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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. dolly says:

    My husband and I have been married for 46 years. We did not live together before we got married and we recently had a conversation that we were proud of not living together. We decided that, had we lived together, we would never have gotten married because our first year of marriage was very difficult, but we persevered because we made a commitment to each other “for better or for worse”. We are each proud of not having sex before marriage. We think it made sex so much more special. We think we have done the right thing and that is a good feeling. We have 6 children and we have made our thoughts known to them on this subject, but that did not keep them from living together before marriage! We are sad about that but realize that we have no control over adult children. We are happy with our decision.

  2. Diana says:

    I think living together after a commitment ceremony is fine. Marriage is a business transaction. It involves the IRS and the government. Marriage was thought to be something you did in terms of religious beliefs. Living in sin has to do with religious beliefs not commitment. It is just as easy to leave a marriage as it is a living arrangement. Personal property has to be split up you just don’t need to wait for a corrupt judge and a money taking lawyer to do it for you. He doesn’t have to waste 2 or 3 years hiding his money and liquidating his life before he files and if there are kids a simple child support filing will get child support started long before a divorce is finalized because most non custodial parents don’t pay a dime until the divorce court tells them they have to. Most men leave the woman in dire straits while the divorce is being settled and hardly pay for food for the children until the divorce decree says they have to. The custodial parent has to still pay for the kids before the divorce decree is final. When the people in this country stop looking at a marriage as property ownership and putting God and religion (as in the sin part) first and take the government out of the marriage then it could be looked at as living in sin. Right now no religion all you have no sin. Just living life. Living together or not their lives are full of sin and there is no moral basis without God. That is the number one problem. We want the benefits of God but we just want God out of the picture. go figure. You should do a show is marriage a religious entity or a governmental entity. What is the problem? Without God and religion the marriage is just a big party with a legally binding contract tied to it- no sin because there is no God.

  3. Preraph says:

    I think the only reason people who don’t live together first stay together more is simply because they don’t believe in divorce because of their religious beliefs. I came from a community that was that way. It certainly didn’t mean that their long marriages were happy ones. They just didn’t want to go to hell. They were often living a grueling miserable existence.

    I do believe there is something to the old yarn “giving the milk away for free,” but I think I’d rather do that than marry a guy only to discover I’d rather not be milked at all by him….

  4. Just a quick note – been married to mama 45 years! Heh Heh! She is so blessed to have me – she says my strongest feature is my humility. I say that with head bowed – excuse me a moment,

    “Mama, I need some more ice tea – didn’t mean to interrupt you mowing the lawn.”

  5. Mailen says:

    My daughter wanted to wait till she get married to have sex. Unfortunately, she couldn’t wait and married her high school sweetheart right after high school. After leaving together for over 4 years she can’t stand him and she is miserable. They are totally opposite. She is a clean freak and he doesn’t lift a finger, she loves to go out and he doesn’t, etc.

    I have another daughter who is graduating this year. Its still a virgin but I have suggested to her to leave with her boyfriend before getting married.

    You fall in a soul mate/partnership love with a person after living many years with them. When you are just dating you love them or are in lust but years of spending day to day together, grows a bond beyond love. I believe you can date a person for ten years and still not know them until you have lived with them. Divorces are like a joke now, that’s most people way out. When you marry in that soul/mate love and understand that to God you only marry once then it really doesn’t matter whether you do it before leaving with someone or not. To me is a bigger sin to get a divorce, or stay married without being in love than waiting and getting to know the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.

  6. Gloria Usick says:

    I lived together from 1987-1993 and it did not work out.
    I felt used and had a lot of anger afterwards for the “time wasted”

    It affects who you are, I am now a single parent of two beautiful children (ages 9 and one).

    I live with my kids and pay my own bills. I agree with Dr. Phil’s comments on your blog, living together does not work and affects your life.

  7. Sarah Beauter says:

    I lived with my high school sweetheart for four years before walking away. It broke my parents hearts that I lived with someone before I married them, but had I not I would have married him and been miserable for the rest of my life. In my family there is no option of divorce. There has not been a divorce in my fathers side of the family EVER. I did not live with my husband before we got married, but then we only knew each other 3 months before we got married. He is definitely my soul mate and I wouldn’t change a thing. We’ve been married now for a little over 3 years and we’ve had our trials, but we’ve never gone to bed mad at each other and so far I have not made him sleep on the couch. Our lives are in the midst of another change now…..my mother in law passed away on Friday (3/5)….she had a lot of health issue and had lived with us our entire marriage……we’re embracing the changes. Life is all about throwing curve balls….you have to be willing to bend and compromise.

  8. Karen says:

    I strongly believe in living together before getting married. I lived with my now husband for 6 years before marrying him, and we went through all the ups and downs of a married couple, including break-ups, that we believe made our relationship stronger. It helped us realize that no matter what happens between us, we can’t live without each other. We have now been happily married for almost 6 years, are proud parents of a beautiful boy, whom we did not conceive until after we were married, and are expecting our second child in June. Our love grows stronger for each other every day, and we couldn’t imagine our lives any other way. Our worst fighting happened while we were cohabitating, and we know if we could survive that, we can survive anything together.

  9. Keith says:

    The bible cautions against living together before marriage. Sociological research indicates that you are 50% more likely to get a divorce if you move in with your significant other before marriage then if you live separately. That seals it for me.

