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Living in sin? Thinking about it? Plenty of people are; the number of (who live together but aren’t married) has doubled since the 1990s. Some people used to think living together before marriage would , but it’s unclear if that’s really the case today.

There’s some evidence that living together before marriage can damage a relationship; but other researchers also consider whether two people have discussed the future of their relationship or if they’re just marrying out of convenience. . Stanley, Scott, M., Rhoades, G.K., University of Denver, Journal of Marriage and Family. 2010 August 1; 72(4): 906–918. , Scott M., Rhoades, G.K., Markman, H.J., University of Denver, Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy. 2009 April; 8(2): 95–112.

Love Shack Baby—Why It Matters

The Pros and Cons of Living With Your Significant Other The rise in cohabitation is linked to other changes in family patterns—including some uncomfortable talks with mom and dad about moving in with the significant other , Scott M., Rhoades, G.K., Markman, H.J., University of Denver, Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy. 2009 April; 8(2): 95–112.. In 2011, the was about 27 for women and 29 for men—an all-time high in the U.S.. And, in the last 40 years, it’s become for couples to raise kids together without getting married , Scott M., Rhoades, G.K., Markman, H.J., University of Denver, Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy. 2009 April; 8(2): 95–112.. In fact, 42 percent of children under 12 have lived with unmarried, cohabiting parents.

Financial security doesn’t really differ between cohabiting and married couples. (Everyone fights over bills.) Among college graduates, cohabiting heterosexual couples are as their married counterparts. ( have higher incomes than married adults in general, but there are few studies comparing same-sex cohabitation and marriage.) And it’s hard to know exactly how living together affects a couple’s financial status.

Other socioeconomic factors come into play—for example, people who don’t graduate from college are to live together without marrying first. A cohabiting couple’s future may depend on whether they get engaged before sharing a pre-marital bed. A found couples that live together before getting married, but after getting engaged, are just as successful as couples that don’t live together. On the other hand, there’s that couples who live together before getting engaged say they’re in their marriages and are more likely to get divorced . Stanley, Scott, M., Rhoades, G.K., University of Denver, Journal of Marriage and Family. 2010 August 1; 72(4): 906–918..

And there may be other negative consequences associated with living together before putting a ring on it. (Mo’ laundry, mo’ problems.) Guys may start forgetting about date night by the time they get hitched— men who live with their significant others before marriage are to their partners , Scott M., Rhoades, G.K., Markman, H.J., University of Denver, Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy. 2009 April; 8(2): 95–112.. Cohabiting can pose problems for gals too: Women who have cohabited with may also be at an increased risk for divorce.

Going to the Chapel and We’re… The Answer/Debate

The Pros and Cons of Living With Your Significant Other Living together can cause problems for some couples if they get married just because it’s the easiest thing to do . Stanley, Scott, M., Rhoades, G.K., University of Denver, Journal of Marriage and Family. 2010 August 1; 72(4): 906–918.. Experts call it “relationship inertia”: Couples who live together sometimes end up marrying out of convenience, for reasons ranging from to giving the dog a mommy and a daddy . Stanley, Scott, M., Rhoades, G.K., University of Denver, Journal of Marriage and Family. 2010 August 1; 72(4): 906–918. , Scott, M., Rhoades, G.K., Markman, H.J., University of Denver, Journal of Family Issues. 2009 February 1; 30(2): 233–258.. But couples who discuss their potential marriage plans before they start sharing a bathroom—and arguing over the toilet lid—generally have .

There are a lot of reasons to shack up with your love bunny. Motives include spending more time together, testing the waters before marriage, and having someone around to put together that Ikea furniture , Scott, M., Rhoades, G.K., Markman, H.J., University of Denver, Journal of Family Issues. 2009 February 1; 30(2): 233–258.. Before signing that lease, consider factors like , how you handle (!) fights, and who has clothes—or at least a toothbrush—at whose place. Take time to figure out what’s best for each member of the relationship and then either plop back down on the couch or go get those moving boxes.

The Takeaway

Problems can arise when cohabiting couples feel obligated to get married. But other factors may be more important to a couple's success than whether they've got his-and-hers towels.

Originally published February 2012. Updated April 2015.

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