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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. Anita says:

    What’s up with all this “Why buy the cow when you’re getting the milk free”? Just because a couple don’t live together, doesn’t necessarily mean the cow ain’t gettin’ milked.

  2. Erik Jurado says:

    There are two percentages I am positive about.

    100% of my marriages end in divorced within a year.
    100% of my “living in sin” partners stay with me for over 17 years.

    We both live by the code that if we got married to each other we’d probably ruin our relationship. I do still love my Bee!

    Erik Jurado

  3. Jema says:

    My late husband & I has been married for 32yrs, we did not live together before marriage, in fact he was my one & only sex partner & I was his only one. When my son & his soon to be wife were moving in he said to me one day, ” Mum what did you & Dad do when you moved in together “( He was referring to finances) I replied “Andrew, Dad & I did not live together before we married”. Things do change & we have to move with the times.

  4. Deanna Brooks says:

    Because my husband and I try to live our lives based on the Word of God…because God condemns adultery and fornication…because we want our children to have this same respect for God and His will, we taught our two sons to remain virgins until their wedding night…and they did. It wasn’t about what we thought…it was about what God said. We tried to be open with our boys through the years…they discussed their faith, feelings and temptations with us…we prayed with them…and now we see them praying with their wife and sons and being the spiritual leaders of their families.

  5. Susan Farrer says:

    How ironic that you posted this now…we have been struggling with this in our lives over the past few months while our son and his fiance plan their wedding (July 31st)…I have shared my heartfelt concerns for my son about this and still am so uncomfortable with it. They, with the help of her parents, have purchased a home and are now ’sharing finances’..I don’t agree with this and just as much don’t want to ’stir up the pot’ with them. My son says that her parents don’t know that they are living together. I find it all a bit deceitful. To boot, her father is an associate pastor of a small church…very complicated and uncomfortable for me and feel that I should say something but don’t want to be the ‘bad guy’…

  6. Sue From says:

    I don’t agree with cohabitation before marriage. I have twin daughters, they just turned 20 years of age, and they have decided to move in with their boyfriends for the same reason as the 60% in the research, because they spend so much time together anyway that it made more sense. They aren’t ready for their live-in relationships. All they do is fight, break up, one moves out for a couple of hours and then they make up. It’s ridiculous. Why can’t they just date? If they aren’t getting along, then stay home that night. Don’t live together, move out, live together. I wish they knew how to date, not just want to be in a permanent relationship instantly upon meeting.

  7. Debbe says:

    Why would any sane woman want to “shack up” with someone? It is the woman who gets used in the arrangement, 99% of the time!! Like my mom told me, “Why would he pay to buy the cow, when he can get the milk for free?” Guess who is expected to do the cleaning, grocery shopping, & be superwoman in bed, while sharing in paying the rent? Not a good plan. God had a plan for marriage with our specific gender traits in mind–a man will respect and care for the woman, when she becomes his wife. No marriage, not much chance for respect. I advise (with my 30 years of marriage experience), demand respect women and wait until marriage!

  8. Maureen says:

    I find it interesting that people always use the phrase “why would he pay to buy the cow when he can get the milk for free” as an argument for marriage and don’t find it highly insulting to women. Well, my argument about marriage without first co-habiting together and really learning about the man is “why would you legally tie yourself to a pig just to get a litte sausage now and then?”

  9. Molly says:

    I have to admit that at one point I would have agreed that living together before marriage wasn’t a bad idea, but now I think that couples shouldn’t move in together until there is an engagement on the table. If it doesn’t “work” you can still not go through with the wedding, but when you live together without some sort of plan or expectation, sometimes finances and “life” become so intertwined that marriage seems like the logical conclusion instead of more substantial and life affirming things.

    I am afraid my daughter is comfortable and entwined, not sure there is a marriage to be had here. It’s as if life will happen to her instead of her making the decisions for herself.

  10. Nancy Brown says:

    Thank you, Dr. Phil for standing up for healthy marriages by discouraging cohabitation prior to marriage. How about going one further, encouraging abstinence until marriage? God was the creator of our sexuality. He asks us to remain pure for so many healthy reasons. As an older couple mentoring troubled marriages, we see that people who were sexually active prior to marriage have a lot of baggage that could have been avoided if they had spent years dating in order to get acquainted rather than between the sheets.