    Also, my mom and uncle have each lived with their spouses before they got married. Neither marriage lasted 15 years.

    So… there is no chance in hell I will move in with someone before marrying them.

  10. mimosa says:

    Dear Dr. Phil,
    For many years now I have been asking my daughters what ever happened to dating. The young today go out with friends, meet someone shake hands, jump in bed and move in together. There is no dating, no getting to know one another and no romance. There just is no natural progression in their relationships. Then after about a year or two, they’re bored, the spark is gone, they find themselves in a rut and soon after that it’s you go your way and I’ll go my way. Their relationships are all based on instant gratification and no substance.

  11. Sherry says:

    Living together or not living together is not going to determine a successful marriage for that matter. What determines a successful marriage is when you give up your “Playing Games” card and give your marriage relationship your 100% attention. Then, when the kids come (and they will eventually) you will have your relationship intact before the enemy arrives. When you are single you play the deceive game with potential mates when you wear fake hair, nails, eyelashes and/or have cosmetic surgery to fix your boobs, face, or fatty deposits. When you go to these measures to hide who you really are – this is a “red flag” to you that you have more work to do. And, it is a “red flag” to your potential mates that you are completely superficial. Also, we need to stop the constant “LYING” in our personal and professional lives; do an honest assessment of yourself on a daily basis. When you really conduct an honest assessment you’ll see that we all are a hunk of confused, annoyed, distracted dirt waiting to trash someone else for their shortcomings. It’s easier to trash someone else because then you don’t have to take an honest assessment of yourself. I have been in a relationship with my husband since 2002 and after the lies, mistakes, hurtful words and actions – we realized that we really have a bond that goes beyond physical attraction; we just “get” one another and are committed to working on our relationship no matter the circumstance. When you get married you’re basically saying, “I’m handing in my playing games card” and “I’m playing the honest assessment game now.” Playing games means that you are not being truthful and you’re not finished with your juvenile behavior. Playing the honest assessment game means that you have arrived at a place called “adulthood.” If you’re still lying to yourself — you’re not an adult. If you’re still lying to your mate — you’re not an adult. Make honesty your #1 priority!

  12. Abigail says:

    It’s hard to say what I will tell my 2 daughters when they grow up and find themselves in relationships where they will question whether to live with or live without. From the time I was their age until now, society has changed, and though the basics of the Bible are forever (meaning God’s law doesn’t change from one era to the next) humanity changes and what was not acceptable then is acceptable now, etc. I’d hate to think what the changes are gonna be when they reach their time. I myself did not live with but did have premarital sex with my ex-husband of 14 years….we divorced and am now living with my boyfriend of 3 years. Is it right? Is it wrong? Who besides God judges the heart? I think every relationship has it’s own right to what’s wrong and right for that couple. I don’t know if I’m afraid of marrying and afraid of getting divorced again and going thru the hassel that I’m still going thru legally with my ex (the sale of our home), even though we are good friends or if I’ve just grown used to the idea that we’re together and everything we have is OURS and what’s the point of getting married. We’re committed, what does a piece of paper change……not really sure.

  13. Rhonda says:

    I think that living together before marriage is only a good idea IF you are engaged first. My husband and I moved in AFTER he proposed. We lived together almost 2 years before we got married. We did NOT just slide into marriage. As a huge fan of your show (I have watched since the first episode) I know about the marriage discussions couples need to have. We have had all of those discussions and more. We have now been happily married for almost two years.
    As I said I think cohabitation is only good if you are already engaged. I would never have moved in with him if he hadn’t proposed. I see no reason to “try living together” if you have no plans to marry and make it for the long hall. Just my two cents.

  14. Lisa says:

    In 1978 at 18 years of age, I moved from Ohio to Florida to be with my soul mate. We celebrated our 30th anniversary last spring. My parents were conservative Christian & We lived in sin from December through May until we could get a long holiday weekend to come back home to get married. It was a geographical, financial arrangement at that time. But every single phone call home included the question, when are you getting married? It was a great test for our relationship because we nearly starved to death trying to support ourselves, but we learned so much about each other through the struggle. We have struggled for years financially because we both put off a college education for love. I would not change a thing! We are still in love & living together only strengthened our commitment to succeed. We raised two children & one lived together at college for financial reasons & I am happy to report they married & are one year into their life together. I don’t believe it makes a difference if you live together or not. It is the committment to each other that makes the difference!

  15. Okay, Dr. Phil – here’s the thing. I completely agree that the convenience aspect of moving in together before the couple knows who they are and their purpose can lead to an almost inevitable separation, or at least a severe conflict. Most people grow up learning how to either avoid conflict or be overly aggressive in creating conflicts. Few people know how to work through conflict. There’s an art to this, and most couples only learn this when it’s too late (look at the work of John Gottman – whose studies show that most couples wait to get help only when it’s too late). In this way, I don’t know if it’s the moving in aspect, as much as it is how to be a couple and where to take the relationship. To me, we must watch the flow of money. If you are merging your money and your home (and therefore living expenses) without consciousness, you are headed into codependency – which is for many, as difficult to break through as a drug addiction. Gotta learn how to work through conflict. It’s empowering, it’s a release and the safety created leads to passion and purpose.
    Michael Sherman

  16. Tania says:

    Dr. Phil, I think that living together before marriage is a good idea. There are things that you don’t learn about someone until you spend that much time together. I have been married for eight and a half years and knew my husband only 6 months before we got married. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that if we had lived together before marrying, I would not have married him. Having said that I feel that waiting and getting to know each other for more than 6 months would have also revealed the things that are causing the problems in our marriage today. My advice to our daughter will be to allow enough time to know everthing about her potential spouse before deciding to marry him. If this means living together then so be it.

