The Risks of Couples Living Together Before Marriage

As a college senior, “real life” is approaching quickly whether I like it or not. It is almost time to enter a world where my life is no longer organized by classes, a house with eight roommates all my age, and a clear purpose as a student. While the freedom is exciting, it is also daunting to think that I am able to make almost any decision I want to in what the next chapter in my life looks like. This is a conversation I have often with my friends. What will our lives look like, who will we live with, and where?

What has stood out to me from these conversations is the reactions of my friends who are in and have been in relationships for a long time. They think that living together before marriage is the obvious choice in a new city where they can save money and live with their significant other to “make sure it works out before committing to marriage”. I would have never questioned this decision until I worked for and read the materials of Active Relationships Center.

The Realities of Cohabitation as Stated in Active Choices

While editing material for an upcoming ARC training, I came across the statement that “cohabitation comes with many risks”. The ARC Active Choices Participant Book states that “studies indicate that people who marry and who have cohabitation experience (in their background) are 50-80% more likely to divorce than couples who have not experienced cohabitation”. I found this extremely surprising especially when looking at all the people I know who have, or are planning on, living together with their significant other before marriage. It brought to light the lack of knowledge and information as well as commitment and seriousness of young relationships.

Active Choices takes a nonjudgmental stand on cohabitation, and it gives the pros and cons of attempting to simulate a marriage while managing so many aspects separately. It serves as an effective warning to know the risks so that you have an opportunity to address them when choosing if living together is the right decision. The issues that can arise from cohabitation before marriage include a lack of commitment, financial separation and less serious attitudes about the health of a partner. This was something I had not considered, but I think it is something couples should be aware of and talk about before making the large step to live together.

Risks of Living Together are Received Differently by Everyone

When I shared this information with my friends, I thought they would take it to heart and reconsider their plans. Instead, they waved it off like it was no big deal, almost as if they were only worried about their happiness in the moment rather than thinking about the future and their whole life. I think that says a lot about current day young relationships and the lack of seriousness people have for them.

This information has been extremely useful for me and is something I consider when making plans with my boyfriend. I know that each decision will affect our relationship and will matter for our future success. There is so much to be learned from Active Choices about relationships that I believe can be applied to relationships of all ages. It has taught me to be intentional in my decision making and there are many elements to relationships that I had never thought of before but will consider as I enter life outside of college.

The different reactions of myself versus my friends makes me question – Are people taking this information with a grain of salt because they do not think it is relevant or is it that they are scared to hear the reality of their situation? Are these people coming from families that value commitment or a family that does not value the forever of relationships? What can be done to change the perspective and feelings of people who are not open to learning more about topics like this?

Guest Post from staff intern Brooke Collishaw