  11. Belinda Denison says:

    I think cohabitation prior to marriage is suited to some and not others. I would not ‘recommend’ it to my children as such, but rather discuss it as a considerable option. I moved in with my now husband after dating for a year. That was 11 years ago. We have been married for 5 years and have two beautiful daughters aged 3 and 5 months. I could not be happier with my decision. We did not make the decision to move in together lightly. I knew that this person was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with well before that time. Our marriage was the public and legal declaration of that commitment four years later which ’sealed the deal’ so to speak.

  12. Chris says:

    My wife and I waited until marriage to have sex. She is my only one, and I am hers. It was the hardest thing ever, and I would never change it.

  13. Diana Rein says:

    At age 45 I and my partner (He was age 64) joined our lives and bought a home together. We have lived together ever since without a legal marriage, but we are as committed as anyone in having an intimate, supportive, monogamous relationship. At 16 years together, we are closer than ever and contented. The commitment is in the people, not on the paper.

  14. Jen says:

    I do not agree to couples living together, but who is to say who can from who can’t. Each individual determines their own destiny and if each man and woman would love to see the face of god them they should abide by his word.

  15. Kelly S says:

    Well . Perhaps we do things differently in NZ and living together before marriage is just the norm here , who knows *shrugs*
    But in my own personal experience, I was a single mum with a daughter I had at 20 and I met my husband when she was 3 , we went out for a year , then we moved intogether ,and got married a year later .
    We are now the proud parents of our daughter ( he is her dad in every respect of the word but biologically ) and our 8 month old son .
    I believe a marriage has to be worked at , regardless of whether or not we lived together beforehand , and as far as we are concerned , divorce is the very very last resort after we have tried everything else first .
    Just because its a higher statistic , doesn’t mean my husband and I will be.

    Of course it helps that I wouldn’t move in with just anyone when their was my first priority , my daughter, to consider first so moving in with my now husband was hardly a decision I made lightly .
    And we may have had other sexual partners but im happy to not sleep with anyone else for the rest of my life .

    When it comes down to it tho , I really think what another couple does, especially adults do , is noones business but there own , and if its against “Gods way ” , thats between them and God .

  16. Ramona G says:

    I agree with Dr. Phil. You say that you wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes if you didn’t try them on, but who wants a pair of shoes that has been worn by everyone in town!

  17. Lauren says:

    I am 23 years old and my boyfriend is 26. We have lived together for a couple months now. No, we are not engaged but we discussed marriage prior to moving in together. Both of us have college degrees and are doing well in our careers. Our family has been accepting in our decision to live together. I know how I feel about him and have no doubt in my mind that he is the one for me. Will things work out for us? Hoepfully it will! We have had several serious conversations and are both firm believers that marriage should not be taken lightly and everything possible must be done to solve issues in a relationship before divorce is ever considered. Whether or not we are cohabitating, we are still at risk for divorce. Look at our nation’s divorce rate.

    I understand and respect those who have concerns that couples should wait to have sex until marriage. I had those same thoughts and feelings until I began to realize that the adults who preached those values to me are the same people who did not wait until marriage themselves. It is hard to swallow though knowing some people go from bed to bed rather than being a commited relationship first. I think it’s sad that my generation takes sex and marriage so lightly.

    I agree with Kelly though. It really is to each it’s own and for those who believe in god, they will have to take it up with him when their time comes.

  18. Judy says:

    I am old now, but I have never lived with someone. It just didn’t make commen sense to me. To me it was, HAVING ONE FOOT OUT THE DOOR. What kind of caring and commitment is that?

    If I have to clean the toilet, etc., I want some kind of legal recourse. I feel my services have value, and I like to think—I have value. The pain of breaking up is the same, except maybe not so many legal issues, but if you have a child or more in the living situation, then there could be problems.
    I believe in no sex before marriage. You have to realize who a person is ,by the passion of life and zest for living that they exhibit. If they are caring when you are sick, same thing in love making—-you don’t have to try out the ‘SHOE’. It’s in his kiss! LOL




    I DID

  21. Alex says:

    As a young, college woman (working on my Master’s), my boyfriend and I moved in together as two roommates to help out a friend who didn’t want to leave a rather nice house. The boyfriend and I don’t really feel we’re “living together” since there’s a third party in the mix, but we’ve still learned a lot about each other that we probably wouldn’t have if we had lived apart. We did make sure we each had our own rooms for our own things and as an “exit plan” if things ended up falling apart. They have not.

    Since living with him we’ve dealt with the conundrums early on, like how to pay bills, how to deal with bad neighbours, divvying up chores and “honey-do’s”. I think since we are still in the dating phase that we could always just give ourselves a time out and go to our rooms if things got that bad, but we talk openly about what we think we’re doing and how to go about fixing problems.