  17. Sandra says:

    Statistics don’t lie. I don’t know if this subject is really up to debate when as my Grandma would say”the proof is in the pudding”. Still trying to figure out what that means exactly.

    Living Together Before Marriage
    “Parents who lived together before they married are almost twice as likely to separate,” states Canada’s National Post. Heather Juby, coauthor of a study conducted by Statistics Canada, said that researchers expected to find that having a child was a symbol of the parents’ commitment to each other. “But,” she noted, “the couples that are more open to cohabitation are also more open to separation.” The researchers found that 25.4 percent of those who cohabited before marrying separated, compared with 13.6 percent of parents who did not live together before marriage. “People who live together first have less stable relationships,” says Juby, “because people who were prepared to [co-habit] are people who perhaps value less the commitment to marriage.”

    A recent report in the Journal of Marriage and the Family found that “couples who cohabited before marriage reported lower quality marriages, lower commitment to the institution of marriage, . . . and greater likelihood of divorce than couples who did not cohabit.”

    According to Le Monde, a Paris daily, marriage is on the decline in France. The trend over the last 20 years shows that more and more couples are choosing to live together without the benefit of marriage. The National Institute of Demographic Studies in France reports that at least half of those who get married have already been living together, in some cases for several years. Many couples may think that living together before marriage increases the chances of success in marriage, but the facts show otherwise. Le Monde notes that “living together prior to marriage does not strengthen the soundness of the marriage union” and that such “unions appear less solid because they end more often in separation.” Statistics show that couples who live together before marriage end up getting divorced more than those who do not.

    “The overall association between premarital cohabitation and subsequent marital stability is striking,” states a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The dissolution rates of women who cohabit premaritally with their future spouse are, on average, nearly 80 percent higher than the rates of those who don’t.” The study included 4,996 Swedish women between 20 and 44 years of age, some of whom had lived with their mates before marriage and some of whom had not. Sweden’s rate of cohabitation before marriage is three times that of the United States. “It appears that people who cohabit premaritally are less committed to the institution and are more inclined to divorce than people who don’t live together,” said Neil Bennett, one of the report’s authors.

    When a man and a woman live together as husband and wife without benefit of a legal marriage, how long does that relationship last? Statistics from Norway and Sweden show that “half of the paperless marriages do not last over two years, and 60 percent to 80 percent of them break up in a maximum of five years,” reports the French daily Le Monde.

    More than half the couples who marry in the United States are already living together. Such couples are up to twice as likely to divorce as those who marry before living together.—PSYCHOLOGY TODAY, U.S.A.

    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]

  18. Angelica says:

    My boyfriend and I have known each other for about 8 years now. He is my best friend and the only person that I can connect with. We have been living together for about 2 years now and I don’t really see anything wrong with it. I would rather get to know the person better living with him than having someone that I just married that I have no idea what his living conditions are going to be like. It just makes more sense that way. Marriage is a huge commitment. When I feel the need to get married then I will do it, but until then I feel comfortable with my boyfriend living with me.

  19. kate says:

    dear dr phil,

    i strongly believe in the idea of not living together or having intercoarse until after your married. i mean whats so special about your wedding day if you already have two kids and been living with your patner for 2 years. normally marriage opens up a new “unexperienced’ world. if youve been living with a patner before a marriage for the reason of “i want to get to know them’ doesnt meen any thing if your living together just to learn more about each other i believe is nonsense. marrying someone doesn’t mean you totally dont know the person. i mean ofcoarce marriage is a big commitment you need to make sure you really are ready to face this “new” world. it sounds weird to me if a patner asks the person hes been living with for 2 years (for example) “do you want to get married now” i mean whats new or special is it the new appartment you love etc. how weird would it be taking a wedding day photo and your pregnant. i mean seriously wedding dresses for pregnant ladies are going to be designed soon!

  20. Anita says:

    The statistics seem to show that if couples live together before marriage, their marriage has less of a chance of surviving. On the other hand, statistically, people who marry and then live together, don’t seem to have much more of a chance of a good marriage, I have heard that one in two marriages fail. For me, personally, my husband and I never even considered living together before we were married. He asked me to marry him and I said yes-going on 36 years. We’ve been very fortunate. That’s not to say we didn’t have sex before we were married. But,back then, around here anyway, it was still a bit taboo to live together before marriage. I would have been embarrassed to have lived with him before marriage. It would have mattered to me what his parents and my parents, and the community at large, thought about it. What I think is, it depends on the couple who are living together, thier ages, and many other factors, when living together. And with the high rate of failing marriages, I’m not sure living together really has any more negative effect on whether or not a marriage fails, than to legally get married and have a license.

