Previous   Next

What advice do you have for unmarried couples living together?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on June 4, 2006

Browse the archives

Photo of Erin Keller

“Be completely honest with each other at all times, even if it has the potential to hurt the other person. Be patient and don’t ever let it make you feel trapped.”

Photo of Chris McGinty

“Compromise. For the guys, that means let her think she’s always right. That’s compromise for me.”

Photo of Holly Schwind

“They need to learn how to live separate lives and not just try to live each other’s lives.”

Photo of David Barnes

“Statistically the divorce rate is higher for couples who live together first, so my advice is be careful.”

Related story


lunacydetector 11 years, 3 months ago

if you eventually get married, your chances of it surviving drops drastically, with a far higher divorce rate than people who get married before moving in together.

smart growth doesn't help either. couples from central cities are nine percentage points more likely to crash and burn than couples from the suburbs, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The number of unmarried couples living together in the United States has geometrically increased during the past four decades. In 1960 there were 439,000; by 1984 the number had jumped to 1,988,000; in 1998 the Census Bureau figure stood at 4,200,000.

living together before marriage puts a marriage more at risk for subsequent divorce than those who did not live together before marriage. the risk of divorce is 50 percent higher for cohabitating couples than for non-cohabitating couples. The divorce rate is even higher with previously married cohabitors and serial cohabitors (those who have had several cohabiting experiences). There are some indications that the divorce rate is higher for couples who live together for a longer period of time, especially over three years.

....just some stuff i pulled off the net.

Kookamooka 11 years, 3 months ago

Why is that? Should we infer that couples that don't live together prior to marriage are....younger? or more religious? more financially stable? Does living together while planning a wedding bring out the worst in people? How do the unexpected pregnancies figure in?

The big motivator for living together prior to marriage is often financial. Many couples see it as a way to save money for their weddings, or houses or honeymoons. Instead of supporting two apartments they opt for one. In the meantime, they get to know each other better and decide if they really are right for each other.

cms 11 years, 3 months ago

Rightthinker, you made me laugh. On to the topic.

I am of the opinion that living together IS the smart thing to do before getting married. Many times the small day-to-day activites (toothpaste cap, toiliet seat up/down, leaving socks on the floor) and behavior afterhours (are you a bastard when you awake in the morning?) are the things that can break up a relationship and one should be aware of those things before making a marriage commitment.

With respect to the statistics, doesn't it make sense that risk takers, independent spirirts or those that don't feel the need to conform to conservative or religious standards would likely live together first? Then I would assume that independent spirits might have a higher risk of divorce anyway?

And, for me personally, in the last fifteen/twenty years, I do not know one couple that has not lived together before marriage. And, that includes our children. Our group of friends have laughed for years that the highest predictor of divorce is whether you were married in Danforth Chapel!

tofupusher 11 years, 3 months ago

Here's my advice for women cohabitaters.

Don't have expectations of a proposal some day down the line. Chances are, he hasn't asked because he thinks something better might come along.

If your place doesn't have a dishwasher, buy one.

Split all the bills 50-50 even if one of you can afford to pay more.


In the very beginning make a list of household responsibilities and agree on who does what.

Put everything in writing. Especially if it involves money. Then sign it and keep your own file somewhere safe.

Don't stop seeing your friends. If a day comes when you guys split you'll need a support network.

If you get a pet, put in writing who will get custody if you break up.

Unless you want a baby, use two forms of birth control. And by the way, the "pull out" method DOES NOT ALWAYS WORK!!

If you can afford it, go away together as often as possible. Have great adventures and go to concerts. If the relationship ends in disaster, at least you'll have fond memories.

jonas 11 years, 3 months ago

cms: Just a slight modification to your post, I think that the real sticking point to those undoubtedly true statistics is that people who put off cohabitating until after they are married are more likely to be the type that view marriage as a holy bond as opposed to the next step after cohabitation, and are thus much more likely to put significant effort and or self-sacrifice into their marriage before calling it quits.

Tofupusher: Why is that just for women? Seems like sound advice for both sexes.

My only real advice is to not hide the bodies in the freezer. That's bad news.

hottruckinmama 11 years, 3 months ago

what tofupusher said! and then some. watch him like a hawk. especially when it comes to your money his temper and other women. and remember may not believe it but its much better to be single than it is be in bad relationship.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 3 months ago

If living together couples happen to marry don't become different,act different or think different just because you've married. Carry on as usual and continue to have fun and enjoy each others company. Anything new coming down the pike will work itself out as it always has...