    I think by seeing this kind of thing now, we would be better prepared once we both leave college and get out into the real world. Even if we end up away from “happily ever after”, it’s still life skills we as adults will have to deal with.

    It seems outdated to me to “wait until marriage” A) for sex and B) to live with a partner. For a lot of the population, marriage is still illegal, so that doesn’t seem fair. Waiting until marriage to live together was the ideal when woman was meant to live with her father or her husband. I think we’ve made some strides since then. We’re free to make our own choices, however wrong society may see them to be, but every decision is a learning experience, right or wrong, and I think that’s ultimately the biggest payoff.

  22. Redford says:

    I lived with my current wife before we got married. We met in college and dated for 2 years before living together for another 2. We were married shortly after college and still are today, 8 years in a couple days. I must say i thought living together first strengthened our relationship, we were able to get to really know one another and work through a lot of problems that I believe made our first year of marriage that much easier.

  23. Wilma Dean says:

    I feel living together before marriage is wrong. But it is a personal decision. God will really bless a sanctified union.

  24. Jenna says:

    I am torn apart by a married man, who I met. He was always there willing to help out with family, chores, etc…I’ll call him “Joe”, told me “I know what it’s like to be alone and lonely.” My wife and I have not had sex in about 25 years, I am not allowed to caress her because my hands are too rough (they are not), my face scratches hers, my arms around her hurt. I went through a dark tunnel for 3-5 years, “when I shut-down”. Married people don’t have sex after they have as many children as the wife wants. “I love my wife and my wife loves me in a different way”. I love you too, why can’t you accept me the way I am. Joe will go listen to bands in bars at night, go to Village Inn, drive around, work in his garage, sleep alone, helps out everybody with everything. Travels with friends, monthyly and is Mr. Money Bags. He alleges to love me and be in love with me but always throughs in my face the work he did, the gas he used to come see me and if he travels with me, I have to pay his way because, his paycheck goes directly to his wife’s account…doesn’t know how much he earns or how much his bills are. Constantly states, “What is the matter with you?” My wife is nice she cares abouts you and wants us to be friends but I will never, ever, never divorce my wife for you, it would be like knocking down the Empire State Building. He reiterates that he doesn’t understand why I get hurt and upset and has commented…I did not cheat on my wife, I don’t have sex with my wife….

  25. Evlynn says:

    Cohabitation – such an old problem. Ideally marriage comes first, with 2 maturing persons, waiting to give each other and wanting to give each other the best of each in sickness and health, to be equals though different with a similar spiritual compass leading them, belonging to a community of like minded people made up of family and church family. It implies a committment and capabliltiy of committment that I think few people have these days. Miriad of reasons why not of course, but that is the reality. Best I think we teach the ideal, see and feel the pain reality brings and give/get both spiritual guidance and physical assistance when it is needed. I think the ideal is a great goal. Major hurdle: both partners have to have the vision.

  26. My 86 year old mother just “disowned” my 37 yr old daughter and I, because my daughter is living with an old boyfriend. She believes I can contol my grown daughter, which is just nuts!!! I don’t like it very much, but I am “without sin” so I am not throwing stones.
    Truth of the matter is, my daughter is a recovering addict who could not make it on her own. She is working as waitress, owes big time on the utilities, the car she lost, and to the landlord who had to clean out her 3 storied house when she went on a drug binge after 13 yrs sobriety. ( I refused to go save her furniture, personal items etc. like I did the 1st time). Then there is the court costs. Both she and the ex know they have little in common now, and it is strictly a $ arrangement.
    As for my mother, she disowns my daughter at least once/twice a year, and we end up fighting at least 2-3 times, with no communication between us. So heres a suggestion for a show! What do you do with a mother who thinks she can run me, and I my daughter. Its tiresome, and heart breaking!!

  27. Sheena V says:

    It completely depends on the couple and each couple’s situtation. My sister and I were both raised in the same household. She moved out with her boyfriend 1 mth after they started dating. My parents were NOT happy. The next month she found out she was pregnant. My parents were EXTREMELY NOT happy. My sister and her boyfriend then felt the need to become engaged due to their baby circumstance but their engagement was an off again on again thing. Its been about 7 years since then and they never got married but did end up having 3 Children and now have recently seperated. Sometimes couples just arent meant to work out and in her case I believe she jumped into that one too quickly. Now on the other hand I dated my Fiancee for about 2 and a half years before we moved in together. At that point we hadnt talked seriously about marriage but pretty much knew we wanted to be together and the following year we were engaged. Our relationship is pretty good. Of course there are always ups and downs in every relationship but we take the time to sit down and talk to eachother and make sure we know how we feel about different situations. We arent getting married for another couple years and before we do that we are buying property together. This September we will have been together for 5 years and I am not worried about us splitting up. We are in it for the right reasons. Were not staying together because we live together and dont want to split our possesions up, its because we love eachother and are commited to one another. So once again I believe that every couple will be different and it doesnt necessarily depend on how you “raise” your children because a relationship has two people involved not just the one you “raised” a certain way.

