Despite statistics that point to the fact that those who live together before marriage are more likely to divorce, that, and grandma's disapproving glare, hasn't stopped many, and I mean, many couples from living together before walking down the aisle. But, in an economy were sharing a home and sharing expenses looks like a dream situation, The Atlantic suggests couples take a step back and ask themselves, "Did we slide into the decision to move in together or did we decide to cohabit?" Well, what was it?
No matter how you feel about living with someone before marriage, there's one very important thing to weigh above all else, and that's HOW you get from being a couple who has their own home and space, to a couple that's, as your grandma calls it, "living in sin." Gasp! A lot of that "how" you move in together has to do with how you handle other parts of your relationships, as well; each milestone, from the very first kiss on the first date to the birth of your baby, is an essential step that needs to be savored and thoughtfully acknowledged before you can move on to the next one without messing up all the others that will follow. While couples used to move "Through these milestones deliberately, in part due to societal expectations and in part because they knew that each step had life-altering consequences," this is no longer the case. Couples are skipping steps and "sliding" into situations, situations for which their relationships just might not be ready.
This isn't to suggest that, in the ways of relationships, tradition is the key to success, but it is to say that before you move in with someone you should have a plan of how you're going to do it and why, as opposed to thinking, "Hey! My rent is expensive and so is yours, and we're together all the time, so why not move in together?" In other words, "Why not?" should never be part of the decision-making process.
The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia looked into what makes a happy marriage. The study, of 1000 Americans, between 18 and 35 years of age who were in a relationship, found that after five years, 418 of those participants were married. But of those marriages, where could the happy be found? Well, definitely not in those couples who "slid" through their relationship milestones without taking in to consideration the possible outcome of their actions. In fact, 28 percent of those who just slid on into their nuptials were happy in their marriage, compared to 42 percent who had actual discussions about the future of their relationship before making a move.
As explained by Emily Esfahani Smith and Galena Rhoades, "The problem with cohabitation is inertia. It's much harder for couples to put an end to their relationship when they live together. They buy furniture together, get used to the routine of living together, and split bills and rent." Because of these components, people are less likely to break up even if they really want to, which, of course, makes for even more unhappy relationships. So, before you know it, you're sitting around with three kids in a marriage that makes you miserable all because you just went about your relationship as if it were some sort of summertime Slip'N Slide fun, as opposed to something that required a dialogue about commitment, goals, expectations, which it is. Why do you think the engagement period before a wedding exists? It's not just about the ring, but was meant to help in preventing couples from just sliding into a commitment for which they may not be ready. Although, let's be honest, that shiny ring does make the whole engagement thing that much more exciting.
The key to making things work when it comes to sharing your life with another human being is talking about things; talking about everything to be exact. You can't expect to show up at a new place with your partner, without a proper discussion about it, and assume it's going to all work out perfectly. I mean, you can hope, but you'll be severely disappointed.
Once you can figure out the "how" of your relationship, then you can worry about the "when," because at that point, you'll have the really difficult part out of the way. Of course, it will never be a breeze, and there will always be ups and downs, but that’s part of the fun, right? I'm talking about the make-up sex here, of course.