to live together and to have sex until we were married. Our marriage is wonderful and we have a very pure foundation. We are very proud of this. That night was very special. I think a lot of people have cheapened and robbed their relationships by living together before the sacred bonds of marriage.

  48. Aly says:

    I don’t think its a good or a bad idea. I think that no matter what, you still bring yourself into the relationship and it can still work, or NOT work. In my case, after 26 years together, 22 of those married, it still failed and although I really wish I would have gotten out myself sooner (before I found out he definitely had been cheating), I am not sure I would definitely have done so sooner had we not been married, however, dividing the stuff, the kids, and yes, the pets was something that ran through my mind as well as financial concerns. So here I am, on my own, and still sifting through it after a year, no divorce, or division of property yet…so who knows?

  49. KellyLove says:

    This is one of those decisions that each couple has to decide for themselves, and it should be based on spiritulality and cultural beliefs of the couple involved. America is so beautiful because it is so diverse. Some believe that marriage is just a contract, and living together is just the same thing minus the paperwork. Yet others, like my catholic parents, believe that marriage is a sacriment, and living together before is frowned upon. However, my husband and I kind of split the difference between my parents’ religion and our generation gap. We were engaged, and went through all of the premarrital counseling before moving in together just before our large, catholic wedding, and everyone was happy. Fifteen years later, we still are. The key seems to be to prepare, and compromise!

  50. AR says:

    I am truly surprised that people have such a hard time looking outside of themselves, and realizing that there is no ONE answer here. There are so many different factors that come into play when cohabitation comes up. The Bible Belt can scream all they want about following the Bible, but there are MANY Christians who have gotten divorced, so that is obviously not the ONLY answer here. I don’t understand why people can’t see that. I understand what the study showed, but I bet that one would be surprised at how many people would have left their marriages sooner, and been happier for it, had they known now, what they didn’t know then.

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