  28. Kim says:

    Dear Dr. Phil -
    I was married at 20 to the absolute love of my life. Our marriage, in my mind was for the most part very precious. While pregnant with our unexpected fourth child they found something else growing in my body. They found a very aggressive cancer. I have a stong spiritual relationship with God. This was all a surprise to us but not to God. He knew about this baby before the foundations of the earth. Doctors suggested I terminate the pregnancy to better secure my future. This was not an option for me. I went through 3 mos. of intense chemo while pregnant and 11 surgeries. God encompused that baby in my womb. My husband was unbelieveably supportive. We prayed together – he made me laugh when all I could do is cry out with fear of dieing and leaving the loves of my life. In Feb of 1996 ,our, my trophie, Precious baby arrived, with a head full of hair, which is more than I could say for me. I asked God to use me in any avenue to bring hope to others. I under went a bilateral breast augmentation. I spoke several times around the country and sang in our chuch. I lived in pain. I took percocet and vicoden but was so afraid of addiction. Their was nerve damage in my arm and living with pain was horrible. i threw out hundreds of narcotics down the toilet and said “I will not become addicted”. I asked my oncologist for a NONaddictive solution. She put me on a relatively new drug that was promoted to be nonadddictive. Her words were “it’s just like taking Advil”. I took it for a year and one day just stopped. I was in full blown addiction. It also had a anti-deppresant affect. I did not know what hit me. In the last 2 years of our marriage, my husband was going on several vacations ALONE!!!! We were drifting. We tried rapid detox that was unsuccessful. I was 120lbs and 5′8″. He put me in a year rehab and without any emotional support. I agreed to three months. I left rehab and he left home. I was still a mess. I took a hand full of pills to just sleep for a while. I was in ICU. He came into the hospital and told me never to come home. Than a few weeks later gave me a gun “in case you need this.” I am now so over weight due to anti deppressants. My kids are with him because I was unable to function. I am holding down a job but I am so alone and unhappy. I do not fight addiction, I fight what purpose do I have. Suicide would destroy my children and I do not think I could ever do that. My husband used to call my scars “badges of honor”. i do not think any one would ever love me. I feel lost with no real purpose. I want my old body back. I want to make a difference. Where do i begin? You are an inspiration with a heart of GOLD! Thank you for your sacrafices. Kim

  29. Kim says:

    There are many woman who have experienced this in some way or another. An answer of truth and hope would help us all.

  30. N. Bauton says:

    This is a rediculous discussion from a Norwegian point of view. I have lived with my boyfriend for 4 years now, and am just about to turn 25 yrs old. He is a few years older. Our lives are very much entwined and we are very much part of each others very real issues in life. We dont know any couples who ever married without cohabitating first, including our parents and our nations king and queen to be.

    I dont feel like I am giving my milk away for free in any way, neither is he. It is highly offending that anyone would suggest that sex is all a cohabitation is about as if that would be all we have to offer. As Dr Phil has pointed out; In a relationship with a good sexlife, sex only matters 10%. The rest is mutual respect, strength, patience and a good, firm friendship. Most divorces happen within the first year of marriage and I can see why. There are aspects about living together you just cant prepare for, and I cant imagine how the “tied down for life”-part can possibly make that transition easier.

    Dont buy a car without a testdrive, dont buy a house unseen. Dont marry a guy you havent quarreled with about trivial housekeeping matters, or it’ll scare you the first time you do.

  31. Mrs. Morgan says:

    Committment! Seems young people move in together for other reasons. Committment is not one of them. To make a long term relationship work, I feel you have to be committed. Maybe committment has to come with maturity.
    Or it is a thing of the past for many.
    I know couples who have moved in together.. and never planned on it to be for life. It was just until the ‘fun’ ended. But I’ve seen this with married couples too.

    Is that a change in our culture. Marriage is no longer for life anyway?

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  33. Petra says:

    My husband and I have been married for 42 years – we did not live together. Our daughter and her husband did not live together before they were married but both our sons lived with their girlfriends (now their wives) before marriage. We did not approve but neither of them was living at home so it was their choice – we would not have tolerated it while they were living at home!

