In Part 1 of living together we looked at the transformed social landscape, a place in which the number of people living together had surpassed those who were married. Then I shared the story of Shelley & Jared, two 30- somethings that had decided to live together. Like other couples, Shelley and Jared thought that living together might be a good way to test drive the relationship. Besides it was far more convenient and economical. We asked readers to guess how it would turn out.
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Now back to Shelley and Jared. To help figure out their chances, let’s look at what research on living together might tell us. Well, most studies done in the last 20 years showed that couples living together before marriage had higher divorce rates as compared with couples that didn’t. Other findings for those living together and especially looking at women showed poorer mental and physical health, including depression.
One explanation for these findings is that the burden placed on women is not compensated for in a living together environment. Since women are known to do the lion’s share of housework, the thinking is that a woman would go from taking care of her own place to having to do the housework and other domestic errands in the house that she shared with her boyfriend. All this extra work occurs without the benefit of the financial and emotional security that comes with the commitment of marriage.
Most current studies show that if a person (like Shelley) has lived with multiple partners, she/he will likely end up in a break-up or divorce. Other studies of living together show that after about a year and a half, the cohabitors either marry or break up. The break-up rate is about 50% somewhat higher than the current divorce rate of 41%. So living together for many couples is a coin flip and does not ensure a happy marriage.
Well given all this, what do you think happened to Shelley and Jared?
a) Lived together happily ever after
b) Got married and go through a yucky divorce
c) Lived together unhappily ever after
d) Parted ways after about a year and a half
So if you answered d) Parted ways after about a year and a half, you are correct!! They broke up and are still both single although Shelley thinks she may move in with her new guy.
So is there anything to be gained by living together? Here’s where some recent research and my own clinical work point. The critical success factor for couples who live together and manage to create a more lasting relationship is their commitment to persevering and staying together. In my bestselling dating advice book, Love in 90 Days, I show that commitment is one of the eight habits of lasting love relationships. That same degree of commitment needs to be developed during the living together phase if the couple is to make it.
What actions are required? A couple that is living together has to be more willing to work on the inevitable differences, disappointments and setbacks that inevitably occur. Without this commitment, unmarried couples end up splitting apart as soon as the inevitable problems of everyday life confront them. For younger couples, that commitment often includes engagement and marriage. In Shelley and Jared’s case there were no plans to wed. Living together was a convenience and an experiment. We now know how that went.
If you are thinking of moving in with your partner, let me offer some help. You can have a free consultation with an expert dating coach by phone or Skype. Who knows? That one call could really help you make the right decision for you.
Wishing you love,