  21. Barbara says:

    Dear Dr. Phil:

    Our beautiful wonderful only child informed us by email that she and her ’soulmate’ would be cohabiting. Since that day, we have been literally estranged for her. She was raised in a loving home with wonderful family and friends and was brought up in the church. However; since having him in her life; we have watched her change 180 degrees into nearly a stranger. She has been hospitalized twice due to anxiety attacks, sought professional counseling and has rarely come home to visit or call. Now….no contact. We are hurting so much and are so broken. Her 28 is like a 12 year old with an 18 year old. He is 34 and did nothing for nearly 13 years after high school. His family and character are less than desirable as his friends. His controlling and manipulative ways have had a negative impact on our daughter. Yet she defends and believes everything he does and says. Because she is in “love”. Now he has moved in with her. We love her and miss her terribly and are silently dying. This is not who she is. We have watched her promising career be abandoned and her settle for a job. What and where do we go? It is so sad.

  22. lifeflows says:

    Well your asking the wrong person when you ask me Dr. Phil. I am 50 years old, divorced. I was married for 18 years. My ex-husband and I lived together for 9 months before we got married. But we were engaged then and we always had the intention of getting married.

    But during the course of my marriage and after it ended, I have come to have pretty much no respect for the institution of marriage, and I have now stopped dating men entirely because I am sick of the crappy ways they treat me. I no longer believe that there is a good man out there for me, or any woman. I’ve had too many bad experiences and heard too many stories from other women.

    So the rest of the world can date, marry, believe as they want, I think the chances are quite high that they will end up very disappointed in whatever they do with a man… marry or live with him, date him, or just know him.

    I’m a big fan of your work and your show Dr. Phil. I’ve learned tons from you over the years. But when it comes to the usefulness of relationships… you’ve lost me. I’ve been badly mistreated too many times and heard too many similar stories from other women. It makes me sick to even think of dating again. So whatever a couple does about living together or getting married… good luck to them :)

  23. Fortlady says:

    I am not against living together but I have to agree with Dr. Phil that when they do marry it doesn’t last long. There doesn’t seem to be enough committment to fight for the marriage. If you start off married you are far more likely to be willing to make it work rather than just give up on it.

  24. Ann Doyle says:

    For all the practical reasons he gave, Dr. Phil is exactly right: living together is not a recipe for determining if your partner is the spouse of a lifetime. And studies have been out for many years that show higher divorce rates among live-ins than among those who waited until marriage to share a home.

    But beyond the nuts and bolts practicality (what if she gets pregnant, if we split it’s such a hassle to divide everything again, why should we spend time getting to know each other when we can just have sex, why should he marry her when he’s already getting the sex, etc.), there are huge emotional and theological reasons for saving the joint lease until the wedding.

    And there are actually quite a few people who still raise eyebrows–and bandage their broken hearts–when their children move in with sweethearts. These would be, in general, conservative Christians and Catholics. These are people who understand the monumental nature of giving yourself completely to someone, physically and emotionally. You don’t do it as an experiment.

    Pope John Paul II’s famous work, the Theology of the Body, explains why man and woman were meant to come together in a complete, glorious, and permanent union. The critical nature of understanding our sexuality and how to use it is made even more accessible in Christopher West’s Q&A version of the pope’s book, The Good News About Sex and Marriage.

    Anecdotally, my husband and I have photographed many weddings. We could always tell the (few) couples who were not living together before the wedding. They were excited and joyful on the big day, consistently unlike those fiancees who had put down the same address for their contact information months earlier. For the latter, the wedding seemed a formality to accomplish, not the beginning of a great adventure. We always left those weddings sad for what that couple had missed.

    Thanks for asking.

  25. Chuck Fitzgerald says:

    My wife and I lived together for four years before we got married. At the time, we were young, not ready for the full Monty so to speak. Money was an issue as was my unwillingness to take the commitment step. I wanted her to be sure of what we were getting into. I was a wild child, she much more stable, I was not going to change and I felt it was only fair to her to be open and honest. So yes, we needed to test the water.
    I had seen many of my freinds rush into marrage for many reasons and burn up within a couple of years. I have always felt that marrage should be for ever and wanted to give our relationship that oportunity. When I did ask her to marry me, most of those same issues were still present,but we had been working on them together. My proposal was of conveniance as her brother was getting married and family would already be around.
    Our marrage is far from conventional, always has been. I live in a neighboring town during the week,so I can work, we keep our bank accounts seperate. I still run with my wild crowd, she, more sedate. Our marrage is strong, because of the trials we have worked through, and that process started with living together.
    We will celebrate our 25th on paper aniversary this year. Our son is a happy and strong minded young man. We are active in our comunity and love our life. It works for us, mostly because we work for it. So in conclusion, even though we know that alot of our choices were not right for most, we made the comitment when we moved in together, to search out the answers, be honest and stay together because we want to be together. For ever.
    Love the show, the world is a better place when we are tough and open, you do that proud. Sincerly, Chuck Fitzgerald

  26. Doug says:

    This study you site Dr. Phil just blows my mind because I’ve always heard and believe that you never really know somebody until you live with him or her. On the other hand, if both individuals are completely honest, what a concept lol, with one another and if they are willing to go into the relationship open minded and with a spirit of acceptance of the other person, then it can definitely work without a pre-live-in arrangement.