  34. Avram Tan says:

    Hey Dr Phil I’m only a 14 year old kid that lives in a broken family and due to the experience I have to say that what you have been putting on familys being at risk and parents cheating is not hard-headed I’ve been watching your shows and I also have to state what you have been saying is rather true but I might add that Parents never seem to look towards their kids when they refer to their familys I mean no offence but this is what I observed with my life so far and the main problem with kids my age and so are being bullied or thinking suicide is due to this which I have to ask that if it’s possible to state the fact that the parents that say their marriage and family isn’t going well is mainly due to they want their own ways since the start of their marriage/family. For me love is not something to be played with the terms for love in my view is rather you have to accept the bad parts of the person you love before you plan on marrying the person. On the question itself I have to say it’s not wrong to live together before marriage but due to what happends after the marriage is mainly the couple not accepting each other in the first place. That is purely what a 14 kid thinks sorry if I have offended anyone at all.

  35. Linda Rose says:

    I hear it all the time from people who live together without the benefits of marriage. They justify with a multitude of reasoning what they do and in most cases those same people don’t stay together.

    My husband and I have been married 32 years come July this year. We wrote long distance [ 2000 miles apart] almost five years before we married. We saw eachother in person only three times before we agreed to marry.Everyone asks how we did it and stayed married?

    The answer to that is committment, same values and desire for the same life style. We at the time belonged to the same church. We believed in the sanctity of marriage and had the same value system concerning finances and family.We knew we had a basis for a good marriage and respected eachother. Then we made a committment that through thick and thin we would stick it out.

    I came to Canada and we were married a week later. We not only didn’t live together before marriage we had only seen each other in person once when I came to visit and twice when he came to visit me. What a person doesn’t learn through writing is a person’s habits and annoyances. It was defintely an adjustment getting used to eachother’s ways.

    To complicate things I had four children ages from six to eleven years old.There were many adjustments there also. Our first two years were spent on an island as Light House Keepers and the children went to school through correspondence.Nothing like six people being thrown together on an island for two years for learning to adapt and get to know eachother!

    There were many hard years with kids, health problems and we struggled financially. Through it all we both developed a deep respect and love for one another and remained deeply committed to our marriage. We had been friends first and love came after but it has lasted 32 years and hopefully many more. Life is great now and we intend to enjoy growing old together.

  36. Jennifer says:

    Hi Dr. Phil,

    My fiance proposed to me before we moved in together. I was pregnant though and we had decided we wanted to be married and live together. The baby was planned as well. So I don’t think we fall in to any of those percents of not making it! We have our good days and our bad days but we are both willing to work at it and that’s what makes it work. Some family members believe because we are already living together and have a child we shouldn’t bother getting married. Or just go to city hall and get it over-with. They think it’s a waste of money (okay basically my mother-in-law thinks this). I still want my white wedding though with flowers and the whole deal. We are ignoring these family members and doing what we want. We are doing what makes us happy. We believe that we can make it, we are 31 and 33 years old. We know what we want and we are old enough to know the consequences should there be any. So we will raise our son with the same beliefs. I think you can guide children, not control them. He will know that his father and I loved each other a lot and were much older when we decided to do what we did. I hope for the best like I’m sure most parents do for their children.

  37. Linda says:

    I think it is a personal choice of living together or not. I don’t think it has anything to do with how long a couple will stay married .
    My husband and I dated for a year and then lived together for almost another year before we were married.
    We both had had a bad marriage.He had one daughter and I had 4 children and we wanted to be sure . I am not saying it is a good idea to live together, nor would I encourage anyone to do it, but in our case it worked out.We have been married almost 24 years now.
    I think it really has more to do with commitment and maturity and knowing what you want.

  38. JANET says:

    I’m confused…in the Bible men and women “lived together”. This was called marriage. When the man was finished with her, he put her on the porch and took a new “live-in” wife. She on the other hand, was an outcast. The paper declaring us married came about much later in “modern” days.
    I have cohabitated and been married to two different people. Both relationships ended up the same-we went our seperate ways. However, the divorce was more financially beneficial to the attorneys than ourself. Go figure.
    So if I cohabitate does that make me a bad Christian or does that make me married in the biblical sense? You tell me which is better…

  39. Elenor says:

    I am allergic to most mainstream religion, as it smacks of misogyny to varying degrees. Men and religion trying to control women and sexuality. I would hope society has progressed beyond the day when a man’s honour rested between a woman’s legs. How insulting to use the cow and milk excuse. We know people who have gotten married, and things didn’t work out. We also know people who have raised happy healthy families WITHOUT the blessing of any wedding. Some decided to go for a civil service, many years after the fact, with their kids as part of the celebration.