If children show up due to unplanned parenthood, as I believe happens more often than not, sleeping patterns will change and the next 3- 5 years will be a lot of work with some very wondeful moments tossed in the mix. If it all possible it's probaly best if one parent can be around all the time simply because childen love their parents more than anyone else on the planet.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 3 months ago

hottruckinmama (anonymous) on June 4, 2006 at 8:07 a.m.

"you may not believe it but its much better to be single than it is be in a bad relationship."

From merrill:


blessed3x 11 years, 3 months ago

"Posted by tofupusher (anonymous) on June 4, 2006 at 7:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Here's my advice for women cohabitaters.

Don't have expectations of a proposal some day down the line."

Tofu is dead on in this regard. If you are a woman, you are foolish if you think your live-in is going to propose anytime soon (if at all) if you are living together. Why would he? You're giving him a comfy home, a warm bed, meals.... You can't give away the goods for free and then fret that all he does is take take take.

Anway, the way I see it is that it's most important to marry a friend not just a lover. Love is NEVER enough. If you're lucky you can be like me and your lover is your best friend. To quote a movie popular with my kids, "Being in love is finding someone you can stand to be around for more than 10 minutes at a time."

hottruckinmama 11 years, 3 months ago

one more thing to watch him like a hawk around times 10 and thats your kids. i should be whipped for not adding that one. frankly if you have young kids i would just stay single until they are raised. unless you happen to find that one in a million. and then i'd watch it like a hawk even then.

jonas 11 years, 3 months ago

hottruckinmama: Man oh man. Flashburned once or twice, eh?

bthom37 11 years, 3 months ago


Correlation does not equal causation.

paladin 11 years, 3 months ago

  1. Have realistic expectations of the other. No one can make you happy.
  2. Acceptance. No time or person is perfect.
  3. Communicate thoughts and feelings. Share ideas, but don't dictate.
  4. Be honest with yourself and with the other. Always.
  5. Laugh, have fun, and enjoy each other.
  6. Show kindness to one another at every opportunity.
  7. Show gratitude and be thankful.
  8. Share common interests and play together.
  9. Worship together or at least believe together.
  10. Try always to maintain a positive attitude.

And, be the kind of person you want the other person to be.

If you want love, be loving. If you want to be given, be giving. If you want care, be caring. If you want joy, be joyful. If you want peace, be peaceful. If you want happiness, be happy. If you want kindness, be kind. If you want forgiveness, be forgiving. If you want acceptance, be accepting.

Dismiss the notions that: Happiness has to be deserved Happiness has to be worked for Happiness has to be earned Happiness has to be paid for

Happiness isn't about what happens to us, it's about how we perceive what happens to us. It's the knack of finding a positive for every negative, and viewing a setback as a challenge. If we can just stop wishing for what we don't have, and start enjoying what we do have, our lives can be richer; more fulfilled and happier. The time to be happy is now.

hottruckinmama 11 years, 3 months ago

actually marion i was speaking of divorced parents. in a perfect world kids would be raised in a 2 parent household. thats the way it should be. i believe that. i wanted it for my kids. but sometimes it doesn't happen and then its up to you to take care of those kids. and that doesn't mean taking up with any tom dick or harry who comes along just so they can have a father figure. your better off to cowgirl up find something you can do to making a living at and do it on your own then that. i didn't really want to drive a truck either but i knew how to do it..from my dad...and i could make a good enough living to keep the bills paid and the kids in food and clothes. sometimes you do what you have to do.

jonas..flashburned only once but it was a doozey. and no it didn't make me anti-man but it did make me a whole lot more careful.

GardenMomma 11 years, 3 months ago

How many kids have been abused and even killed by the mother's boyfriend? I agree, watch him like a hawk around your kids.

Even one child that gets hurt by a mother's live-in boyfriend/partner is too many.

GardenMomma 11 years, 3 months ago

Do you really think that all unplanned pregnancies are the result of a woman's uncontrollable urges? Gimme a break!

enochville 11 years, 3 months ago

My advice belongs at the front end of the relationship.