    Personally, I would absolutely love to marry my live-in sweetheart! We both met on your web site 6 years ago and are huge fans of yours. We both strongly believe in your philosophy that people with nothing to hide, hide nothing so from the get go we were absolutely honest with one another. That was vital for our relationship to work because at the time we lived over 1,200 miles away from each other. So I’m in debt to you Dr. Phil for giving me my Robin. :)

  27. Wendy says:

    I met my soulmate at the age of 15. He was 20 years old then. We didnt start out our relationship based on sex. He was actually of afraid of me that way! We went on simple dates to the A&W and malls and dinners and movies. Life seemed easier then but we spent so much quality time communicating and learning about each other that I knew he was always going to be in my life and I in his life.
    I quit school at 16 ,ranaway from home to be with him and yes i did get pregnant. We moved from friend to friend and sometimes we had no where to go just so we could be together. I wouldnt change one thing about our life starting out even up to now with or without the hardtimes. We lived together for a year and I wanted to get married before the baby was born and it took my parents several months before they signed my papers to get married. Despite all the opsticles which got in the way we worked together and we have been happily married going on 32 years. We raised 3 kids and have grandchildren. I believe marriage is a lifetime committment and it takes two making it work all the time. I am satisfied with my decision to live together but even more content with being married to my Soulmate.

  28. Stephanie Comalander says:

    Dear Dr. Phil,

    The matter of cohabitation before marriage, in my opinion, is entirely dependent upon the two people involved in the relationship. For example, me and my “significant other” (or whatever YOU want to refer to him as…I usually just call him my husband because it’s easier), I think the last 9 years of our relationship, though rocky, has reaped a benefit from not actually going through and involving the government in our relationship by getting a marriage certificate.

    We have had a rough time trying to find our “niche” as far as our roles in the relationship. Which, yes, I admit a lot more of the whole “dating” thing would have helped. If I knew then what I know now, kind of thing, I’d have most definintely waited to move in with him. However, marriage wouldn’t have been an issue. He’s been married before. I’ve not. Do I wish that I’d have been able to be involved in a nice wedding? Sure, it would be nice, but so is knowing that I didn’t blow a year’s salary on ONE DAY. It is something that I can live without. I’m not going to go to my grave regretting it. Besides, a wedding, though you’re told it’s all about the bride and her groom…well, it’s really for the guests. Sure, there were times I thought we were going to be finished for good, as far as the relationship. I tell you what. I was so glad that I wouldn’t be paying for a divorce! However, we worked it out. We have been together for 9 years, 10 this December. I support the family, while he is a stay at home father. He does a good job. He isn’t perfect, but he’s genuine in what he does. He takes care of me and our 2 kids. He makes sure they get up for school, gets something to eat, gets dressed, brushes their teeth, and all of that morning stuff. He never undermines me and I don’t undermine him. We won’t fight in front of the kids. To tell the truth, we’ve hardly fought in about the last 2 years. We disagree, but we have learned each other’s limits….something we couldn’t have done if we never lived together. However, I don’t agree that this arrangement is for everyone. It’s all really a personality thing and a personal issue. If a person’s primary reason for living together is finances or something other than an intent to stay with that person, then they are in for trouble. One thing remains evident though as well. There are major discussions a couple should have prior to living together such as money, children, housework, yardwork, where you want to live, where you see yourself in 10 years, and so forth. So, in closing, marriage isn’t really the issue…it still boils down to what kind of relationship you have with your partner.

  29. Sandra says:

    I’m curious what Dr. Phil says to his sons about this topic, funny he did not mention it in his blog as he many times opens up with how he raised his sons. Just be interesting to know how he has dealt with this subject.

  30. Heidi says:

    In my opinion if a man is committed enough to me to share my bed everyday, share the good times and bad, and share in all the financial and legal responsibilities of cohabitating with me, then he should love me and be committed enough to marry me. If my partner is not committed enough to marry me at the point when he wants to cohabitate with me, then there is something lacking in the relationship already and we need to work through those things before progressing our relationship to that point.

    Relationships don’t end because someone didn’t squeeze the toothpaste tube in the right place it is due to something more significant missing in the relationship so moving in together outside of marriage is not going to “seal the deal”.

    Couples who live together are setting themselves up for failure. It is well known that a healthy relationship is one where you accept the person as they are. When you live together outside of marriage, you are saying that’something isn’t right, whether that be timing, your partner, finances, yourself, etc. isn’t right and that “something” needs to change before you will make a marriage commitment. This means you or your relationship is not a healthy place and has no chance of being successful.

    Living together just means you are expending your time, energy, emotions, resources, finances, for something that has no full return on your investment. It is the emotional equivalency of trying to win the lottery and the pain you are setting yourself up for is equal to that of a divorce.

    With so many couples living together is it no wonder why our divorce rate is so high? If people are living for months and years in unhealthy relationships filled with denial and co-dependency, when the time comes for them actually to marry, whether it be between themselves or a different partner would not these attitudes also carry over into marriage relationships? I would love to see the statistics on how many relationships that have succeeded past living together. My guess is that it would be in a 10 percentile range.

  31. Martin Whatley says:

    I dont think that living together before marriage or while being engaged is such a bad thing me and my fiancé are currently doing exactely the same thing…yes relationships get tested but if you love you partner enough and if its really love and not lust or anything else then the relationship will endure…tradisionally it would be unacceptable but lets be honest times have changed…living together before marriage doesn`t mean that the relationship or marriage for that matter can`t be successful, but I do agree with you on certain points that you pointed out Dr. Phil

  32. Christina Behm says:

    Well Dr. Phil, I currently live with a man, who by the way is wonderful, we have been living together yes I said living together for 5 years now, he cleans, does the laundry, cooks I really don’t have to do anything. We are both currently layed off, drawing our unemployment to make our monthly morgage payment. We live in Illinois, where he met me and his family lives in Michigan, but to this day I have not met a single family member … they kno bout me, but I have not met them. We are now talking about marriage, but still I have not met his mother…… so I don’t think you should live with someone til u are married, cause he is gettin everything he wants now so why marry?