    We dated for a year and lived together for a year before getting married. We are coming up to our 10th wedding anniversary, and so far, so good. Any healthy union demands hard work, communication and respect, whether sanctioned by Church/State or not. Just depends more on the maturity of the individual.

  40. Lucy says:

    Hi Dr Phil,

    To be honest in my opinion I dont feel their is any problem living with your partner before you marry. However if your moving in together for financial reasons or to test the relationship etc I think your moving in for the wrong reasons. If your in a serious relationship and both are ready to make a commitment for marraige then I dont see why not.

  41. Barbara says:

    I guess I see things a bit different than most on here. I had been married twice and was in the process of my second divorce when I met my 3rd husband. He had been married once before. We decided to live together simply because neither of us wanted to go through another divorce and living together made sense for us. At least then we could tell whether we would be able to live in the same household concerning issues of arguing/fighting, not sharing equally, cheating, sharing chores, my children. We lived together for a year and a half before we got married. I don’t see it as the cow theory because I got just as much out of the intimacy as he did and all the housework and bills were equally divided. I am happy to say that although we do have normal marital issues we are still together today 10 yrs. later. No matter which way you choose,it is all about communication, love, honesty, and respect for yourself and your partner.

  42. Juliet Peters says:

    Just to add something different to this dabate: moving in is getting married. Or De Facto married, same thing. I have been married for 18 years, although that means how long we have been living together, we aren’t married. The only difference is we don’t have a certificate that makes any legal promises. Not because I don’t want to go legal, just because I love my partner Andy, I want to spend the rest of my life with him, and I don’t need a certificate. Love to me doesn’t need to be formalised. We are with each other because we want to be, more than anything else that I want in life, it is to be with him.

    Here’s my point. If anyone is uncertain about a person, then it is less likely to work out in the long run. In fact doomed for failure. Period.

    Had Andy asked me to formally marry me way back then I might even have said, “only if it means a lot to you, otherwise I’m happy the way it is”. He felt the same way. Getting married doesn’t mean one loves someone more than if one lives with someone.

    If you aren’t sure of someone, don’t live with them or marry them. Just keep them as a friend until you the day he steals your heart. I didn’t sit down and think I wonder if I should move in. Let’s see … what are his work prospects (not good – cross, does he love me tick). Really it was can I not live with him – no!!

    I don’t think I have ever thought about whether or not I want to marry someone. It could even be insecure to think that way. It sort of sounds like to me do you want to enter into a legal contract and make promises infront of a lot of people. No really. But I can see it is a romantic event and others see it differently. But whether there is a wedding or not, it will last depending on how sure you are. Because it demonstrates one’s own self esteem and that of the partner. Knowing what you want. Being sure. Unfortunately some people are never sure of anything. Its just a bit of a mental deficiency that I am not sure there is a cure for. Probably avoidable by getting to know oneself.

    The research is interesting. Maybe people who live together, then get married are people who aren’t sure. That is why the marriages don’t work out, statistically. But I think the issue isn’t that there is a problem with living with someone, but there is a real problem if you aren’t sure. The only time a man has told me he wasn’t sure (about which of two women he wanted) I was out the door. I have never seen him since that day. It was probably the closest thing to “love” I had ever heard him say to me. But in that moment it was as clear as a bell. If he wasn’t sure I sure as hell didn’t want anything to do with him. I am way worth more than spending my life with a person who wasn’t sure.

    I am wondering when some people get into debate with a partner that involved those words “look Huny I just don’t know about us”, that there is anything to talk about. Do people really decide to spend more time and see if that person gets a sudden bolt of lightening to the heart. I don’t know means either means that person isn’t capable of love and commitment or it means he is but you’re not the one. (Assuming it isn’t the first date – I am assuming these conversations don’t take place for some considerable time, ie you know each other.)

    I really think that “not being sure” is a state of mind that may not be altogether sane. A little “nuts”. Maybe technically sociopathic. I mean I have met a lot of people I really didn’t want to go out with (and I was sure), certainly didn’t want to move in with. And when I did finally think about living together, I didn’t think about it more than I couldn’t wait a whole week to see that person next. (Not is this the one – what does that mean?) I wanted to have breakfast every morning with him. Being “sure’ is not something I have ever considered. I am sure I wanted to live with Andy. The previous guy I was sure I wanted a relationship. Then I was sure either a) he was a bit nutty or b) I wasn’t the one and he couldn’t work that out himself – maybe b) is nutty too! I’m joking a bit but honestly you should know your own mind. And want to be with someone who knows their own mind. How does someone find their own mind? That one is for Dr Phil. For me it was a great upbringing full of love (which one can’t control) but also travelling for years, meeting all sorts of different people, spending time in beautiful countryside, learning the joy of a beautiful day. Things that one doesn’t always plan time for in the modern world. But its important, I really believe that.