First, strive to be the best person you can be. So, many bad and harmful behaviors come from low self-esteem: self-absorbtion, putting others down, running away from problems by ignoring bills, drug and alcohol addictions, gambling addictions, not trying to work for fear of failure or that others won't think highly of you, controlling behaviors, allowing people to walk all over you, etc. So, IMPROVE YOUR SELF-ESTEEM and get rid of any of these bad habits before you think about getting in a relationship.

Second, find someone else who has done the same. It is possible and they are so much more attractive anyway. I am not saying that they need to be perfect (no one is) or that they never have any self-doubts, but I am saying that you and that special someone will have a much more peaceful and wonderful relationship if you both feel good about yourselves and admire and value each other.

When I use words like self-esteem, I do not mean arrogant and prideful people (I really think they are just overcompensating for low self-esteem). Only when a person is not self-absorbed, do they really have the attentional and emotional resources to give to another. They become interdependent instead of co-dependent or independent.

Third, both of you should cherish each other, be intimate friends, and really prefer each other's company to anyone else in the world.

I think people often give up too easily in their search for someone like this. They settle and it leads to serious problems. Wait and work to find someone like this. I agree with the poster that said it is better to be single than be in an unhealthy relationship.

Also, you will be very glad if you learn some communication and conflict resolution skills. Learning to see things from the other's point-of-view is very helpful.

Redneckgal 11 years, 3 months ago

Marion in one of your first posts you tell us to go find a partner for the night or weekend or what ever. Basically suggesting a one night stand. And then in the next post you are bashing single moms. I'm confused. What kind of a value system is that?

lunacydetector 11 years, 3 months ago

before anyone gets married i suggest examining your credit scores. though it could apply to either sexes, i know of where the man had a horrible credit score and the woman had a good credit score. the man insisted on paying the bills and the wife obliged. he insisted on keeping everything separate. his bills got paid, hers did not. needless to say, his credit score got a little better and hers dropped like a rock.

the moral of this story: let the better money manager pay the bills.

Fatty_McButterpants 11 years, 3 months ago

Man, there are a lot of pissed off, suspicious people on here. No wonder your relationships don't work out...

ms_canada 11 years, 3 months ago

I think jonas hit the nail on the head as to the cause of divorce for couples co-habiting before marriage. Why do couples co-habit in the first place? Lack of committment? Unsure of their true feelings? Attitude of trying things out first? Lack of morals.
But now adays there is such moral laxity that who can blame couples. Sex before marriage is de riguer so why not just "move in together" What's the difference? Couples who marry first are more mature and have a true sense of this is forever. If problems come along we just don't throw in the towel, we work it out. Lack of committment shows immaturity.

Jayhawk226 11 years, 3 months ago

ms. canada...I generally always respect your perspectives and often, get a good chuckle.

I have been dating a great woman for a while and when my lease expires, there was talk about a temporary move-in status. It helps me with a cheaper rent and her because she has had difficulty recently finding a roommate to substitute her previous renter.

We have discussed the issues, both pros and cons. Much of the advice mentioned on these posts, have already been discussed by both of us...including the statistical results of decline in marriage.

I/we have great morals, as society is yet to deem me a immoral outside of those that believe it is "immoral" to live together before marriage. I am very mature and very intelligent, in my opinion. ; )

A relationship, and circumstances within a relationship, take a mature, intelligent, logically-reasoning and dedicated committment from both people.

If two people are truly great for each other, co-habitating before marriage, may actually take even more work to make the relationship survive, which should pay dividends down the road.

Lastly, I would love to propose by end of next summer...perhaps living together will alter my opinion. I may learn she is "not the one" and/or vice versa. But at least I'd save myself the trouble of finding out after I make a vow. Because up to that point, I'm under the assumption she is perfect for me.

thunderbuns 11 years, 3 months ago

1 Corinthians 6:18 18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

You do the math............

enochville 11 years, 3 months ago

cms: I know that you don't know me personally, but I was married 3 years ago and my wife and I were virgins and had not lived together prior to getting married. I also personally know over 20 couples my age that have done the same thing. And all of us had dated people before our spouse.

I am not making a moral statement about that, I am just saying that it happens all the time, but not as often as it used to.

jonas 11 years, 3 months ago

Thunderbuns: 6, 18, 5, 22. . . . uh, 51?

jonas 11 years, 3 months ago

Mrs. C: As an aside, my wife and I lived together for almost 2 years before getting married. Our reason for doing so was one not on your list, that I saw at least: experience with each other. By the time we got married we knew that we could, in fact, live together reasonably well, and how we should approach each other in most settings and situations, which made a pay off in that we knew when we got married that there would be no huge problems. I feel somewhat sorry for people who jump right into marriage without having any experience of how to deal with the person they are going to be seeing all the time for a long time. I would imagine that could create a huge amount of friction in a blossoming relationship.