  33. Sheryl Tompkins says:

    I am no saint…I got engaged and my mother ( I was 28yrs old at the time) said we couldn’t marry with her blessing (which ment a lot to me) until we lived together for minimal a year. We also dated for over a year. So we did and he was sweet and thoughtful and kind to my children. We got married and he was the same way for the first couple of months. Our honeymoon room he gave to his oldest son and gf and we had to sleep in his tracter trailer bunk. After we got married he never remembered our anniversary, mine or the kids b’days, was rude and nasty to us all. Our sex life went down the drain and he never wanted it. I stuck it out for 3 1/2yrs and finally called it quits when his gf called me thinking I’m the nanny/housekeeper wanting to know where he was. The same day I hired a lawyer and had the seperation papers filed.

    I was brought up that it tis til death do you part. Only the marriage was distroying me and my kids. I was not my happy everyday self. I was a homecare worker and when my client looked at me, always smiled at work no matter what type of person, said my eyes looked lost in sadness. That was the wake up call for me…..I couldn’t even fool my client that nothing was wrong. I am still married to him and live on the opposite side of the country from him. WE are legally seperated and that is the way I have left it.

  34. A.R. says:

    When I was 18 years old I met the love of my life. We lived 5 hours away from each other and dated long distance for 3 years, two of which we were engaged. We married at 21 and have been married for 12 years. We did not live together until after we were married. If we had, we would never have married each other! All couples go through a difficult time when first living together, but we had made a religious and legal commitment to each other and worked through our issues. We could have walked away because it was “too hard”, and believe me sometimes it was tempting. When you are living together without the bond of marriage it is so much easier to just give up and not put in the work required of a relationship. We have four beautiful children and I think we are better parents because we can’t just walk away from them when it gets too hard, either. We learned in those early years how to live with different personalities. My siblings both lived with their spouses before marriage and they have more disagreements and relationship issues than we ever did. I stress to my children that marriage and sex are gifts from God meant to be shared with one person and that my hope for them is that they will find joy in those gifts. Adam was given Eve, not Eve and another woman hanging around just in case things didn’t work out.

  35. Kristin says:

    Hello, I am a 27 year old, single mother of 2. I have a little boy who is 2 and a little girl who is 10 months. I just walked away from a horrible marriage on Dec, 31st. He was very abusive and I was afraid he would kill me. I left with my children and moved in with my sister, her 4 children, and her husband. She told me that my son wouldnt be in the unfinished basement because he has bad asthma. I believed her. Well needless to say we are in the basement and we are also in and out of the hospital. I am a stay at home mother, trying to get a job and trying to keep my child healthy. I dont have a job at the moment. But I am looking everyday, I am trying everyway I can find to get out of this house. I have tried get intouch with DrPhil and Oprah hoping just maybe they would want to help. But after trying to get help from DrPhil for almost a year and still getting nowhere. I am going to try again here. I am a single mother with no car and no help. I would like to know if there is anyone out there that would want to help a domestic violence survior, single mother help her children with a home. A HEALTHY HOME! I am not asking for a manison because that isnt me. I dont want a bentley because that isnt me either. I would like a home close to my sister because family is everything to me. My sister is my best friend she has helped me so much more then I could ever repay. If there is anyone out there that can help us. Donatation, charity help, and assist a single mother. I am looking for a hero or a miracle at the hands of a stranger. I am begging and plendy for someones help. Thank you for listening.

  36. Joyce Stewart says:

    Dr. Phil, Thank You for sharing this article because it brought this subject up between my 14 yr old son and I. I was shocked by his views…WOW! Where did he get those ideas??? All I know is that what I explained to him is that in order for his dad and I to become parents we had to go through a 9 month process with EACH child!! We couldn’t just have sex and then have a baby…God, the creator of us all, knew what we needed and we needed that time to prepare ourselves, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, financially, academically…you name it…there was so much preparation/growth/maturity that neeeded to be done on our part, not just the babies’. I honestly believe that a MARRIAGE is just like that…in that there are so many things a couple need to do during that UNIQUE, hopefully once in a lifetime phase, that they can’t accomplish in any other way. If the baby is born before it’s due….there are some and sometimes many complications….so it is with the marriage. GOD who created not only heaven and earth, but Marriage and People too…knew what He was doing when HE created the BIBLE…Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. He knows what is best for all of us AND he knows what will hurt us and that’s what He tries to help us avoid when he tells us “Thou Shalt Not”….. God’s ways are not man’s ways…but they are the BEST WAYS and if that’s not obvious by now…then I guess there is no hope here on earth. It seems no PROFESSIONALS believe in Engagement either these days….so what’s the big deal? I don’t see books telling engaged couples WHY this is an important part of their lives and WHAT needs to be done. But it’s obvious…that the “Treat Each other like a Used Car lot philosophy” isn’t working out so well!!! And just so you know…I’m only speaking from 20/20 Hindsight. I’ve spent 24 years in a VERY Hard marriage because we didn’t do it right and we’re still suffering the consequences which has set a bad taste in our 8 kids’ mouths. Our Christian Testimony has suffered and somethings in life really don’t change…no matter how hard one person tries. When a woman/girl is easy to bed she gives up her ability to have a sacred influence on her husband. They may have awesome sex but he feels trapped and maniuplated by her other needs and he’ll tell her she’s high maintenance for the rest of her life….making her feel guilty and ashamed for having God given needs. But when a foundation of a relationship is Built on Trust Respect and Friendship…a man will pursue the one he desires and honor her with the Respect he feels for her and she will be his confidant and advisor.He will care what she thinks and seek to meet her needs because He believes she’s His greatest Benefit (Not his only problem)..and they will work together to build a relationship called a “WE” not just a you and me. They will nuture that WE and it will grow stronger than either of them alone could have grown on their own by desiring to make each other the best they can be! Marriage is meant to be 2 people coming together for the benefit and growth of both…not the parasitic relationship of feeding off each other for selfish gains. There is a huge difference!!! atleast in my opinion. I’m so old fashioned as you can tell by the number of children I have….that I believe people should get married young, grow up together and in the process grow old together but that doesn’t fly in this society because of the Economic Impact of making money off the teenagers and college aged people. But don’t worry…none of my kids take my advice anyway. Just like their dad! (You SO have my permission to edit this anyway you want.)

