4 Tips for Couples Who Want to Live Together Before Marriage

This article is based on information from The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, and is part of the Relationships Debate "Should you live together before marriage?" Read on, then share your opinion in the debate!

With nine times as many couples cohabiting today than there were 40 years ago, the likely reality is that this trend will continue. Researchers at the Rutgers University Marriage Project recognize this, but they want young couples to think twice before they jump into living together. Recently, they offered these four pieces of advice to anyone trying to decide if living together is as beneficial as it seems.

1. Do not "just live with someone" more than once.
The idea of learning from one's experience doesn't apply here. "People who live with more than one partner in their lifetimes have a greater chance of getting a divorce," say David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead of the Marriage Project. Meaning that if you are a "serial cohabitant," it might be a sign that you have problems with commitment, and you could think about looking into why.

2. Put a time limit on how long the living together phase will last.
When you live with someone you are not married to, your level of commitment to the relationship is not at its full potential. So even if you end up marrying this person, the longer you've stayed in this uncommitted mind-set, the more likely it is to stick.

3. Do not live with a partner if children are involved.
In 2000, 41 percent of cohabiting couples included a child. The problem is that these cohabiting parents break up at a much higher rate than married parents, and the effects of these breakups on children can be just as devastating and long lasting as a divorce. Also, Popenoe and Whitehead found that children living with mother's boyfriends are at higher risk of sexual abuse and physical violence (including lethal violence) than children who live with married parents.

4. Get engaged first.
The only time when living together before marriage doesn't pose a threat to your relationship is after you've gotten engaged, have formally announced your engagement and set a wedding date. Since you've publicly committed to be with each other forever, Popenoe and Whitehead say, it's almost as if someone pronounced you husband and wife.

Their final words of warning are to simply think twice before cohabiting. "There is no evidence that if you decide to cohabit before marriage you will have a stronger marriage than those who didn't live together," they say. "And some evidence suggests that if you live together before marriage, you are more likely to divorce later."

What do you think? Should couples live together before marriage? Share your opinion now.

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