Should I move in with my boyfriend? It’s a question that girlfriends ask girlfriends, but even more so, ask themselves, especially if they are divorced and have kids.
Remember the movie, “About Last Night?”, (not the remake, the original), specifically the scene where Rob Lowe and Demi Moore are moving in together, blissfully happy, kissing, smiling and laughing as they unpack boxes during a montage to Sheena Easton’s “So Far So Good? “Kinda makes moving in together seem like a no brainer, right? Who wouldn’t want to be that happy? But think about what happens later in the film. They fight a lot and eventually break up because they had fundamental differences in why they were living together.
Therapist and Writer, Terry Gaspard guest posts on this exact topic. If you are asking yourself, “Should I move in with my boyfriend?” keep this post in mind!
Should I Move In With My Partner? by Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW
Cohabitation – living together without the commitment of marriage – is on the rise. And it’s a good idea to examine your fears and ask questions before making this important step. Although increasing numbers of individuals report less social stigma about cohabitation, many of the people who I’ve counseled ask these key questions: will living together lead to marriage and will it increase my risk of divorce?
Unsurprisingly, there aren’t any easy answers to these questions. But one thing is for certain, researchers have found that before you decide to live with someone, it is incredibly important that you and your partner are on the same page. Dr. John Curtis, author of Happily Unmarried and a marriage and family counselor, writes about the importance of couples discussing expectations before moving in with their partner. He states that the fundamental difference between men and woman according to a recent Rand Study is that many women view living together as a step towards marriage while many men see it as a test drive.
What are your motivations for living together? Based on discussing this question, you may find out that your partner is simply trying to save money by sharing the rent. If you want to develop a deeper bond, and most significantly, you see cohabitation as a step toward marriage, these differing expectations may be a problem, creating an “expectation gap.”
A common phenomenon, according to Meg Jay, author of “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter,” is the concept of “sliding not deciding” to move in together. What this means is that a couple may bypass discussions about why they’re cohabitating and they gradually start spending more time sleeping over – eventually moving in together. It’s crucial to sit down with your partner and clarify your expectations about the future, early in your relationship, if you want to enhance your chances of remaining in a committed relationship.
Here are what statistics have to say:
- Over 50% of couples who cohabitate before marriage are broken up within five years (Cherlin, 2009)
- Over 75% of children born to couples who are not married no longer live with both parents by the age of fifteen (Cherlin, 2009)
- Couples who cohabitate are about as likely to have marriages that last fifteen years as couples who haven’t lived together (Stobbe, 2012)
It is true that you could marry your partner without living together first, and still get a divorce. And it is also true that you could live together, get married, and be absolutely happy for the rest of your lives and never contemplate a breakup. However, recent research demonstrates that couples who cohabitate are substantially less certain about the permanence of their relationships than those who are married; they report lower levels of complete commitment to their partner, especially if they are males. Results from this study also show that cohabiting relationships are associated with lower levels of reported closeness, love, and satisfaction in the intimacy dimension.
Research about whether living together before marriage increases your risk for divorce is less definitive. It’s unclear if it actually increases the risk. If individuals who cohabitate are at a slightly higher risk for divorce, it may not be because they lived together before marriage. It could speak more to their mindset about commitment in general. Is it just greater acceptance of divorce in general? Is it that people who live together have a weaker commitment to the institution of marriage? It depends on who you ask.
Here are 4 topics to discuss with your partner before cohabitating:
- What are your motivations for living together? Do you see cohabitating as a step toward marriage?
- What are your expectations regarding living together? This includes your values regarding fidelity, marriage, children, etc.
- What will you do if it doesn’t work out?
- What are your goals in five or ten years in terms of your relationship, finances, careers, living arrangement, etc.?
While there aren’t any easy answers to the question of whether couples should cohabitate, being aware of the risks involved may help you to make a more informed decision. Recognize that while life doesn’t give you any guarantees, open communication and awareness of the issues which confront your relationship will give you the greatest chance of success.
Thanks Terry! I find (especially being older and divorced) that it’s better to put all the cards on the table before you move in with someone. Be really, really, really, really honest. If you tell your boyfriend you are moving in because eventually you want a ring and a wedding, and he says, “Well, I”m not sure if that’s going to happen,” then you are saving yourself a HUGE heartache by not moving in with him.
You are also saving your kids from being hurt. This isn’t just about YOU anymore, although YOU are important. But do you really want to live with someone “as a trial” when your kids could get really attached and be devastated if it doesn’t work out and he moves out? Trust me, get it out there. KNOW EVERYTHING you can before you cohabitate. I bet the statistics of breaking up go way down as the amount you discuss expectations go up.
Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW is a licensed therapist, college instructor, and non-fiction writer, specializing in divorce, women’s issues, children, and families. Learn more: movingpastdivorce.com