  37. Haifa says:

    I think that every human personality has it’s own weakness , some people are not strong enough to deal with day to day challenges on the personal psychological side ore social side , that’s why people needs a clear well lighted pathway and that pathway is the marriage , people especially women are easy target and can take advantage off easily ,outside the marriage there are no rules to be follow or clear and standard way to deal with day to day problem.
    That ,s why I think people (especially women ) should be more careful when it,s come to cohabitation and to love smart ( as you said Dr.Phil ) .
    And like the whole universe every thing needs its own rules love dose.

  38. K says:

    I totally agree with Dr. Phil on this one.

    I have lived with 2 previous boyfriends who I was engaged to but never reached marriage. We got engaged after living together. It didnt feel special because it was still the same day to day and frankly marriage only signified a piece of paper. I am with my current boyfriend of 2 yrs and recently moved in together. I see him getting everything for free basically without putting forth his intent to marry me. Why would dish out money for a ring or a wedding when it will have no real effect on our current lives or change our day to day? It almost feels like we are roommates with benefits (hardly ever i might add). The spark has definitely dulled and there is nothing to look forward to in terms of the excitement of marriage.

    I definitely say, get the ring and set the date. Then go move in. It will make it that much stronger and that much more of a solid commitment

  39. Maureen says:

    I am intrigued by these studies as EVERYONE I know who lived together before marriage is still together and most of those who married without this experience are divorced. My husband and I lived together for 3 years and have been married for 34 years. My sister and her husband lived together for 5 years and have been married for 29 years. The longest living together time period before marriage amongst my family and friends is 11 years and the shortest is one year. I only know one couple who lived together, married and then divorced. They have since both found new partners and after living together with the newbies got remarried and one couple is cellebrating 21 years of marriage and the other 8. Amongst family and friends the longest marriage (no living together) before divorce is 18 years and the shortest is 4 months. I can only speak for myself (and my sister because we both had the same experience) but the moment I saw my future husband I knew that he was the one – that I had already loved him forever – and actually I wasn’t even excited, just knew. He in turn said he knew too and in fact proposed to me ten minutes into our first date. When you KNOW a legal certificate isn’t necessary. Except of course if you were trying to buy a house 37 years ago. Banks were not big on couples living together.

  40. Eartha Sobolewski says:

    My husband and I have been married for 5 years. We did not live together before we got married, as we knew that marriage would mean the greatest commitment to each other and, therefore, the greatest love that we could give each other. We still try to love each other as much as possible through what we do and say, just as on the day of our wedding. Some times have been tough, but overall we have a happy marriage. (We are not unhappy because we feel we are ’stuck’ with each other- I love being stuck to my husband! :) )

  41. Katerina says:

    Dear Dr Phil,

    i’m Katerina and i live in Greece.
    I believe that it’s really important to know someone better before getting married.
    How could someone be your husband if you don’t get each other well at home?
    In Greece it’s really common to move in before marriage and check out if you can get along.
    Anyway, marriage could be like a type of lottary. Either you win, or you lose, you never know what’s going to happen and you’re never sure for anyone!

    Have a nice day!

  42. Liza says:

    I’m just wondering if marriage is that much more important in the US, then for instance (where I come from) the Netherlands. My ‘boyfriend’ and I bought a house about two years ago. Why? because we love each other, we wanted to be together. We didn’t need to get married for that, before moving in together. I liked it best how my mom stated it; “would you’ve been living 30 years ago, you’d be married now before moving in together”. I think a lot of people of my generation (fyi, I’m 25 my partner is 30) live together, instead of getting married. And off course, is this always a good thing, are people doing it for the right reasons? probably not always, but there are a lot of people also who are not getting married for the right reasons..

