Cohabiting before you marry not best test

Living with your partner before you marry might not be the best way to test your relationship.

This is according to research professor Scott Stanley of the University of Denver, who has studied and written extensively on the topics of relationships and marriage over the years.

“If you are considering whether or not you should move in with someone to test the relationships, it’s likely not the wisest thing you could do,” said Prof Stanley.

He was commenting on research carried out in the US in April of this year that showed that 65% of Americans approve of cohabitation before marriage.

A total of 1,097 adults were surveyed for the study by the Barna Group and 84% of respondents said they support cohabitation prior to marrying as it acts as a test of compatibility.

However, Prof Stanley argues that living together before marriage does not necessarily provide the best test.

What he considers a “big deal” is that couples who live together find it harder to break up the relationship if it is not working than those who are just dating.

“We’ve argued elsewhere and often — with a lot of empirical evidence in many published studies — that the number one thing people miss about the risk of cohabiting is that it makes it harder to break up,” he said.

“Cohabiting relationships break up all the time, and increasingly so, but the relative difference is the point. All other things being the same, a couple who is cohabiting will have a harder time breaking up than a couple who is only dating. We think that’s a big deal.”

He stated that is easy to “slide into cohabitation” without a frank discussion about the relationship and added that there are many other ways to test a relationship aside from living together.

“Take a relationship education course [i.e. some kind of premarital preparation before you even get engaged], talk about what a future together would look like, and see if you are compatible by dating,” said Prof Stanley. “Take the time to see your partner in a lot of different social settings.”

Closer to home, a relationship and psychosexual therapist with Relationships Ireland, Nuala Deering, says there are pros and cons to cohabitation but a decision to marry needs to be made consciously.

“There are pluses to living together as they can work through the early stage struggles that a relationship brings, including roles and responsibilities, managing separateness and togetherness and how to manage differences and resolve conflicts and also share a healthy sexual relationship,” she told the Irish Examiner.

However, Ms Deering said it was crucial to marry in a conscious way.

“Couples should approach co-habiting and marriage in a responsible way,” she said. “I highly recommend that couples educate themselves about healthy relationships through relationship health checks, reading relationships books, and visiting a relationship therapist or an individual therapist to deal with what each might bring into the relationship from their past.”


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