    We make good decisions on our lifetime mate when 2 people are sane/healthy. And want to be together. When one person says to the other “I’m not sure about you” – even if followed with how much that person loves you, stick with finding someone sane. Nutty people are fun to date and great fun. But boy was that a wake up call when I heard those words. There was a little voice that wanted him to chose me over the other woman, to win the challenge (and I love a challenge) and then I became sane, quickly luckily.

    So Dr Phil I don’t agree you shouldn’t live with someone before getting married because the living with someone is irrelevant, the focus is all wrong. You don’t live with someone (or marry) if you aren’t sure. Because that state of mind has only 1 meaning, in my opinion. You need time or your own to know what you are sure about. If you were in touch with you, you would know if that person made you the happiest person in the world. Dr Phil may call that self esteem. Its you and you and how that relationship is going.

    Move in with yourself! When that relationship is perfected, then you are ready to be sure about what you think. Then pick the man.

  43. Dr. Phil, cohabitation before marriage doesn’t concern me nearly as much as the following: young adults ( 18+) sleeping with their boyfriend/girlfriend in their parents’ home. I’m trying to be liberal-minded about this issue, and have allowed my son and his girlfriend to sleep together in my home. However, I am uncomfortable about the situation and can’t really explain why when my son and I discuss it. This behaviour somehow seems disrespectful to his father and me. What are your thoughts on the subject?

  44. veronica says:

    In a perfect world, the couple who is truly committed to each other would meet, fall in love, pledge their loyalty and live happily ever after. NOT!!! There are so many distractions for a couple to not be committed outside of another person even. First there is still some confusion in the “age of equality” of who plays what role. There is more data available about infidelity. Both, with men and women. There is unbelievable financial challenges which demands that a man “can’t be a man” in supporting his family because he can’t get or keep a job without interruption. Many women are not really exhibiting motherly instinct towards the children that just “happen” on the scene. They would rather be shopping! Women are less inclined to stay in a marriage that doesn’t meet most of their needs. They can earn their own money, have children, move from partner to partner without the ridicule of the past. They don’t need a man. A man still looks for the “helpmate” until he gets bored, then he looks for another helpmate. Or worse, he keeps the one he has and has another outlet on the side. I think that marriage needs to be reevaluated. If I had to make a decision for or against living together before marriage, I would have to peel away my ethical and moral admonishments and say that you don’t know someone until you live with them. If you get married without knowing some of the day to day or even deep ranging values then a “happy marriage” is doomed. Case in point…I “knew my ex-husband 12 years before we married. we didn’t live together. we were more than best friends socializing frequently with our other friends. The marriage was a mess from day one!!! it ended after 10 years of misery…

  45. Russ Trapani says:

    Well Dr Phil…great topic and hits home with me….My girlfriend and I are going to move in together after being together for just over 4 years…living in separate homes. She is Asian and lives at home..and is 30… ..yes I know but their culture deems the girls live at home until they are married. I have been, as her, patient with parents and balance our time together so she can be with her parents..mostly her mom and tend to her family time. We have been talking about engagement…. marriage and having children and look forward to this time together. We are planning on living together AFTER I present her with a ring and a date..something I so agree with and want…I am not afraid of commitment at all Dr. Phil. Her parents are not very in love with me…for Im not Asian…older than her and not exactly rich and famous..but I work hard..and so do all I can to provide for her…love her and be understanding and as I said…patient with her parents differences with me. SO…we plan on a move in together this summer either here near where we live now in N Cal or in LA..either way Dr Phil I believe in all relationships…so many things can happen to make or brake it from working out..with us..we look forward to this…we are very in love and have gone through many challenges since we met…and always seem to work things out…and as an older man…lets say north of 40…..ish….I know how to listen…so I have faith..both in our god…and in our love to make this work and enjoy our time together…and grow together and have this life we so want to live. I think for us..it will not hurt us….both of being a bit older see things different and are on solid ground….god willing…we will do well….its what we so want.