  43. Sharon says:

    Hi Dr. Phil;
    Personally, I can’t tell my children not to live with someone without marriage,because that is what I have been doing since my youngest son was 3 months old. He is now 14 years old and we are still not married. We don’t intend to get married. We have both been there before and it doesn’t bother either of us not to be married. I wouldn’t tell them not to get married, and I wouldn’t tell them not to live with someone without marriage. I would tell them to do what is right for them and their partner. You have to do what is right for you, not what is right because everyone else thinks it is. You have to live with your decision (and your mate) not everyone else, but it does have to be a decision that you make together, not just one of you deciding….
    Just my thoughts… thanks for listening.

  44. Judy Pyrkosz says:

    Dear Dr. Phil,

    Thank you for bringing up this question. I’ll admit to being a bit old-fashioned about this topic. Everytime I hear of someone living together I wonder how they will end up. It seems to me that just living together makes marriage not special; just something else to slide into and out of.

    I did not live with my husband (35 years) before marriage and am still wonderfully in love with him. Our marriage day was a very special celebration marking a new chapter in our lives and we took it very seriously; divorce is (and was) a very last solution to problems.

    My daughter’s husband (5 years now) lived with another woman before he met her. The girlfriend and he slid in and out of each other’s lives and were rarely happy. When he asked my daughter to move in with him, she asked how did it work out the first he tried it – and, of course, said no.

    Marriage before cohabitation is a social institution developed over hundreds of year’s for the best chances of making it work. Everyone would do well to consider the past before throwing out conventional mores.



  45. Laurie says:

    I have been married and divorced twice before and lived with each of them before marriage and it really seemed more like a convenience arrangement, rather than a love and lifetime commitment. I married the love of my life after dating only 2 months and could not be happier. We are older and wiser this go around. We also respect each other’s differences and do not have unreasonable expectations. I love him more each and every day. We could have lived together, but we chose to set an example to my daughters who are 9 and marry each other and weather the ups and downs that every married couple faces in the early days of marriage. The differences in each other’s lifestyles. That is what makes us love each other more. I am trying to make sur ethat my girls get married and do it for love and their relationship is with the soulmate, their lifetime partner.

  46. Dianne says:

    Dr. Phil,
    This is an interesting question today. In 1977 I moved in with my boyfriend who then proposed 1 week later. We married 6 months later and remained married for 23 years and divorced 9 years ago. I honestly do not think it matters if you live together or not because relationships may or may not work out. I think it matters about your initial committment to each other. Today it seems children move in together due to financial reasons instead of commitment issues. My 30 year old daugher married 5 years ago without living with her boyfriend . I applauded her for that decision. My 22 year old daugher moved out and moved in with her boyfriend and does not know if she will ever marry. Who knows with kids today? I do know at my age they need to make their own choices and live with the results.
    As a 55 year old woman I think why should I ever marry again? I honestly think the only reason would be based on faith reasons. But it is hard to trust again so I will probably just live together again.

  47. Angie says:

    I do not think you should cohabitate prior to marriage. If you really “love” one another, you are willing to make sacrifices until you make the total committment together. The first year of living together is hard.. but it is a memorable year as husband and wife in making the transition into marrriage. Even though my husband and I had a child together one year “prior to” our marrriage… I promised my father that we would not live together until we were married. I am so glad I listened to my father.. I truly left my mother and father and cleaved to my husband… just as the bible states. Anyone can live together.. but joing together into marriage and in the home is a truly special and memorable time together!

  48. heather says:

    I totally agree with you Dr. Phil. If the couple needs to test their relationship, then there are issues that need to be resolved before the couple gets married. Cohabitation is a normal affair these days. I am only 28 and lived with my soon to be ex-husband before marriage… Well, as you can see, he is soon to be an ex. Something is not working here and these people need to pay attention to their gut feelings. Living sith someone so that you are “STUCK” is not the answer. DONT DO IT!!!!!

  49. Bev says:

    All any of us can do is speak from our own experiences and give our own religious opinion. It is not for one person to decide for every one else how o live their life. What works for one may not work for another. I have lived with some first and others I didn’t. They all ended anyway, so I don’t think it much matters.

    I had to laugh sooooo hard when reading some of these replies. I THINK THIS GOES FOR THE COUPLES MARRIED 30 PLUS YEARS ESPECIALLY!!!! You do not have to live together to have SEX!!!! I have heard a lot of you say things like, we waited to have sex till we were married. I can guarantee you, if your “adult child” is moving in with someone before they are married…..THEY HAVE ALREADY HAD SEX!!!!! In today’s time, sex is the prerequisite to living together and living together is a prerequisite to marriage.

    Bottom line is……people in general are dangerously moving away from any morals as we are having religion moved further and further away from us. People just do not care about what they do what they say or how they do it……only that they are doing what they want. There is no regard for others and people do not hold themselves up to higher standards….there are no standards anymore.

    Earth is going to hell and not in a hand basket anymore….just straight down and real fast. That’s my opinion.

  50. Scarlett says:

    On the old cohabitation question…..well, after being married for over 20 years to a cheating and verbally abusive man, it became almost a prerequisite for me. The only hesitations I have are because of my upbringing. I know that my family and the community in which I live are all terribly appalled that I would choose this route, however, I am a grown woman and very hesitant to repeat the marriage route without first investigating whether the person with whom I am involved is worthy of my faith and trust. I feel the only way to truly know someone is to live with them, so that is how I view it. As for the marriage question, we do plan on getting married. At this juncture, I am the hold up on that one. I just have to be sure I am ready to jump into marriage again. I am not getting any younger and do not want to ever do the marriage thing over and over. That’s just my opinion.

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