Should You Live Together Before You Get Married?

To live together, or not to live together, that is the question. As your relationship grows, so does your time and commitment to each other, which brings up the topic of whether you should pack your Ikea furniture and move in together (you spend most of the week under one roof anyway). Cohabitating before marriage is pretty common these days, but it's not always the ideal next step for every couple. We checked in with a slew of experts—from a psychologist to a financial advisor—to weigh in on the pros and cons of living together before you walk down the aisle.

Photography by: Thomas Barwick

Pro: You test out compatibility

When you are dating, everyone presents the best version of themselves—you try to toss old take-out containers and shower before your SO comes over. "Married life doesn't really look like this," says Dana Torpey-Newman, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist in Carlsbad, Calif. "Living together before tying the knot allows you the opportunity to try out ‘real life' with your partner. You get to learn whether your partner's habits are similar to yours, or, at the very least, tolerable to you."

Con: Are you choosing convenience over commitment?

Many couples today opt to live together because they are already spending several nights per week with each other and "it just makes sense" financially to have one residence—this move does not necessarily indicate an increased level of commitment to the relationship. There is even a term for this: "sliding or deciding," it differentiates couples who fall into living together from those who more purposefully decide to do so. Once partners live together, it becomes increasingly difficult and inconvenient to leave, which may lead to marriage not because the relationship is wonderful, but because it is the next expected step. On the other hand, couples who purposefully "decide" to live together before marriage actually redefine the terms of their relationship leading to a deeper level of emotional engagement.

Pro: You'll finesse money habits

You already know that money issues are one of the most common conflicts in marriage, so it's definitely a good idea to work out the kinks in advance. "Living together can be a safe, private place to begin your life together," says Lauren Klein, financial advisor in Newport Beach, Calif. "Since you still have your own financial identities, this is the time to test-run sharing utility bills, discuss debt and fiscal goals, and learn about money management skills." Living together can get you in the habit of discussing money and figuring out cash flow. Plus, it's perfect training for working on your wedding budget.


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Con: You might break up

When a couple goes through divorce, so do their assets. "The court is here to help you untangle yourself financially from your spouse," says Meghan Freed, attorney in Hartford, Conn. "If you break up before you marry, the court isn't going to be much help in most cases." Separating is hard enough without having to figure out who gets to keep the new couch and who gets Fluffy.

Pro: You'll deal with challenges

Even if you discus your values and life goals while dating, these terms can sound a bit abstract if not applied to day-to-day life. "Living together gives you an opportunity to actually assess if the two of you are on the same page," says Torpey-Newman. "As you experience working through some challenges you'll also build confidence that you can manage differences in lifestyle."

Con: It doesn't alter the state of your relationship (too much)

Viewing marriage as a launching pad to the beginning of your life together? Wait to call the movers until after you walk down the aisle. "Expectation is everything," says Torpey-Newman. "If you enter into marriage expecting it to be much different that cohabitation, you may erroneously believe there is something wrong when things continue to look the same."

Pro: You learn about controlling emotions

The thing about living together is that you can't avoid day-to-day stressors. In the past, if you had a bad day at work, you could just go back to your apartment to blow off steam. Now, you need to figure out how to keep from huffing-and-puffing at our SO because your coworkers are driving you crazy. Ditto if he comes home peeved. Reading each other's emotional barometers and learning how to be supportive is very important in relationships, adds Torpey-Newman.


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Con: Not everyone may be on board

Your decision to move in may make perfect sense to you, but you could receive negative feedback from friends and family if they have different religious or cultural beliefs, adds Torpey-Newman. If you anticipate criticism from people who are close to you, be ready to tolerate comments so that they don't cloud your relationship. 

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