While I agree that a lack of commitment can be a sign of immaturity, too much commitment can be, in my mind, an equal sign. An interesting, but freak'n impossible correllary study to cohabitation and divorce rate, along my hypothesis, would be to check in on the people that continue to be married, and find out how many of those that stick together under the idea of the necessity of preserving a holy bond absolutely hate their lives. Perhaps the problem isn't a lack of commitment, but people who leap into marriage far too early for our modern times. I say modern because such reasoning would be moot in the world of "the wife is servant to the husband in all things," as was said, and then I'm sure ignored, in my sister-in-laws wedding on Friday.

DaREEKKU 11 years, 3 months ago

I HIGHLY recommend living together first before marriage. Living together gives you a completely different perspective on your relationship. It just happens that more couples are living together unmarried today because they aren't ostracized by society. Think of how high the divorce rate would be had these couples NOT lived together first....just a thought.

willie_wildcat 11 years, 3 months ago

I find it interesting that those who live together get divorced at higher rates than those who do not live together prior to getting married. Did any of these studies every give exact reason(s) why? DaREEKU I agree with you 100%. You should know what you are getting into before getting married. It (living with significant other) has given me a whole new perspective on my relationship in general. Sounds like some of these people just want to bail out if things get too tough for them or so it may seem. Relationships are nothing easy but they take time, energy, and commitment to make them work. Honestly for me living together has more benefits then cons.

Angelinatsm 11 years, 3 months ago

Time together is precious. If you enjoy each other, than don't question the relationship. People older than 50, who have no children at home, and love each other's companionship. These would probably be the best candidates for re-marriage, providing their children accept their partners and are not jealous of the time they take from them. The biggest issues I see are Trust, Money, and who gets the channel changer!

hottruckinmama 11 years, 3 months ago

Here I go again by White Snake

don't know where I'm goin but I sure know where I've been hanging on the promises in songs of yesterday. An' I've made up my mind, I ain't wasting no more time but here I go again, here I go again.

Tho' I keep searching for an answer I never seem to find what I'm looking for. Oh Lord, I pray you give me strength to carry on 'cos I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams.

Here I go again on my own goin' down the only road I've ever known. Like a drifter I was born to walk alone. An' I've made up my mind, I ain't wasting no more time.

Just another heart in need of rescue waiting on love's sweet charity an' I'm gonna hold on for the rest of my days 'cos I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams.

Here I go again on my own goin' down the only road I've ever known. Like a drifter I was born to walk alone. An' I've made up my mind, I ain't wasting no more time but here I go again, here I go again, here I go again, here I go.

An' I've made up my mind, I ain't wasting no more time.

Here I go again on my own goin' down the only road I've ever known. Like a drifter I was born to walk alone 'cos I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams.

Here I go again on my own goin' down the only road I've ever known. Like a drifter I was born to walk alone. An' I've made up my mind, I ain't wasting no more time but here I go again, here I go again, here I go again, here I go, here I go again

james bush 11 years, 3 months ago

MTV crowd is devising the the questions for LJW's OTS column!?!

Ceallach 11 years, 3 months ago

Jayhawk226: After reading your post I agree that you are intelligent! If I were a man that is probably the opinion I would hold:) However, live-in situations almost always favor the male.

As a woman I would encourage the female to evaluate her position and determine what she is gaining from the arrangement and what she is losing.

I fail to see the logic behind the assertion that you don't know someone well enough to marry him/her, but you know them well enough to sleep with them. Once the relationship becomes sexual it is more difficult to clearly evaluate whether or not this is the person to whom you wish to commit your future.

An old saying, sad but still true, is that men trade romance for sex and women trade sex for romance.

Before someone is offended by that, I want to apologize to the one guy out there that is naturally sensitive and romantic. Also, I commend those men who have successfully adapted their game plans to include romantic overtures and have learned to "share their feelings" :):)

Ceallach 11 years, 3 months ago

Marion, now I'm confused (again:) are those marriage quotation marks referring to something I said?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.