  46. Penny says:

    Dr Phil,
    One comment which I had not heard before really amused me. The one about not tying oneself to a pig for a little sausage every now and then. Good retort for the usual cow and free milk comment but to get down to the real reason for writing about co-habitation.
    I think that all the girls who do this as well as all the girls who give in to sexual desires are selling themselves short.
    They loose out on dating and the enjoyment of engaging different personalities in pleasant safe circumstances.
    Having sex always changes the relationship. Once you move in with someone the drudgery moves in with you.
    Guys and Gals, please think twice before you move in with a friend. I know life is tough but the more responsibilities you place on your shoulders the tougher it gets.
    Thanks Dr Phil for allowing me to get this off my chest

  47. While every individual couple is different in how they handle their relationship, two things are pretty constant in all relationships, and both of these items relate directly to this issue of cohabitation.

    1. Couples stay together because they are committed. That is, they decide that baring prolonged physical or psychological abuse (some suffer through this as well obviously) or total promiscuity, they will work it out.

    2. They realize that the grass usually only “looks” better on the other side, but that’s probably because they maintain (fertilize and care for) their yard. They understand that wherever they go, there they’ll be. The same baggage and issues will show up in other relationships as well.

    Often couples who live together are doing so out of a fear of commitment, disappointment with the institution of marriage as they have seen it or experienced it, or they want keep their options open and don’t want the nastiness of a divorce.

    To truly have lasting, healthy, happy and productive relationships these issues need to be recognized and dealt with one way or another. By the way, I’m 43 and have been married to the same women for over 21 years. And, yes it has been tough at times, but it just keeps getting better and better as I get better and better.

  48. Deb Brack says:

    Look, I studied this subject for 2 years. I lived with my exhusband three years before getting married. It set me up for failure. I learned that at one time there were a group of pyschologists that thought cohabitating and fornicating were just myths to a large study that had already been concluded by other professionals. What happened? After a long study they found that a very large percentage of people who lived together were in unhappy relationships and split up either before or after being married. They found that there was a lot of truth to a study that had been already conducted. On top of that…if you wait to have sex after you get married…Sex is six-fold. You are much more committed and much more happier. Another thing to consider…is…have a really, really, really good fight before you get married. This helps to develop an understanding of how you will be able to handle a very bad situation when you are married. For those of you that blogged that cohabitation is good…you think? It doesn’t compare to marriage of those who do things right. Now, from a personal stand-point seperate from the “Professional Studies”…”Religion.” You know, I have always been taught that the bible was made to guide us in having a happy and fulfilling life. It has been said that if you follow the Commandments you will become very stable and happy. This is because it is made up of Morals and Values. The bible also has many ways of teaching us how to be happy. It talks about Morals and Values. If we follow what it says, we will lead happy and fulfilling lives. That being said, your choices are to believe in those who say they are happy in their decision to live together and wondering how happy they are personally, sexually and intellicually…remember that our grandparents that celebrate their 50 year wedding anniversary can do so for one reason…it wasn’t exceptable to live together more so back then! As for the girl who talked about suicide in the blog here…No range of abusive is a substitute for your own integrity. You don’t have to forget, but forgive and do something for yourself. Get your act together for happiness. In the long run…your children (even if they are disabled) will understand when they get older how they were alienated from their parent (mother). Never bad mouth your ex at that time. You will be okay! Concentrate on believing in yourself. Good Luck!

  49. Deb Brack says:

    Oh right, I forgot one thing…living together before marriage, i.e., cohabitating and fornicating leads to higher level of many different kinds of abuse.

  50. Michael Finlayson says:


    That’s made me think! When a couple move in together, it’s all new and exciting, they learn all about their partner, and they settle into the relationship. After a while the sparkle fades away, it’s no longer new, it’s no longet something special, they get comfortable with each other, they get comfortable within the relationship. Living together is nothing special, it’s just what they do. Whilst they are essentially married except in name, they still have the ability to leave. A couple could carry on quite happily like this for decades.

    Marriage formalises everything, it takes away the escape route, and changes the dynamic of the relationship. Whereas before they were together because they wanted to be, now they are together because a because the law and church says that they are.

    Having already lived together for however long, there is no longer anything new or exciting about the relationship. They have nothing left to learn about each other. If they didn’t move in until they married then everything would still be fresh and exciting, they would still have the joy of learning about each other and their relationship. Whilst they could still make their relationship exciting, there is no longer the freshness or the newness about it.

    The newly wed couple would be at the stage that the non wed couple were when they first moved in. Only for the newly weds they have reached the pinnacle of their commitment to each other, and nothing can change it.

    That post has really got me thinking :-)


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